LEGO games are a curious breed. Whether it’s Star Wars or Batman, Harry Potter or Indiana Jones, they all deliver essentially the same core experience – make your way through X number of levels, destroy everything in sight, and solve puzzles through a mix of LEGO construction and character-specific abilities, all delivered with a wry sense of humour. And yes, all those elements return in abundance for LEGO Lord of the Rings. Yet, in translating the Fellowship to adorable plastic brick form, developer Traveller’s Tales somehow manages to deliver so much more.
Following LEGO Batman 2’s lead, the game features voice acting (taken directly from Peter Jackson’s cinematic trilogy, no less) and an expansive open-world hub to explore between missions. Appropriately, Middle Earth absolutely dwarfs Gotham City in scope – this is the first LEGO game requiring a map to navigate it and a fast-travel mechanic to get around. The colossal setting is absolutely gorgeous, a brilliantly replicated series of locations from the big screen that just happen to now have LEGO villages and dungeons blended into them.
While the events of the entire trilogy are packed into a single gargantuan campaign, there are extras plucked directly from Tolkien’s literary world, such as an appearance by the mysterious Tom Bombadil. It’s worth noting that the overall tone is darker than previous LEGO games, though the bleaker moments are often offset with the series’ signature sense of humour. Gimli in particular gets some hilarious moments.
What truly sets this apart from previous LEGO games though is the inclusion of crafting and optional quests. People and creatures met along the way will set various objectives, rewarding the player with skills or upgrades upon their completion. Meanwhile, the traditional gold bricks have been replaced with Mithril ones, which can be taken to blacksmiths to create new items and weapons. Both systems are basic compared to ‘grown up’ games like Skyrim, but here add considerable depth to the LEGO archetype.
If Traveller’s Tales can pull off a LEGO game that’s more immersive, imaginative and impressive than Lord of the Rings in the current hardware cycle, it’ll be nothing short of a miracle. A superlative effort all round, and a joyous love letter to devotees of the lore.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen