The Lego series of games have been immensely successful at capturing the essence of the franchises they attempt to portray, all while infusing them with a sense of humor and goofiness.
In their newest offering, The Hobbit gets the Lego treatment. And Lego The Hobbit is fitting of the title. What has made Peter Jackson’s treatments of Tolkien’s masterwork such a mind-boggling success is the sheer scope of his vision. The Hobbit films, and the Lord of The Rings movies before them, all feature eye-popping visual, expansive locations and fantastic set-pieces. Lego The Hobbit captures the feel of The Hobbit films admirably. Right from the outset, you are transported into the world of the movies, with sweeping visuals and elaborate little details that make you feel like you’re really there. And while the game has the humor and cuteness of the Lego games, the actual gameplay lets the game down and makes completing the arduous journey undertaken by Bilbo and his companions a drag to play.
The Game Play:
The game showcases all of the memorable moments and locations from both of the Hobbit films that have been released to date. You will visit the elves in Rivendell and journey through the cavernous dwarf lands of Erebor. You will battle with the mysterious dark sorcerer at the heights of Dol Guldur and even give everyone’s favorite dragon Smaug a visit. Yes, it needs to be said – Smaug would make the dragons in Game of Thrones weep. You will journey with Radagast and fight battles against orcs and goblins and other heinous enemies. The game presents all of this with a wink and a smile and it makes the Middle Earth in The Hobbit seem like a fun place to visit, even if you might run across the occasional bloodthirsty orc. But as mentioned before, the gameplay drags the whole experience down, since the pace of the game is constantly interrupted by mindless quests or needless puzzles.
Sometimes, you have to run around a map, whacking random objects until lo and behold, you chance across the one special urn or rock that was hiding the thing you need to complete a contraption that will let you clear a level. The task of building the thing itself isn’t a challenge either – you just keep a button pressed, and your character does the work for you. Now while this has been a staple gameplay mechanic in the Lego games, this is one they need to get rid of. As their audience grows to include gamers of greater ages, the constant dumbing down of every single thing needs to stop. The developers need to figure out how to include the Lego building mechanic into the game without making it an eyesore.
There are certain situations where you will need a certain kind of treasure or loot to advance. Finding said loot is another mindless task as you journey back and forth through the large areas in the game trying to find the specific object you need. While there are traders that let you exchange some things for loot, they rarely have the exact thing you are looking for at a particular moment.
Movie to Video Game Tie In:
As in the films, you will need to use the different abilities of the members in your party to ensure success. Dori has a flail which can be used to pull objects such as hooks loose. Dwalin is strong, and wields a heavy hammer that can be used whenever you have to move a large object into place. Bombur can eat a lot and let other hobbits use his belly as a trampoline of sorts to get to locations that are otherwise inaccessible. But you never really need to think about what you might need to do in a particular situation, because the game makes it very obvious. All you have to do as a player is to move the selected party member into the spot the game wants you to, and use their special abilities.
What I didn’t Like:
This problem extends to the combat as well. Battles look great, and even with the cute Lego figures, there is a legitimate sense of dread generated on the screen as it fills with orcs or goblins. In combat, your characters fight admirably, striking and parrying with expert choreography. But where the game lacks is in the actual execution of these fights. Much like other aspects of the game, you really don’t need to do much on your own other than just respond to the prompts the game presents on your screen.
Lego The Hobbit looks great, and features a great deal of content and story from the first two Hobbit films, even ending at the same point as The Desolation of Smaug. There are plenty of collectibles and other goodies scattered across levels. But unfortunately, the game is dragged down by the unnecessary simplicity of its gameplay, and too much hand-holding. Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarfs never feel like they’re in any real danger, and this is a huge misstep, considering the richness of the source material. If you’re a fan of Lego games or The Hobbit, you might want to give this one a pass to avoid being underwhelmed.