Lego The Hobbit is the latest addition to the pantheon of Lego licensed titles, joining other franchises such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, and its own cinematic relation Lord of the Rings. The question is, does Lego The Hobbit do enough to make it self stand out amongst its kin?
Well, yes, and no.
It’s hard to fault Travelers’ Tales; for nearly the past decade (Lego Star Wars: The Video Game was released in 2005), they have succeeded in essentially replicating the same game many times over to continued success. You’d be hard pressed to find a development studio that would love to be able to do that rather than spend millions of new game play. Yet starting in 2014 with the Lego: The Movie, and the brilliant Lego Marvel Super Heroes games, both less than six months old, the formula for these games is starting to feel increasingly tired.
The gameplay is the same as nearly all preceding games, apart from a few additional enhancements which we’ll come back to. Your character will travel through levels, smashing blocks and enemies, while collecting Lego studs and other collectibles. You will alternate between fixed moments, and more open world map sections, interspersed with cut scenes.
Lego The Hobbit is the story of the first two movies in the latest Middle Earth trilogy covering The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; the third part to the game will be released as DLC to coincide with the cinema release of The Hobbit: There and Back Again. The game is a mish-mash of some of the key scenes within the two movies, so you’ll meet the dwarves at Bilbo’s home, arrive in Rivendell, and fight a goblin horde till eventually you come face to face with Smaug himself. Travelers Tales have, thankfully, been given permission to use the audio from the films over the Lego cut scenes so it often feels like you’re watching a cartoon version of the movies. This is a huge improvement over the recent Lego The Movie title, which hacked scenes from the film directly into the game making everything feel very jarring.
The newest additions to the franchises gameplay do help alleviate some of the ‘same old, same old’ feeling, but even after a while these become tedious. There are now crafting platforms dotted around the game at which, if you bring the required items to it, you can build an item to help you achieve a goal. The requirement of these platforms, and the availability of the items required, fall into two categories; story and non story. If the item is required as part of the story, you’ll find the items nearby; if it’s not then they could be ANYWHERE. Middle Earth isn’t exactly small so be prepared for a lot of back tracking.
Once you have the required items, you’ll then enter the second level, which is a quick build game that was first trialled in the Lego The Movie game. This time it’s been updated with a race against the clock to select the right pieces to gain maximum studs. At first, these are something new and different so they capture your attention, but quickly they become the same, and with no real difficulty you’ll find yourself rushing through it as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, that’s slightly indicative of the game itself, while you do have large open world sections like Bree, Rivendell, and Lake Town, we found ourselves just heading to the next marker. Unless you are a completionist, you may not feel the need to go on your own journey.
Lego The Hobbit is a Lego game; complaining that it’s the same game since 2005 now feels like talking to a brick wall. The formula works, and that is what matters. Travelers Tales should be commended for trying to add new elements in, but even these become tired quickly. Lego Marvel Super Heroes showed us what TT are capable of when they craft an original story rather than relying on a tale we already know. We hope that this is something we see again soon – but maybe not too soon.
Lego The Hobbit is available now from Amazon.