Release Date: April 8, 2014
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Systems: Windows, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS Vita, 3DS
Another week, another Lego game. After several years of Lego-fied games based on famous movie properties, Traveller’s Tales is back at it again with another romp into the storied Tolkien universe of LOTR with The Hobbit. As a prequel to the famous trilogy, this game and its story is focused mainly on Bilbo Baggins (Frodo’s uncle) and his quest for glory as a thief in the company of a band of dwarves. Based on the second movie (The Desolation of Smaug), this game comes at an odd time. It’s several months after the movie hit theaters and well after the first one hit home video. That said, I still took a look at it and…. let’s just say I’ve not been so disinterested in such a long time.
Make no mistake – for those of you interested in the story (or for those of you who have not read the book or seen the movie) the plot is a relatively good and funny retelling of the first two movies of The Hobbit trilogy. As Bilbo, you venture from the safety of Bag End and into the very depths of Middle Earth in the service of Thorin and his troupe of 12 dwarves. As the team burglar, you journey through spider-infested forests, damp caves, raving rapids and other places from the movies: all of which are trying to kill you in some way. The adventure then leads you towards the den of Smaug, the titular dragon from the second movie and final boss of the game. Eventually, you happen upon the One Ring of Power that leads to some interesting internal conflict between Bilbo and his own inner desires. However, as lofty the stage is for the game, the fact that it focuses on the movie instead of the book leaves a lot of the story up in the air as it ends on the same cliffhanger that the movie did.
Along with the funny dialogue and banter between the game’s characters, the rest of the Lego series game tropes are all here as well. The game is broken into linear levels recreating moments and set pieces from the movies (although, you do travel throughout the world in a somewhat open ended fashion, like the last few Lego games). As you progress through them you collect studs (the games currency) doing anything from beating up enemies, breaking apart scenery, solving puzzles and so on, that you can use to buy secret characters. These are characters that you will need, aside from fan favorites; each character is broken into a certain archetype that can do certain things in each level. For example, certain groups of characters can team up for buddy attacks on bosses.
Character voices are modeled after the stars in the movie and the scenes play out very well for having been constructed via Lego pieces. The scenery looks gorgeous and is a mix of flush nature and Lego pieces that really pop when you run alongside it. However, with all good things there is almost always something glaringly wrong that mares at its perfection; here, it stands out like a sore thumb. There is almost nothing new here for fans or newcomers alike. The puzzles are still a two-fold mechanism: either insultingly easy or maddeningly frustrating. They mostly consist of creating something via pieces scattered around the level, but as some parts might need to be broken out from that one thing in the environment you neglected to hit, it might leave you scratching your head as to why this puzzle isn’t working. Combat is still a button mashing affair, though the actions that play out are well animated. The game is fun for what it is, but it ends on a rather silly cliffhanger and throughout the dozen or so hour campaign it will just hit you that you have been playing a rehash of the last few Lego games (DC/Marvel/Lego Movie) just with a new coat of paint.
Bottom Line: You have done this all before, and literally just a few months ago in the Lego Movie game. There is seldom anything redeeming here unless you are just a diehard fan that needs their LOTR fix, someone with a next gen console that needs something to play on it, or just literally have money to burn. It’s not a terribly made game; in fact, it’s rather polished, but the formula is getting stale at best. They need something, whether it be deeper combat, a new IP, harder puzzles, or bigger worlds. Aside from witty humor, this series is not going to fair well going into the next console cycle. That said, here’s hoping the next one is a return to the former wow factor they had when the Lego Star Wars games were around.
Next Review: Semester Wrap Up