Living up to J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic journey of The Lord of the Rings is no easy task. There’s been the books, a film trilogy, and countless games all telling different stories and giving different aspects of the timeless saga. One thing remains the same though, and that is regardless of the medium, the story of The Lord of the Rings remains a timeless classic — and one I never get tired of experiencing.
The LEGO game franchise has quite the reputation, turning our most beloved franchises (Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones) into blocky fun for all. So you’d think combining the two series, Lord of the Rings and LEGO, would result in fantastic experience. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case as LEGO The Lord of the Rings.
LEGO The Lord of the Rings is based on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and follows the original storylines of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Story isn’t where this game falters; rather, it’s execution in gameplay. LEGO The Lord of the Rings features the same basic principles of past LEGO titles. That is, basic platforming and puzzles mixed with some simplistic action sequences. On consoles, this works well, but on handheld devices the game is plagued by lag, frame rate issues, and poor camera works.
Though it’s not the main aspect of gameplay, combat is hindered by clunky mechanics. This is no fault to the Vita or 3DS’ control scheme, but instead shoddy animations and camera work resulting in missed combo opportunities and, oftentimes, sending you into the game’s many insta-death pits. Additionally, these missed blows also open you up, leaving you helpless to defend from the unforgiving enemy damage. And don’t expect to turn to your partner for help as your partner’s AI is incredibly limited. The only good thing about the AI-controlled companion is to release your frustration out on him.
This brings to mind the lack of co-op play, which seriously hinders the overall experience. You’d think Sony and Nintendo’s emphasis on co-op gameplay would incorporate some sort of multiplayer, but alas you are stuck with a computer controlled companion, and a dumb one at that. Needless to say, having the ability to partner with a friend to travel to Mordor would make the experience somewhat better, but still wouldn’t save you from the technical limitations of the game.
These limitations expand to the environment of the game. The awe-inspiring locations of the films, from the Mines of Moria to Elven city of Rivendale, are bland in LEGO The Lord of the Rings. The vast environments are handicapped by the game’s mostly linear nature. There are some points in the game where you are free to roam around and explore, but the poor graphics, lack of shadows, and just overall unappealing environmental design make it rather boring to do so.
LEGO The Lord of the Rings does have some redeeming qualities, such as the collectible mini-game and signature humor, but it isn’t enough to outweigh the overall poor presentation of the game. Unfortunately, LEGO The Lord of the Rings offers nothing you can’t already experience, and enjoy a lot more, from other games. Heck, even the console versions of this game allow for a more enjoyable experience. There’s a chance die hard fans of the series will overlook its flaws and find some joy in the game, but I suggest you look elsewhere for your J.R.R. Tolkien fix.
*This review is only for the 3DS and PS Vita version of the game.