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LEGO The Hobbit Review

blake_peterson By:
GENRE Action / Adventure 
PUBLISHER Warner Bros. 
DEVELOPER Traveller\'s Tales 
E10+ Contains Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief

What do these ratings mean?

Hit the bricks.

By this point, you'd thinkLegomight be tempted to rest on its laurels with its video game franchises. It's got a solid mechanic with a great sense of humor and licenses that sell well just by virtue of beingtheLego version of a popular series. So it's fantastic to see titles likeLego The Lord oftheRings,LegoCity: Undercover,LegoMarvel Super Heroes, and now Lego TheHobbit, continuing to pushtheevolution oftheseries.

OnthePS4,LegoTheHobbitisthefirstLegogame that takes advantage of thehardware, with a noticeable increase in visual fidelity. It may sound weird to toutthevisuals in aLegogame, butTheHobbitso perfectly nailsthe lighting and set design ofthefilms that it would be eerie if you weren't staring at plastic minifigures. Make no mistake, this isthebest-lookingLegogame the developers at Traveller's Tales have made yet, andthehigher resolution textures and lighting just givethe whole thing a more polished sheen than ever before.

Lego The Hobbit also pushes the cooperative gameplay of prior titles even further. WithLego Marvel Super Heroes, I was surprised how cleanlythedevelopers divided tasks between individual characters' special abilities in order to force players to switch often, or if two or more players are working together, pay attention and collaborate.LegoThe Hobbitgoes farther by givingthedwarves collaborative gameplay where they must constantly help each other directly, linking up to climb short cliff faces, cross a gap on a grappling hook, or create a two-man team to fight one ofthelarge-sized characters (like Trolls).

This is complimented by each character's normal and unique abilities. It's possible to change weapons inthemiddle of a fight to choosethebest one. Most ofthedwarves also carry axes, which can be used to smash cracked rock plates, usually creating a tumble of bricks and studs, but some carry unique weapons like bows, slingshots, flails, and spears, each which has targets in the environment that only it can take down. While each character has these unique abilities, it may be possible to find or craft special items withthesame abilities on replays ofthelevels

Story-wise, there's nothing that new, as thegame usesthelicensed audio fromHobbit1 and 2, along with goofyLegovisuals. This makesthestory weaker in comparison toLegoMarvel Super Heroes, which had an original plot but was on par withtheother film-related games intheseries. It's funny and charming, but it's essentially TheHobbit-lite. Production value is high, with gorgeous drawn illustrations between cinematics narrated by Christopher Lee (Saruman) givingthescenes context and reminding players what's going on inthestory if they haven't sat down with it in a while. And boy, is it possible to stray away fromthestory.

LegoTheHobbithas no central hub from which to buy characters. Instead—as inLegoLord oftheRings—they are given to you after completing a level, or are unlocked and available for purchase with studs ontheexpansive overworld Middle Earth section ofthegame. As you playtheregular missions, new areas and "events" in Middle Earth become available. These events range from skill- or character-based challenges, to quests given by NPCs to earn Mythril or Red Bricks, often by delivering crafted items fromthenew crafting system.

Thecrafting system adds a lot more incentive thanthetraditional collectibles ofthepast.Theitems you craft all have a specific function. While some are just cosmetic (a cape that makes you slimy), others may be weapon variants that are more powerful thanthestandard-issue ones. Crafted items can't be used in Story modes of levels, but they can also be equipped by any character at will duringtheFree-Play and Middle Earth sections.

To craft something of course, you need its material components. This isthe first Legogame that rewards you with something more than studs when breaking downLegoobjects and enemies, with precious gems, and buildable materials functioning as "Loot." Not just for crafted items, loot is also necessary for LegoInstruction Builds, a mini-game that has come over from TheLegoMovie Videogame, where you create a set object out ofLegos, selectingthecorrect parts at certain intervals in a timed challenge to earn more studs, in order to fulfill level or quest objectives. These instruction builds ignitetheimagination, since they're fairly ingenious and based on realLego designs for Middle Earth objects.

One great example of their use are Gollum's riddles. Rather than just answering them, they become a puzzle where Bilbo createstheanswer visually out of Legos. Another example might be that a Middle Earth quest requires you to build a bridge to get access totheother side of a river, andtheonly way is to minethe loot from nearby with a pickaxe to buildtheLegoset.

Thecrafting element,theMiddle Earth overworld, and quests all build nicely into something that feels loosely inspired by games like Skyrimand online RPGs. A series of simple quests that net you some Mythril bricks, a vital crafting component for all crafted items, andthetraditional silver brick from a single character may eventually build into a Red Brick.The32 Red Bricks allow you to turn on features that make completingthegame easier, like stud multipliers, in-level item locators, etc., as well as features that are just fun like mini-modes and a dance-party-like Carnival. This makesthewhole package very much like a fantastic light-RPG that usestheLegodesign aesthetic to stealth-in those RPG elements.

It's still aLegogame, so it's not entirely perfect. Pure platforming inLego games is always problematic, since control and perspective never quite line up perfectly for some reason, and those issues are especially present in some of theMiddle Earth quests. While the developers have fixedtheissues with navigation between side-missions and the story mission that plagued Lego Marvel Super Heroes, there's still no way to select fromthemenu whether you want to turn on navigation for side quests orthemain story quest without going tothe quest-giver. Boats have fairly horrendous controls in tight quarters, which sadly comes into play when you are required to pilot Bard's smuggling vessel around Lake Town.

There are also a few glitches here and there. On one occasionthegame crashed completely, while on three others, it failed to recognize that I had completed an objective and I had to redo a quest fromthestart after waiting for it to reboot itself while I did other tasks. So, essentially, it hasthesame problems as many hardcore RPGs released today. But like those games, I can't stop playing it, and their happy-go-lucky characters and quests fill outtheworld in a way that is charming and delightful.

If there's one place whereLegoTheHobbit falters, it'sthestory which only delves into parts one and two ofthefilm franchise. While it's a massive game if you dive intotheoverworld Middle Earth quests, it's still tied to a franchise whose last film ended on a complete television-style cliffhanger. Sure, theMiddle Earth quests fill outtheworld ofLegoTheHobbit, giving it a uniquelyLegospin onthefranchise, butthegame can be played without doing more than one or two if they aren't sought out.

Additionally, replayingthelevels for quest objectives often reveals hidden sections ofthelevel; in at least one instance, almost twice as much content asthefirst playthrough. However, there's no incentive for people who just want to playthestory and have no drive to dotheopen-world quests, so swaths of gamers may playthegame throughthestory's end and set it aside without accessing that content. On completing my first playthrough I had only completed 30% ofthegame's objectives.

LegoTheHobbitis, if notthebestLegogame, then closely matched withthe top entries intheseries. It expandstheseries repertoire with new mechanics and better quest navigation. It still has some oftheseries trademark flaws, but there's even more to recommendthechild-friendly series of games now. Traveller's Tales has built a compelling new entry in their franchise, brick by brick.
Copy provided by publishers. Review based on PS4 version. Also available for Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, and Vita.
LEGO The Hobbit
  • New crafting system
  • Middle Earth overworld quests
  • Fast travel "eagles"
  • Funny
  • Lego platforming issues
  • RPG-lite gameplay
  • RPG-style glitches
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