Lego The Hobbit Review
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii-U, Sony PlayStation 3 and Sony PlayStation 4
It was always going to happen, and if anyone was shocked when Lego The Hobbit was announced is a fair way out of touch with modern entertainment mediums. So for the rest of us, we all knew this was inevitable, we all knew it would be in keeping with the many recent Lego efforts and here we are.
Right off the bat, before the game is even inserted into a console, there is room for criticism. Firstly the game only covers the movies to date, begging the question of why couldn’t they just wait another nine months and release a complete Hobbit game which includes every piece of content from the movies? The answer is more than likely money of course, and whilst this is an acceptable answer it does irk slightly as the game abruptly ends (campaign-wise at least) much like the second movie did. Add to this the fact that the movie studio has managed to drag three movies out of a teeny tiny book which was at a push two movies, there is a precedent here for milking source material for every penny and the game has simply followed suit.
Secondly, there is a real danger at the moment, at least for some, of Lego game fatigue. We are only approximately five months into a new shiny generation of living room consoles and we have three Lego titles, Lego The Hobbit being the third, The Lego Movie Videogame and Lego Marvel Super Heroes being the others. Three games of a very similar ilk and sadly varying quality standard is a bit ridiculous really - whilst Lego games are gateway games, inherently breezy and fun for kids, newcomers and seasoned gamers alike there is only so much X bashing that people will pay upwards of £40 a time for. You also know it’s getting a bit much when your five year old Lego mad co-op partner says “Another new Lego game daddy? really?”.
Initial pre-playing gripes aside, when you boot up Lego The Hobbit it is without a doubt exactly what you would expect if you have ever played a Lego game previously. For those who haven’t, to put it simply Lego games are solid button mashing games, along with light building and some simple puzzle elements. In the case of Lego The Hobbit all of this takes place alongside the exact, and that cannot be emphasised enough, events of the first two movies.
The world of The Hobbit and in turn Lord of the Rings is faithfully realised and looks amazing throughout (mainly as they use an awful lot of the same assets), particularly in the set pieces and open areas - however unfortunately due to the nature of the look and feel of the movies from which the game has clearly taken every aspect of its source material is that some of the scenes are in dark, dank areas which utilise lots of muddy colours, browns and blacks particularly. This is of course the nature of the beast and not in the slightest bit helped by the cast of characters. Roaming around these often dark places are your grumpy band of dwarves, all beautifully rendered in HD but obviously quite small, and clothed in similar colours to the surroundings. This inevitably leads to you having little or no clue as to who everyone is as there is very little that is visually distinctive about each character, aside from Gandalf of course as he’s grey and tall! “There are too many dwarfs daddy” - again, a valid point from a five year old but there was always going to be and what the little whipper-snapper actually means is that the game is presented in such a way that it’s tough to differentiate between the characters, making a lot of the game a bit of a “switch and see which one that is” adventure.
Gameplay wise it’s a mixture of old and new. The traditional character variations, naturally some seen previously in the Lego Lord of The Rings game are in place, and provide a nice mixture of melee and ranged skills, all of which are routinely used to bash baddies and more frequently to solve straightforward puzzles. The one innovative thing from Lego The Movie Videogame that has been added to Lego The Hobbit is the ability to build special structures at certain points in the game. For those who missed The Lego Movie Videogame, this is effectively a mini game where you choose which parts should fit and stud (coin) bonuses are awarded for your speed in doing so. This has been added to with a very basic crafting system which will see you collecting hundreds of random planks of wood in the hope that it will come in handy at some point in the game. It’s nice to see the functionality has carried over but obviously at this point, it’s not new and much like everything else, is open to being dragged down by game fatigue.
Naturally co-op returns, sofa or “couch” as it’s more commonly known; being as accessible as Lego games are it’s always nice to take on a new Lego game with a member of the family that doesn’t necessarily game much and in this respect Lego The Hobbit does exactly what you’d expect it to. The dynamic split screen is present throughout the campaign and the “down the middle” split screen is present when roaming free. It all works seamlessly and the drop in/drop out nature is perfect for the more casual amongst us.
From a content perspective the new crop of Lego titles are ridiculous really...in a good way and Lego The Hobbit is no different. Having completed the full campaign you will likely be greeted with a percentage completion hovering around the 20-30% mark and will instantly see more side missions than you can shake a pad at, waiting to be explored. Sadly it’s here that some annoyances creep in. The side missions are in the main, quite dull, some far too simple and most very very short. Coupled with the difficulty (for a five year old) in navigating through the world (it’s nowhere near as easy as Lego Marvel’s hub was to use) and the requirement to replay missions to achieve certain objectives, it can all be a bit much the younger gamers out there. Fine for an adult, if they are on a collectibles binge but a bit of a slog for everyone else.
It’s arguably not fair to criticise a Lego game for being a Lego game but having seen three on the Xbox One (or PS4) since its launch, it is becoming more and more difficult to hold back the feeling of repetition. Content wise it’s tough to fault the quantity but there are questions to be asked of the quality and the length; the presentation is great, using the audio from the films themselves is always a good move and graphically it’s up there with the other recent Lego efforts. Lego The Hobbit is better than The Lego Movie Videogame but that’s not a massive accomplishment and sadly neither are as good as Lego Marvel. We may now be at a point where we need to ask ourselves, do we need another Lego game this quarter?