Lego The Hobbit review
Publisher: Warner Bros | Developer: Traveller’s Tales | Out now
It’s easy to be cynical about a new Lego game. After all, this is the third game from Traveller’s Tales since the release of the Xbox One in November. That’s a hell of a lot of stud collecting in a relatively short amount of time. Do we really need yet another one, based on another popular film licence? Do we really need to buy Lego The Hobbit so that we can once again line Traveller’s Tales pockets so it can release another Lego game? Surely Traveller’s Tales needs to think up some fresh ideas, or at least put its stacks of money towards securing the Doctor Who licence?
Well, no, actually. Mainly because Traveller’s Tale’s latest game is fun. It’s a game that proves it is possible to come up with new, engaging ideas for a nine-year-old franchise. The main reason Lego The Hobbit works so well is because Traveller’s Tales has paid close attention to the source material. As a result it’s the dwarves and their reluctant companion Bilbo Baggins that the new game mechanics revolve around. Many of the dwarves have their own unique skills that are used to solve the now familiar puzzles that Traveller’s Tales constantly throws at you.
Additionally, teamwork plays heavily throughout The Hobbit’s running time. One minute you’ll be stacking dwarves together so that you can reach an out-of-the-way area, the next you’ll be feeding Bombur food so that you can bounce on his gut to reach an out-of-the way area. Certain sections and enemies are impassable unless you ‘Buddy Up’ with another dwarf, while some stages see you constantly switch between two groups as you routinely help each other by clearing out specific hazards. It’s a lovely touch and plays nicely to the camaraderie found in both the films and Tolkien’s novel.
Another nice new addition is the ability to craft items. As you walk around each level bashing up objects, you’ll collect different items in addition to the usual studs that rain down like confetti. At certain points you’ll be asked to build specific items that will require a set number of these items. Once collected you must then create the item by selecting the required piece from a wheel of eight. The quicker you build, the more bonus studs you’ll earn upon completion, but you’ll lose studs if you select the wrong piece. It’s not a game changer by any means, but it once again shows that Traveller’s Tales has thought about the source material and found the best way to build game mechanics into it.
Otherwise, it’s business as usual, with lots of collecting, some fun puzzles (that will occasionally stump you) and a fair smattering of combat as you re-enact the first two Hobbit films over 16 rather large levels. Combat features quite heavily, so expect plenty of scraps on your lengthy adventure. For the most part said combat is relatively straightforward, with a few close-up QTEs thrown in for boss encounters. There’s one particularly nice section where you control Legolas and must shoot down rows of orcs while you repeatedly jump across floating barrels, but it’s fleetingly underused, as if the developer was afraid to try something new.
Lego games aren’t about combat, though, they’re about collecting and the balance is great. While there are plenty of hidden items found in each stage, it’s the overworld that really impresses. As you complete each level, new locations appear on the world map, pointing to hidden items that will delight hardcore collectors. A nice touch is the switching between night and day (triggered by resting at a camp site) meaning you get a real sense of an epic adventure. There are numerous quests to go on as well that add further to the grand sense of adventure that Lego The Hobbit offers. Typically just fetch quests, occasionally it’s something a little different in order to achieve your goal. The world can feel empty, but it’s a big improvement over Lego The Lord Of The Rings.
Interestingly, while The Hobbit threw us a few gameplay surprises, there’s little to get excited about from a graphical point of view. Environments such as Mirkwood and Smaug’s lair are atmospherically crafted, but it doesn’t scream next-gen. In fact it doesn’t even say next-gen, being a slightly shinier version of what you’d expect the Xbox 360 version to look like. Worry not though, for beneath the unimpressive visuals hides yet another enjoyable adventure. It certainly won’t convert unbelievers, but anyone else is in for a lot of fun. Now where’s that Lego Doctor Who game?