With TT Games’ latest representing the 275th (approx) Lego crossover this generation, it would be easy to be bored, even cynical about its endeavours. Oh, there’s another Lego game? What is it this time? Lego Does Dallas? Lego Crank?
Well, it would be easy if TT’s work wasn’t – with rare exception – so appealing. In some cases, this being one, its games are the best representation of the respective universes in gaming. Like its predecessors, there are flaws. But Lego LOTR’s brilliance is in reminding older players why they loved the source material so much, as well as appealing to audiences that are too young to have Aragorn duvet covers. Given The Lord Of The Rings’ penchant for limb/head severance, that’s no mean feat. The series’ trademark humour works well to disguise the underlying nastiness: Boromir being pierced with a banana and a broom instead of arrows, for example.
Likewise, TT’s filtering of Tolkien/Jackson’s world through the Lego-ometor retains the majesty of the films’ scope and direction, while giving the developer room to put its own stamp on proceedings. With three films, 80 characters, a free play mode, a blacksmith’s shop that enables you to enhance your character via their items, and a bundle of side quests to indulge in, Lego LOTR is as good a fan service as you can get.
Sadly, old Lego problems remain. The game is fundamentally fiddly; everything from changing character to putting items in their respective slots is counter-intuitive and irritating, especially mid-fight. Instead of simply pressing B to pick up an item you need right there and then, you have faff around with slot-based busywork. Switching characters is also a mess, requiring the use of either a cumbersome radial wheel or some iffy on-the-fly switching,
The camera, too, isn’t always up to scratch. It can be poorly implemented and infuriating, especially when an enemy or puzzle piece is just out of view. There’s no online co-op, which is borderline insane. Finally, the overly prescribed nature of play might grate those who want a bit more freedom.
It’s testament to TT’s skill, then, that this laundry list of faults isn’t anywhere near enough to derail the experience. Lego LOTR successfully retains the films’ awesome sense of adventure, thanks to the well-crafted, class-focused Lego environments feeding into the game’s inherent co-op nature. And, it must be added, the score goes a long way.
The sheer amount of content on offer is certain to please fans, as well as those who want to smash bricks or solve rudimentary puzzles, and to experience whatever amount of crossover there is between them. Lego LOTR’s authenticity is matched only by the amount of content on offer, and is a must for those who love the films or play regularly with younger gamers.