Also On: Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Travelers Tales
Considering the sheer number of LEGO titles that developer Travelers Tales has created at this point, I think it’s safe to say that you have some idea of whether you’ll enjoy a LEGO themed game or not. That’s not to say that they’re all good or bad. I’ve seen the quality dip and rise with different releases, but by and large have found most entries to be pretty enjoyable. The last slew of titles, ending with the most recent LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, has certainly been of a higher calibre. LEGO The Hobbit does little to change that line of thought.
Like previous games in the series, you’ll take a cast of characters drawn from the source material across a number of action-themed stages. While the trilogy has yet to be finished in film form, this game focuses solely on a portion of the story ending with the Desolation of Smaug. I think it’s a bit early to pull the trigger on a LEGO release of the game for that reason alone, but I imagine there’s some marketing desire to get this title on shelves in time for the DVD/Blu-ray release of the second film that I’ll never really understand. That said, outside of some audio quibbles, the game doesn’t suffer in quality by being rushed to market.
As previous LEGO titles have managed to do, LEGO The Hobbit presents its tale via cutscenes representing minifig versions of film characters, often with a humorous spin. It does feature voice acting, an addition to the formula that began with LEGO Batman 2. With the game being culled from a film adaptation, the voice acting adopts a lot of sound bites and moments from the films. Sometimes this works to the detriment of the sound quality, with very obvious, oftentimes hollow renditions of film moments being shoved into the LEGO acting displayed on screen. This becomes more noticeable when compared to the original dialogue delivered by characters, often quest givers, found within the LEGO world of Middle-Earth.
The action bits of LEGO The Hobbit remain largely unchanged from LEGO Lord of the Rings, or the LEGO titles that came after it. You’ll gain access to a large cast of LEGO characters, each with different abilities and attributes. You’ll smash LEGO objects, collect LEGO studs, work your way through mild puzzles, and advance the story depicted by the films. The questing element of LEGO Lord of the Rings remains intact, allowing you to explore Middle-Earth freely, taking on side-missions and uncovering various secrets. The more minifig characters you gain access to, the more you’ll be able to unlock. But if you simply desire to see the game through from the beginning to end of the story, you’ll have little trouble doing so by sticking to the path laid out between chapters.
LEGO The Hobbit does introduce some new elements. The largest of which is the crafting and loot system. While previous games have focused on a large number of breakable objects, there’s been little reward given outside of the LEGO studs, used as a currency to buy new characters. LEGO The Hobbit also introduces materials used for crafting items or parts, including a new building feature which awards bonus studs dependent on quick reaction time.
Honestly, the crafting element feels largely unnecessary. I can appreciate the need to introduce something new, especially considering the small gap of time between this release and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. But the crafting and material gathering aspect is presented as a way of masking a progress check throughout the adventure. If you want to move on to the next story chapter, you better have the parts necessary to build that bridge, or whatever other blockade you encounter. But chances are you’ll rarely have an issue with this, unless you simply refuse to explore or break random objects in the environment when offered a chance to do so. You’ll generally be swimming in materials that are unused until these checkpoints surface, so the mechanic ends up feeling pretty hollow overall.
But that’s not to say that LEGO The Hobbit isn’t fun. I’ve enjoyed my time spent with the game, and having played it on PS4, I’ve found it to be a great looking title for new-gen platforms. I do think that it’s an unnecessary release considering the proximity to LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, and the fact that The Hobbit series of films is not yet finished. But If you’re really jonesing for a LEGO fix so soon after the last, this will certainly scratch that itch. Just keep in mind that this entry does little to reinvent the wheel, and doesn’t deliver the full story of the original Tolkien tale, making it feel a bit unfinished in that regard. Still, it’s an often charming, fun, and light-hearted romp through the LEGO version of Middle-Earth, and it certainly warrants a look.