Traveller’s Tales brings us back to the brick-ridden Middle-earth for another dose of hobbits and orcs in LEGO The Hobbit, but with minimal enhancements since the recently released LEGO: The Movie Game and LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes, I can’t help but begin to experience a little LEGO fatigue.
Unlike LEGO Lord of the Rings, LEGO The Hobbit is only based on the first two of the Hobbit films, An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. The third movie, There and Back Again, is absent at this point; however, it has been said that levels based upon its concluding narrative will be released around Christmas. As a result, the game currently exists as an incomplete experience, leaving you with a highly unsatisfying cliffhanger. Nonetheless, what’s here though is well done.
Like most LEGO games, LEGO The Hobbit mixes the story of the film with a lot of slapstick humor to make the game “friendlier” to younger audiences. During this journey you’ll take control of the hobbit Bilbo and a band of dwarves, as you demolish scores of Lego objects and rebuild them out of the debris, switch characters to solve puzzles, and find tons of hidden secrets along the way. It’s standard series fare, however this time through, you can smash up environmental objects to find various objects and LEGO studs, which are used to unlock hidden characters and new features.
You’ll run through 16 missions, experiencing moments like fleeing from an irate Smaug in the dwarven city of Erebor, battling the necromancer in Dol Guldur and making a daring river escape inside a set of barrels, but the game’s pacing is uneven as some levels can seem short, while still other can drag on far longer than they should. As such, you’ll blow through the campaign quickly if you stick to it and don’t worry about doing any of the side missions or going after any of the series’ familiar collectibles.
The combat is very much in tune with the latest Lego renditions and features simplified button mapping that keeps things fun and light. Albeit clumsy at moments, the fluidity of the combat is satisfyingly executed and never really disturbs the on-screen action.
As previously stated, one of the more distinctive features of the game is the crafting system. In addition to the usual studs, you’ll collect various materials to create LEGO objects that can be used in the main story or side-quests. This new feature is neat, since you can watch a huge LEGO object be built in real time, and you can even slow it down to see each individual step. But the downside is that crafting can be tedious. If you don’t have the right parts to craft something, you need to go around and smash things until you find them.
Other than a new crafting mechanic and a small handful of new abilities, LEGO The Hobbit is almost identical to previous entries in the series. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t offer a ton of stuff to do. In addition to the main story mode, there is also an open-world Middle-earth you can explore. There’s plenty of side quests here – which usually consist of finding an item within a level for a character, killing hordes of enemies, or completing a small puzzle – as well as characters to unlock and purchase, and then many other secrets to be found, too.
There are also some new rhythm-based challenges, as well as the inclusion of the piece-finding mini-game from the recently released LEGO: The Movie Game.
During your adventure, you’ll be switching between over a dozen different characters, each with unique abilities–and all of these are required at certain points in the game to progress. Although it’s easy to switch between the many controllable characters using the pop up radial dial, it can be tricky to differentiate between them and know who has the skill you require. After a few hours, you’ll get the hang of character swapping, but during some segments with 8+ characters, I still found myself confused as to whom I was switching.
Visually, it looks superb. The locations throughout the story are breathtaking at times, and seeing it on the new consoles really showcases how beautiful these areas are. The voice acting and narration is equally polished, making it instantly accessible to those familiar or new to Tolkien’s epic.
Like a yearly sports release, the LEGO series has shown small improvements each year to the formula and LEGO The Hobbit is no different. Traveller’s Tales did a great job of presenting the world and characters, but the mechanics and gameplay have seen very little in the way of evolving the franchise.
Editor’s Note: LEGO The Hobbit was reviewed using a Xbox One copy of the game.