Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-11-07 16:04:19
The Joys of Lego Lord of the Rings
Usually I'm quick to attack franchise milking. I think that it dilutes creativity and has arguably reared its ugly head more during this generation of gaming than any generation preceding it. People popularly look at Call of Duty as an example, although there are plenty of others out there - you don't need to go far to find a franchise that releases a new game every other year to little excitement.
Another series that falls into this trap is TT Games's Lego games, although not quite to the same degree. After all, while most of the Lego games are structurally similar and have the player doing the same kind of things, the fact that they always use different licenses keeps the overall experience fresh and adds limitless possibilities. Lego itself is an amazing thing - I played with Lego so much as a kid, building worlds in my bedroom and developing large casts of characters. In my opinion, Lego is the ultimate creative product that nurtures healthy imaginations. While I've played Lego Star Wars and a few other games in the series, the one that truly resonates with me is Lego Lord of the Rings.
I had more fun with that game than most this generation. Playing through it with my girlfriend - TT are always happy to accommodate multiple players - was a joyous experience. We spent most of the game throwing each other off of cliffs and trying to glitch the game out by jumping at environmental objects (a pursuit for which we were semi-successful). I managed, for example, to use a calculated combination of jumps to leap across the River Anduin as Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn, who were supposed to be trapped on their side of the river, near Amon Hen. This wasn't meant to happen.
The reason it wasn't meant to happen was because it meant that I could run up to Sam, Frodo and Gollum during a period of the game where I was supposed to be separated from them. I could kill them and found that they didn't respawn. Other glitches included falling through scenery, skipping entire levels and freezing the game. I do love glitching out games. This isn't to say that Lego Lord of the Rings is a clumsily made game, though - by all means, it's a great open-world game that is absolutely hilarious to play around in, and anything that I did to abuse it is a testament to how enjoyable it can be as a platform for messing around.
The reason LotR works so well is because TT decided to make Middle Earth explorable, right down to locations from the film, places from the books and hidden caves and secret areas. As an enormous Lord of the Rings fan it is completely in accordance with Tolkien's lore that the world would be full of wondrous discovery, and the game does a beautiful job of replicating everything from Hobbiton to the Mines of Moria with a formidable attention to detail. You can purchase characters from the books and films and forge myriad special weapons out of resources acquired in the game. This allows you to run around Middle Earth doing just about anything you want - freezing people in Bree with an icy sword was one of my personal favourites.
Lego Lord of the Rings isn't a perfect game by any means. You spend a lot of time running around picking up Lego currency, meaning that most levels become a game of hitting objects repeatedly over and over again. That said, there is an inarguable charm to seeing famous moments from the movies displayed in a comedic Lego fashion, and the world of Middle Earth is so expansive and delightful to explore that it's almost irresistible to a fan of the source material. Since the films came out I'd wanted to explore Rivendell - in Lego I did for several hours, basking in the warm glow of the gorgeous city and marveling at how well TT made the transition between realistic graphics and Lego constructions organically nestling on top of them.
With the recent release and high critical reception of Lego Marvel Super Heroes, TT Games appears to be going from strength to strength. They have a great knack for taking well-loved licenses and giving them the Lego treatment to grand effect. While I have no great desire to play any of their other games any time soon, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Lego Lord of the Rings. As an exercise in pure, unadulterated fun, there isn't much that can top it in my gaming collection right now.