As much as I have defended the yearly release of the LEGO games, with the recent release of LEGO The Hobbit, I am now starting to feel that fatigue. After playing through this game, a majority of the game design choices that have been a mainstay within the franchise are now looking really bad for the series. This isn’t a terrible game by any means, but since this only covers the first two films along with the game’s many other more major problems, yeah, maybe it is time for Traveler’s Tales to change things up a bit with the LEGO video game formula. Let’s dive right into LEGO The Hobbit.
The game’s story will take you through the first two films in the trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The films focus on Bilbo Baggins, who journeys with Gandalf and a group of dwarfs to take back the dwarf’s kingdom from the dragon-Smaug. Just like the last The Lord of the Rings-based LEGO game, the game will only go through certain scenes and won’t cover every single inch of both films. This game also has the same problems as the previous game, but we will get into those later.
LEGO The Hobbit is an action platformer, with puzzle-solving elements and some button prompts thrown into the mix. If you have played LEGO The Lord of the Rings, then you have played LEGO The Hobbit. Both games share the same style of gameplay, but differentiate themselves from one another with one major component: the group of dwarfs that you can play as in this game. While they do have the same functions of the party members from the last game, like archery and being able to smash cracked blocks, they do change a few things up. One example is that Bilbo and the dwarfs can team up for super attacks to either break down walls or do damage to larger enemies and bosses. Each dwarf has his own unique ability—like one can use a giant hammer and move heavy rocks, one can eat food and become a super chubby trampoline, and another one can dig up items or components to solve puzzles that were buried in the dirt.
The game also sees the return of items that can be forged by the blacksmith to give you some bonuses, a huge overworld that you can explore, and side quests, but the new addition includes materials that can be found or mined throughout the levels and the world you go through. Most of the side quests this time will either require you to find a certain item that the blacksmith can make or use certain materials to make something the quest giver requires. It’s a little tedious at first, but if you like these kinds of quests, then you will be at home with them. There is also split-screen co-op where you and your friends can go through the levels together. The game will take you about eight to twelve hours to complete, and about 21 hours if you want to complete the entire game.
Graphically, this game does look pretty good. I feel like the lighting looks better, and the more realistic graphics, while still dated-looking by now, are slightly prettier to look at.The animations for all of the characters in the game look smooth, although some of the super attacks that the dwarfs pull off when paired up look kind of unfinished. The sound design, well, sounds great. I mean, the lines and the voice work is taken right from the films, but at least it isn’t like Rambo the Video Game. The music from the films is used in this game, and it is beautiful. Say what you will about The Hobbit films, the music is always great to listen to. Since this is a LEGO game, there is some humor thrown into the game, and while it is more miss than hit for me, there are some parts that are pretty funny.
Unfortunately, this game has a lot of issues. First off: Traveler Tales, why haven’t you fixed the camera angle during the main levels? I hate bringing this up every time I review a new LEGO game, but this has to stop. It’s like telling a singer on a competition show that he has a pitch issue and needs to fix it, but the next week, that singer doesn’t change a thing and still has a pitch issue…I don’t get it. I also had no urge to complete any of the side quests. I think that is because the first few that I ran into had some stupidly high material requirement, which basically said, “Hey, I need these materials, so I need you to go farm those materials for a few minutes and then come back to me.” I mean, what is the point of these side quests if I have no urge or desire to play them? That just leaves me to travel across these vast empty areas that have no life to them.
Then there were the glitches. One was harmless, but another resulted in me falling through the game’s world, and a third glitch completely prevented me from progressing through the game. I tried to get past this last bug so many times since it was near the end where the dwarfs and Bilbo are in Lake Town, but it wouldn’t let me continue on. So yeah, I didn’t beat the game, but with all of the stale game design issues and how I really wasn’t having a fun time, there was very little reason for me to go back through the game, even if I didn’t encounter that bug. I just think instead of having the same kind of levels throughout the entire game, they could change things up. I love that the chase sequences are back, but they are so few and far between. Change up how certain levels play out. For example, you could have a conversation tree sequence when Bilbo is talking to Gollum where Bilbo has to solve riddles to get past him. The whole game felt stale, even if there were a few fun levels from time to time. Like I said above, the story just skims through most of the scenes from the films, and I feel like if there ever was a LEGO game to have an atmospheric environment, it would be the games based off this series of books.
Final Verdict: Finally feeling that franchise fatigue
With this game, it is time for the LEGO franchise to step up its game if it is going to be released yearly. They can’t be just another LEGO game based off a license property. Get creative and take advantage of the property that is given to you. As for LEGO The Hobbit, it isn’t the worst game out of the franchise, but it is slightly above average. I would check this game out if you are a fan of the franchise or a fan of the films, but if you want a LEGO game based off the fantasy franchise, just get LEGO The Lord of the Rings. Once the third film comes out, you know that they are going to release a sequel with the only difference being that the third film will be included. They should have just waited and released this game next year when the third film will be out on blu-ray. Oh well; let us hope the next LEGO game is much better.