The Hobbit was the first novel I read as a child. As soon as I had finished it, I began reading The Lord of the Rings. I was eight years old, so it took me the better part of a year to finish both. When I was done, I started again. This continued for some time until I had read the series 4 or 5 times over. The Hobbit was my introduction not only to Tolkien’s incredible world, but to fiction and fantasy in general and eventfully the science fiction genre I love so much. Peter Jackson has always struck me as someone who regards Tolkien’s works as highly as myself and his love for Middle-earth shows in his film adaptations. Having such well-crafted source material, LEGO The Hobbit starts off with a huge advantage. Couple this with the humour we have come to expect from Traveller’s Tales and you have one of the best LEGO games so far.
LEGO The Hobbit has you collecting not just the standard stud currency but also other items like planks of timber and precious gems. This adds a tiny snippet of an RPG element to the game. You can use the items you accrue to trade NPCs for all important mithril blocks or use them to build structures in certain areas. Scattered throughout the world map and levels are spots for you to build certain helpful things. These come in the form of bridges, catapults, boats and plenty more usually allowing access to another area. It’s a mini-game of sorts; you have to select the right piece that goes next in the build. The quicker you complete the LEGO structure, the more studs you will receive as a reward.
There is considerably less LEGO in this newest offering than past instalments in the LEGO series. It must be very hard to get the two world of LEGO and Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth to line up without letting one get lost in another. The balance between the two is done just right. Everything looks like it’s from the films and also filled with LEGO, rather than everything being made of Lego trying to look like New Zealand or what the world now calls Middle-earth.
As with any LEGO game there is an impressive amount of characters available through the story and plenty more to unlock along the way. Admittedly most of them are dwarves but they all have slightly different abilities. Most of the characters can buddy up with another making them more powerful in a fight and adding an extra layer to the puzzles throughout the game. Some areas require two characters to buddy up and break down a wall or door to continue. It doesn’t take long to recognize each of the giveaways for the different puzzles.
Early in the game there is a lot of stuttering and dropped frames. Its only really a problem in Hobbiton and I assume this is because it’s the most populated part of the game. I was worried this would be a trend followed through the rest of the world map but things calmed down once I progressed. These are not the only glitches I came across but the rest were minor and didn’t hinder the gameplay.
Most of the main character voice acting is taken directly from the films. At first I wasn’t sure I liked it but after contemplating the only other realistic options: No voice acting or impersonations this is clearly the best way to handle character voices. Its not perfect but having the impressive cast from the films makes the game more closely tied to the movies. NPCs will have a little chat when giving quests, some of these conversations are hilarious in true Lego style. Christopher Lee is the only member of the cast from the trilogy to have added any voice acting that isn’t ripped from the films. He narrates sections filling in gaps in the story and introduces each level. You have to love this guy. Still working into his 90s after being knighted and releasing metal albums. What a champ.
Unfortunately this is a trilogy in progress so the end of the game lines up with the end of the second movie. There is no sense of resolution at all. You don’t even get a “to be continued” or “coming soon”. Even the new Metal Gear Solid “game” gives you a tease of what’s to come. Disappointing but it can hardly be blamed on the game. If the rumors are true the game will get some DLC when the final move is released. A much better idea than having gamers purchase a whole new game. If this proves to be true no doubt next year LEGO The Hobbit will be available as a complete package.
The dynamic split screen first introduced in the LEGO Marvel Super Heroes makes a welcome return and it looks to have had a few of the bugs fixed along the way. Wherever you move on the screen the camera follows and the divide between characters can rotate or disappear when needed. It’s such a fantastic and practical way to have two people play on the same screen. I hope developers are taking notes because this is the future of the dreaded split screen and it makes things flow a lot easier.
The story itself is disappointingly short. If the two movies the game draws inspiration from add up to over 6 hours I don’t think is out of the question to expect a little more than 6 hours of main quest. That unfortunately is about how long the story goes for but fear not, after finishing the game my completion rating was only at 22%. The story is short but the game is not lite on content. There is so much to do around Middle-earth. A seemingly endless supply of quests and a bonus mission await those who seek them out.
If this game had somehow come out when I was between the ages of 8 and 12 it would have fulfilled my three big passions of the time: reading Tolkien, video games and playing with LEGO.
Taking a classic story like The Hobbit — one that has already had so much time invested into it to make a film adaptation — and adding the charm inherent in a Traveller’s Tales LEGO games is a winning combination. I was eagerly awaiting this title and it has never disappointed. If you’re a fan of the movies or the book, you’d have to be an goblin to not enjoy this.