TT Games are back and once again they have laid down the brick work for another Lego game. I am a huge fan of the Lego series and simply adore their mesh of gaming naivety fused with a recognisable movie franchise. I loved Lego Lord of the Rings and when the opportunity to return to Middle-Earth was on the cards, I snapped up my copy of Lego Hobbit. So the real question is can Lego Hobbit bring anything new to the table? Can they capture something we haven’t seen from a Lego game before?
Lego Hobbit Video Review
If you are unfamiliar with the story of the Hobbit here is a quick recap. Lego Hobbit covers the first two Hobbit movies, ‘An Unexpected Journey’ and ‘Desolation of Smaug‘ spanning the time from Bilbo’s first tentative steps out of Hobbiton, all the way up to the Dwarves first encounter with the deadly dragon ‘Smaug.’ A long time ago Smaug attacked the prosperous dwarven Kingdom of Erebor because he coveted the boundless amount of Gold stored in its depths. The dwarves lost many that day and were forced to flee Erebor leaving the crowning jewel of the Kindgom, the Arkenstone, far behind them. The rather bitter Thorin Oakenshield, who was present that day, gathers his merry band of dwarves and embarks on an adventure to take back Erebor, along with all the wealth of the Kingdom, including the Arkenstone. Together with the wizard, Gandalf the Grey, the group enlist the help of the rather cowardly and reluctant Bilbo Baggins. Appointed as chief burglar, Bilbo’s sole purpose is to retrieve the Arkenstone.
In terms of gameplay Lego Hobbit has all the typical trappings of any Lego game. You have to smash objects to collect studs (money) there are a billion puzzles to solve and a host of familiar characters to unlock. Lego Hobbit has also reintroduced the ‘building kit‘ puzzles that were plentiful throughout the Lego Movie The Video Game, where players have to match up the lego pieces to the picture or object depicted on the right hand side of the screen. Once the kit is fully built, the construction will appear in game for the dwarves to use.
There are two main noticeable differences that set Lego Hobbit apart from previous Lego games. One is the use of minerals. Whenever a Lego object was smashed to pieces in any other Lego game you would simply collect studs. This time minerals will also spray out onto the floor for you to collect. These minerals are used to craft useful objects such as keys for locked doors or bridges to place over chasms.
THE BUDDY SYSTEM
The biggest difference is the buddy system. The dwarves at any point during the game can pair up, lock arms and become an unstoppable force, attacking enemies or destroying blockades. The dwarves in particular, all have unique abilities and players must often switch between characters to overcome the diverse challenges. For example Bifur and Nori are used to form ladders by stacking on top of each other, allowing the other dwarves to ascend. Dori will use his grapple to ferry his brethren across pitfalls or, on occasion, if another dwarf latches on to him, Dori can be used as a counterweight to larger objects. Bombur’s abilities are perhaps the funniest. After you gather enough food, Bombur will sit whilst you fatten him up. Once he has reached maximum density he can be used as a trampoline. The buddy system is certainly one of the few unique highlights of Lego Hobbit.
The main problem, however, lies in the games’ sense of balance. Previous Lego games, such as Lego Marvel, carefully jump between puzzles, action, unlockables and discovery. Lego Hobbit spends way too much time focused on one aspect of gameplay at any one time. This can sometimes lead to it being a dull affair. Luckily, certain chapters involving the Goblin King, the Necromancer or Smaug are far more action packed and inject some much needed pace and energy into the game. These set pieces are often simple and fun, yet incredibly effective.
FREE ROAM GAMEPLAY
The free roam elements of the game are also slightly imbalanced. On one hand exploring Middle Earth and discovering all the unlockables is both challenging and rewarding. On the other hand, travelling back and forth all the time, even with fast travel, can be a little tedious. On many occasions you’ll have to replay a chapter from story mode to locate and collect a blacksmith instruction manual. From here you will jump back into free roam mode to craft the item at the village of Bree (where the blacksmith is). Only then can you use the item or bring it to the person who originally sent you on this time consuming quest. To top it off there are hundreds of objects to unlock across the expansive map of Middle Earth, so if you are one of those who enjoy achieving 100% completion with Lego games, this one might be a bit of a grind.
But not all is lost, as the quirky, naive, slapstick humour that is generally associated with Lego titles bolsters its charm. TT Games’ representation of Middle Earth is a joy to behold and when you gaze upon Rivendell, Erebor or Hobbiton for the first time, it is difficult to contain your excitement.
Lego Hobbit may not be a giant leap forward in the franchise but it is by no means a poor game. If you are able to put aside some of the less gripping chapters of the game, fans of both the Hobbit and Lego will find something here to entertain them. The array of puzzles, an expansive world to explore and the vast amount of unlockables makes Lego Hobbit an enjoyable play through.
Although the final instalment won’t be available as a physical disc copy, you will be able to purchase it online via either PSN, Xbox Live Marketplace or Steam. The DLC will be available later in the year.