Available now for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, ‘LEGO: The Hobbit’ is the latest game from developer Traveller’s Tales and just like ‘LEGO: Lord Of The Rings‘ is based on the films made by Peter Jackson. What makes both games stand out is that they use the voice tracks direct from the films for the characters. Unlike LEGO: LOTR however, LEGO: The Hobbit is not a complete game as it uses “An Unexpected Journey” and “The Desolation of Smaug” films. The third and final film in The Hobbit trilogy is not released until the end of this year. So can a game featuring only two films of a trilogy be worth the money right now?
I will start off by saying that enjoyment of LEGO: The Hobbit does rely on the player having watched The Hobbit films to really get the most out of the game. The way in which key scenes from the films are used to create levels for the player is again something Travelers Tales excel in for their LEGO Games. The opening section plays out just as the intro to “An Unexpected Journey” begins with the recreation of the time when Smaug the Dragon first attacks and takes over the dwarf kingdom of Erebor. It never ceases to amaze me just how much detail Travellers Tales puts into these recreations. Enhanced by using the voice tracks from the film, it is a beautiful way to set the tone and pull the player into the story and immerse you in the world of Middle Earth.
If you have watched the films then you will notice that some of the dialogue scenes from the films have been cut down to fit the shortened scenes in the game. But it is the levels that really bring the magic home. From the first moments in Erebor to witnessing the stress for Bilbo as 13 strange looking Dwarves happily sit down to dinner and the mayhem they bring to Bilbo’s quiet home. A nice moment is how the “Doing the Dishes” song and sequence in the film has been turned into a mini game where you have to press the right button after prompts on screen to successfully help the Dwarves wash up Bilbo’s mother’s best china. It is a good example of how much detail has been put into the game.
Once of the highlights of The Hobbit is the large cast of characters the story has, and each one has a place in the gameplay. Bilbo, Gandalf and the Thirteen Dwarves; Thorin Oakenshield, Fili, Kili, Balin, Dwalin, Oin, Gloin, Ori, Dori, Nori, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur. With so many characters you would expect there to be little difference between them, but instead they are used to break up the gameplay very nicely. Each Dwarf can partner up to perform a special attack or needed to get pass an obstacle or solve a puzzle. Simply pressing B on the controller will pair character’s up and is great fun in battle to have two dwarves spinning around with their axes and shields cutting down any Orc that gets in the way. Different dwarfs will have a unique ability; Kili will be able to use a bow and Arrow whilst his brother Fili will have the ability to dig. Dwalin has the ability to use his huge hammer to smash blocks out the way and Dori uses a chain in order to pull down structures. It is a very clever way of making use of the whole ensemble of characters and the levels are designed in such a way that switching between them all to navigate and complete a level is easy to understand and enjoyable.
LEGO: The Hobbit actually puts both films together for the game. It is one continuous playthrough to complete the story missions. Due to the films having to be cut down to be adapted for the game, in order to keep the flow of the story clear, the game has a narrator in the form of Saruman The White. Voiced by Sir Christopher Lee himself; it really gives a great bonus to how the game tells the story, and the gravitas in his voice always keeps you focused in the world and the story as the game moves from big screen moments to the next. The same technique was not used for LEGO: Lord of The Rings, and as it feels that The Hobbit has been cut down to size more so for LEGO: The Hobbit, this decision is nothing short of genius.
One of the staggering things about LEGO games is the huge amount of gameplay they have. As always, the main story levels have to be completed once before you can return for “Free Play”, the chance to replay the level but having the ability to pick any character you have unlocked to access areas or complete puzzles you would have been unable to complete originally. So for example, the first time you play you may come across a collectible that is locked behind a wall or obstacle that requires the talent of a character you do not have access to. Replaying in Free Mode allows you to pick the right character to make use of their ability. This means you have to at least play the game through twice to get all the collectibles and for me, the most fun part of a LEGO game is the Free Play mode.
Outside the main story levels you will also have the opportunity to complete side quests, retrieving or building items that random characters in the world of Middle Earth request. Completing these will earn you rewards. Building items is a new feature for LEGO: The Hobbit. Due to the Dwarfs being famous for building amazing things, alongside collecting LEGO Pegs, you can now also collect raw materials such as wood, stone, rope, food and precious stones. These can be traded around the world as you progress. Their most important use is during levels where for the first time, a 3D virtual LEGO Building mini game is used to build items necessary to complete the level. The mini game is very clever. You will be shown a 3D representation of of the object on the right hand side, on the left you will be shown different options in a wheel. You will be shown the correct component required and have to quickly choose it from the wheel. A bonus of 20,000 LEGO pegs is a reward for completing the build quickly. Take too long or pick the wrong component and the bonus amount is diminished. If you have ever built a LEGO Set in the real world, this mini game will have extra charm.
LEGO: The Hobbit is the same high standard you would expect. Every location in the story is recreated beautifully in the game and both films are amazing to experience through the game. But that is also where I experience my only and biggest problem with this game. It is incomplete. The game is based on the films and as a direct result, because it has been based on and released after only two of the three films that make up Peter Jackson’s trilogy, you get to the end of “The Desolation of Smaug” and as the credits roll you are left wondering what about the third film. LEGO: LOTR was released as a complete game with all three films used to make up the game. LEGO: Star Wars was first released as the original trilogy first but then put together as the Complete Saga once the game based on the Prequel trilogy was completed. For me, as much as I loved playing this game and will continue to do so, the timing of its release is strange. There is no reason why it could not have been released at Christmas as “The Battle of the Five Armies” is released in the cinema. It would no doubt have sold in greater numbers with that film release as well as the festive season.
Currently reports are suggesting that the final film will be released as DLC around the same time the film hits cinemas on December 17th. Eight Months is a long time to wait for the “complete” version of LEGO: The Hobbit. Going by how much fun the game currently is, the wait will be worth it but it would also be fair to say you can have same experience in December if you pick up the game then, no doubt at a much reduced retail price, then to buy the game now at full retail price. It is a strange move to have released it now to tie in with the second film on home release rather then in December when the complete Trilogy is out.
There is just so much gameplay and love in this game for the source material that just as with LEGO: Lord of The Rings, LEGO: The Hobbit recreates the story, the world and the characters with detail and precision. The voice track and narration by Sir Christopher Lee as Saruman The White, both add that extra magic to a LEGO game that already had so much to begin with. As above, despite it being an amazing game with so much to do in it, being based on only two instead of three Hobbit films bothers me greatly. I would say if you can get this for a good bargain price go for it as it really is just brilliant if you know and like the films, but it will be so much cheaper when the final film is released and the final part of this game available as DLC.
The decision to once again not use Online Co-Op play was disappointing. I still do not understand why the very best LEGO games that would be so much fun with friends online lack the feature. That combined with the incomplete feel of the game due to being based on two films and not the full trilogy stops me from giving the game any higher a score, which is a shame. When the DLC is release to complete the game, I will be more then happy to complete this review accordingly.
Thank you to Xbox for providing LEGO: The Hobbit to thisisxbox.com.
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