LEGO The Hobbit – As We Play

As We Play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time. All feedback on this concept is welcome.

Version Overviewed: 1.1
Format Tested: PS4

When Peter Jackson said he was going to split the 320 page The Hobbit into three, full-length feature films, there was naturally some trepidation.

However, with new characters created especially for the films, as well as links to the appendices synching up with the events in the book, Jackson has proven once again to any would-be doubters that he knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to all things Tolkein.

And with two of the three films now behind us, there just so happens to be enough content for a full-length LEGO interpretation. How convenient!

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Right off the bat, the humour is in full-force. At the title screen, we’re roving through the corridors of Bag-End, watching Frodo traipse around reading mail and sneaking up on Bilbo who is trying to write his memoirs. Except, it’s not us distracting the senior Baggins from his quill, rather it’s the light coming through the window that is constantly being blocked out by someone. A someone known as Gandalf the Grey who is giving us all a cheeky ‘peek-a-boo’ – That sneaky spell-caster.

The game starts off in much the same way as the films – Bilbo recollects his earlier adventures through his memoirs, but first introducing us to the dwarves of Erebor prior to the mighty Smaug assuming the Dwarven kingdom – and all its treasure – for his own. We start the game controlling Thorin and Thrain in a scene that is only really touched upon in the films. Wonderfully, the game seems as if it will allow us to explore this beautiful kingdom before it crumbles. And what a sight it is.

Traveller’s Tales have really studied Jackson’s vision and read Tolkein’s works intently as the kingdom towers majestically and is full to the brim with subtle details and fine touches. From stone steps, to large raging furnaces and oversized corridors, Erebor is brick-by-brick marvellous. Scenes are even filled with background dwarves doing very dwarf-like things, be it eating, mining, drinking, sleeping or standing guard while fighting amongst themselves.

The character wheel seems to take cues from TT’s previous interpretation of Lord of the Rings, giving the player an option to open an inventory through a backpack and select different weapons and items. On one occasion, I had to switch Thorin’s sword for an Axe in order to break through some debris. As with all previous LEGO games, however, your companions each have a different ability and you will need them to work together in order to progress.

Oh, and you remember that really neat scene in An Unexpected Journey when the dwarves are doing synchronised blacksmithing? You can stand back and watch that for as long as you like. No more rewinding your DVD and replaying it over and over, or watching the same You Tube clip. Nope, it’s all here in lovely LEGO glory.

Nobody does that? Just me? Moving on, then…

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New to LEGO The Hobbit is a blacksmithing mini-game. While you’re running around, beating bad-guys up and destroying everything, not only are you collecting studs, but now you’ll also collect materials. These materials range in size and shape and in order to create a finished product, you’ll have to gather a full set as indicated by the game then take them to an anvil. Once all the items have been gathered, you then have to press buttons at the right time as they appear in the center of the screen in order to shape the finished product. It’s all pretty straightforward, but it’s a neat inclusion that makes for a very appropriate fit in this universe.

Another new feature in LEGO The Hobbit is ‘buddying up’ Dwarves can now jump on each others shoulders and create a mighty double-attack. This attack is used to beat down certain enemies, but also to break through types of landfall. When you press the indicated button, a mini-cut scene occurs showing off the raw strength of dwarves in tandem form. Put it this way, you wouldn’t refuse them a chicken if they threatened you for one.

Interestingly, the master-building from LEGO The Movie The Video Game makes a return, but it’s a lot more intricate and difficult this time around. There’ll be multiple stages of building which you can either watch build at a natural pace or speed up with quick-build, and it’s up to you to select the different shapes from the LEGO wheel on the left-hand side. The quicker you identify and place them, the more of a stud-bonus you’ll get for completing the structure. Get any wrong, however and you lose a considerable chunk of your reward.

LEGO The Hobbit handles cut-scenes wonderfully as per usual. The major plot points of the film are all recreated with a slight comical touch, with the original voice-acting still weaving everything along at a nice pace. However, I did notice some occasionally strange audio effects prior to patch 1.1. There were regular distortions and crackles through my headphones which appear to have been resolved in the latest update. However, the audio quality remains questionable. Frankly, it sounds like some of the audio bytes were chopped, changed and poorly edited into the game. It’s not a major issue, but it does serve as a brief distraction considering the high-budget projection values.

Still, the game continues to offer some wonderful surprises. It offers narrative points of view I hadn’t anticipated and weren’t overly prevalent in the film, as well as some wonderful narration from an actor that is not Ian Holm. LEGO The Hobbit also re-introduces the sprawling open-world map from LEGO Lord of the Rings, allowing players to explore The Shire, Bree, Rivendell and other memorable locations from the universe. There’s a lot to collect and discover (who’d expect anything less) as well as Middle Earth events to complete, so you’ll probably be spending quite a bit of time exploring in-between levels. And that’s all fine and well, because the LEGO interpretation of Middle Earth is simply spectacular.

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Fortunately, the creativity continues to show in LEGO The Hobbit. Moving on to level two, and I genuinely feel like this might be the greatest level of LEGO Traveller’s Tales have ever put together. The humorous introduction of all the dwarves in Bag-End is obviously a big highlight in the movies and amazingly, the interpretation in game also works a treat. Though there’s something masochistic and self-depricating about the way Bilbo smashes up his own home for LEGO bricks. Does he really hate having guests that much?

In fact, LEGO The Hobbit has this unusual habit of making entertaining levels out of scenes in the movie you wouldn’t expect to have much entertainment value. Whether it’s Radaghast healing rabbits so he can ride on his sleigh to outrun the warg packs or exploring hidden caves for elven weaponry, and even riddles with Gollum, Traveller’s Tales have genuinely delivered something quite special.

This is far from your traditional LEGO game. It’s one of the boldest efforts Traveller’s Tales have put together to date and it remains a delight from start to finish. While it’s a little disappointing Traveller’s Tales didn’t wait to release the game at Christmas when they would have all three films at once and are instead releasing There and Back Again as a separate DLC, there’s still plenty of content here to keep you entertained.

Areas for Development

  • Poorly edited sound bytes
  • Occasional character sticks on the environment
  • Random crashes (though these are more stable since 1.1)
  • Very slight dips in frame rate

 

Final Analysis

Despite the lack of There and Back Again, LEGO The Hobbit is a  fulfilling, heart-warming, ever-entertaining package. The LEGO formula feels far from tired, as Hobbit actually offers more creativity than the last few LEGO games combined. The levels are some of the best TT have ever done and the humor has never been wittier.

With only very slight technical issues, this felt silky smooth on Playstation 4, though we imagine it will feel right at home on any other of the many platforms it is now available on.

An absolute treat!

Technical Competency – 9/10 

Graphic/Sound Quality – 9/10 

Network Stability – N/A

Overall – 9/10 

(These grades assess our playthrough, taking into consideration how many (if any) bugs were encountered, whether there were any interruptions in gameplay, and the product’s final technical state. These scores, coupled with the Final Analysis and Areas for Development, are suggestions for future patches and updates which the developers could (and in our opinion, should) explore. These scores are separate to our DLC/Expansion Reviews but link into our Patch/Firmware Reviews.)

(These scores are not designed as a grading system to determine the entertainment value of a product and should not be treated as such.)

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,

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