Daniel Kendi ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Since their creation, Lego video games have only gotten better. Each new game in the franchise includes new, exciting elements that add to the games’ formula. Lego Lord of the Rings: The Videogame is no exception. The purpose of a Lego game is to engage the player in the world of a famous franchise, but in Lego form. Franchises like Star Wars, Batman, Harry Potter, and now Lord of the Rings have had their own Lego games. Each of these games is unique and added something new to the series. Lego Lord of the Rings: The Videogame perfectly culminates the elements of previous games while also bringing new concepts to the table. This game is not only one of the greatest Lego video games, but also the best Lord of the Rings video games to date.
The second the game begins; the player is immersed in the amazing world of the Lord of the Rings films. The menus, loading screens, and hub of the game are all beautiful representations of the world of Middle Earth. The hub itself is the true star of the game though. Lego and Travelers Tales were able to faithfully recreate practically every location that was in the films. Middle Earth is open for the player to explore and it is a lot of fun to walk from the Shire to amazing locations like Edoras, Rivendell, Minas Tirith, and Mordor. The story mode even has the player actually travel to the places each level will occur in. This truly makes the hub world an engaging experience. While these locations are a decent size smaller than they were in the films, they are still a great achievement by the creators of the game. This system of an open world expands on the idea introduced in the previous Lego video game, Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes. In that game the whole of Gotham City was open to explore. Lego Lord of the Rings expands and exceeds its predecessor by giving you a bigger and more interactive world. Every place in Middle Earth has something to do whether it is collecting mithril bricks, buying new characters, or forging new weapons in the blacksmith shop. The one downside to this open world is travel. The game has no system of fast travel and therefore it takes a decent amount of time to get from one side of the map to the other. The last game with an open world, Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes had flying characters like Superman or vehicles like the batmobile for a quicker way to get places. While this game does include horses, they are only really available to the player while playing the story mode. Once the story is beaten it is no longer as simple to get from place to place. A simple solution such as the use of eagles for fast travel would have fixed this problem and stayed faithful to the source material.
The levels of this video game faithfully follow the story of the three films. From the War of the Last Alliance to the battles of Pelennor Fields and the Black Gate everything is there. The levels are both fun and engaging. Major sequences from the film are amazing to experience and the scenery is breathtaking. Unlike some Lego games, this game has beautiful graphics. Another great part of the game’s levels is the story swap mode, introduced in Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. This feature allows the player to switch to characters in other locations during a level. At one moment the player could be evading nazguls as Frodo and his fellow hobbits, and then would switch to Gandalf and fight Sauruman in Isengard. Just because a level is called “Osgiliath,” this does not mean the entire level takes place there. Halfway through the level the player could be playing as Ents. Because many characters are doing different things in different locations during the films, the game included this story swap mode to experience this. Through the levels, the films are portrayed well. The player is able to experience many moments from the three films. Despite this, Return of the King definitely gets least amount of content of the three. Almost everything that happened in the first two films is represented in the levels, but events like the battle of Minas Tirith are completely missing from the third film’s levels.
The biggest changes between this game and previous Lego video games are the use of voice acting in cut scenes and character items. Lego Lord of the Rings: The Videogame is not the first Lego game to use voice acting, but it is the first to use sound clips straight from the source material. Every line of dialogue in the game is taken straight from the films. These lines are used in cut scenes that very closely follow the film. In fact, most of these cut scenes use the same exact shots as the original film just recreated in Lego form. These scenes are very well done and include the humor that Lego games are known for. The gameplay in this videogame is very different through the use of character items. While this game includes character abilities like Legolas’ high jumps and Gandalf’s magic, it also includes character specific items and weapons. These items such as Sam’s elven rope and Frodo’s Phial of Galadrial allow these characters to perform specific actions to collect studs, mithril bricks, and advance in the levels. Each character now has an item wheel and can choose between different items and even pick up new ones. While in Middle Earth the player can also forge new items using mithril bricks in the blacksmith shop. This system is brand new to Lego games and works really well. This shakes up the game formula in an interesting way and fits in very well with the films’ use of different weapons and items. The last big change to the game is character wheels. While this is a minor change, it is very useful. The player can now open up a wheel that will show all of the characters that are available to use in that level. This gets rid of the old mechanic of going up to each character and switching to them, or cycling between characters until the right one is selected. This also removes the problem in the past of choosing the wrong character because there was only one character select button, not a wheel. This is a welcome change that adds to the game’s great formula.
Lego Lord of the Rings: The Video Game is a great game that is filled with lots of things to do. Once the player has finished all the story levels, he or she can go back and replay each level with different characters to gain collectables they missed and have an overall different experience. They can also explore the vast world of Middle Earth to find hidden things such as the bonus level which is a great deal of fun and a way to earn fast studs (the currency in Lego games). With over eighty playable characters, many items to use and build, and all of Middle Earth to explore Lego Lord of the Rings: The Videogame is an experience that should be played by all Lego and Tolkien fans.