Ok, I have an admission…I have never watched a film to do with Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit. I know, I know, controversial, but you’re probably asking why would someone who isn’t totally up with the Hobbit review the Lego Hobbit game? Well it gives me an impartial view of the game and its story and I really like Lego games. Some would say I think they’re awesome. So here goes!
Travellers Tales have done a pretty good job at bringing a much beloved franchise and turning it into their Lego goodness. Lego The Hobbit tells the tales of both major motion pictures in the shape of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. The plot of the game starts in the shape of a flashback, with the tyrannous dragon Smaug destroying the Dwarfs home at the Lonely Mountain. Cut forward to 60 years later when Gandalf the Grey recruits Bilbo Baggins as a burglar to assist the dwarfs in reclaiming their home. Along their travels through Middle Earth they encounter many foes, forge new alliances, and have many encounters which I won’t spoil for those that haven’t seen the films. Cutscenes are portrayed in the overly silly, slapstick humour for which Lego games are known. Audio from the films have been used for all of the cutscenes in the game, with Christopher Lee narrating the loading screens in-between levels as well as playing Saruman. However, as with other Lego games the main cast of the films only lend their vocal talents to the cutscenes with soundalikes used for some of the in-game grunts and groans as well as some in game speech.
The game looks amazing, with some areas feeling very grand in scale. Unfortunately most of the locatrions in the game are very linear with their progression through the level, with the added attention to detail predominantly in the background and surrounding environments. The massive hub area is Middle Earth itself, with you starting off in Hobbiton, and you can journey far and wide within the large open world. From the hub world you can choose to replay missions once completed, journey to find secrets or even do Middle Earth Events. Middle Earth Events allow you to complete some optional side objects to complete that pesky 100% completion rating. Some of these include helping out fellow Hobbits with menial tasks or even helping out by building things for them. One of the first you’ll encounter is a Hobbit with a bed that’s been broken, so by using Lego loot that you’ll find in the game you can help craft a bed for him, which in return he’ll give you a silver Lego brick in return.
Ah yes; Lego loot. Lego loot is also something new to the Lego games, giving you yet another reason to smash things up, as though smashing things up to collect Lego coins weren’t enough! Lego loot focuses on collecting objects such as bars of gold, wood, jewels and other random crafting objects in order to pass through to the next section of the level, or for use in optional side objectives. The first example of this is when you’re stuck in a room with a big padlock on it. By going around and smashing stuff up, you can collect enough of the required objects to craft a key allowing you to unlock the door and carry on deeper into the level. A returning mini game comes in the shape of the minikit build from Lego Movie Videogame. In this you’re tasked with choosing the correct piece of the minikit that is being indicated on screen out of a choice of eight pieces. Other timed minigames include fishing, and a rather random plate juggling scene involving all of the Dwarves in Bag End.
Something new to the Lego games is the buddy system which allows you to hook onto one of the characters you can freely switch back and forth from, allowing you to take on some of the larger enemies together or even taking down seemingly unbreakable objects that require more than the strength of one person. While this is essential in some areas, this particular ability can sometimes cause more of a hinderance and honestly doesn’t feel like a necessity in battle.
Speaking of battles, another gripe about the game is the combat. All that is required of you is to mash on the square button continuously hoping that you’ll eventually take down an enemy. Annoyingly those which have both long distance and short distance attacks prove to be the most useless in close up combat. The more annoying of them all is that grand wizard himself Gandalf proving to be one of the most useless in combat, with his charge up staff attack, where he’ll go through an entire animation that takes a few seconds, all the while you’re getting pummelled by on Orc. Characters who have long distance attacks will favour those even in a close up fight. For example, a character with a slingshot will still try to slingshot someone in the face, even though they’re standing in front of them and have a punching attack as well. Some other annoyances with the controls is the switching between characters. Whereas this hasn’t felt to be an issue with other games in the Lego game franchise, in this it proves to be confusing as you aimlessly mash on the triangle button, trying frantically to find the character that has the right special skill that is needed to progress. Given that there are so many in your party at all times, you can also press and hold the triangle button that will bring up a radial menu option which lists some of the characters that you can switch to. This can also prove to be time consuming as there’s also another sub menu of characters at your disposal. In Lego Movie for example, this didn’t prove to be an issue as there weren’t as many characters in a single level to make this an issue but here it proves to be quite frustrating.
Not only is combat frustrating at times, but the AI for lack of a better term is a bit thick. As you try and keep your band of merry men together, you find yourself at times needing the special ability of one of your crew only to find that he’s stuck literally halfway back through the level, whereupon you have to travel all the way back to get him. Other AI issues I ran into included the one time I found that one of the characters had found himself in a position where he was stuck in a loop; constantly falling to his death and then instantly respawning in the same suicidal location. As I switched to that character as I needed him to progress to the next section of the level I would also fall to my death causing me to lose precious lego coins, forcing me to quit the level and start over again from the beginning. Sometimes the AI characters will just stand about getting hit constantly as you try and fight your way out of tough situations. Although other Lego games had similar issues it is more evident in this game with the increased amount of playable characters on screen at one time. However, one annoyance that has been cleared up is having to guess which character is required to move onto the next section. In the past this involved a lot of guess work, but in this the characters will jump up and down on the spot and make a noise to indicate you need to use their particular skill to progress in the level. A subtle touch, but non the less proves to be very handy at moments where your brain feels fried from the stupid AI.
Lego The Hobbit is a good game that manages to tell the story of the films in a very fun, well put together Lego package if you’re able to overlook some of the more frustrating combat scenarios that are thrust upon you at times throughout the game. Like other Lego games, The Hobbit has its fair share of secrets, collectibles and unlockable characters, which means if you’re wanting to get 100% then you must go back through the game with characters that have the right special skill to access otherwise inaccessible areas on your first play through, warranting repeat playthroughs of the game. While it’s not the best in the Lego games franchise it still manages to hold its own, with some gorgeous scenery and some well laid out levels with some pretty good puzzle aspects to them. The added extra of Lego loot is a neat touch and provides you with more incentive to destroy everything in the game. If you have a friendly co-op partner to hand then the split screen co-op might prove to overcome the downright frustrating combat moments littered throughout. I came on an unexpected journey and though it was ok.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Format: PS4/XboxOne/Xbox360/PS3/Vita/3DS/WiiU/PC Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Lego The Hobbit by the Publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of three weeks on a PS4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.