I am a fan of the evolving TT Games' Lego series, from the Star Wars titles to the Batman ones. I have gone through nearly all of them not only because they are fun, but also because they are very playable with my sons and that is rare in modern videogames. None of the franchise entries have grabbed me and kept me up late nights like Lego: The Lord of The Rings has. Perhaps it is my fascination with the movies as the source material (I own DVD and Blu-ray copies of all the iterations) or the refined gameplay present, but I can easily say this is my favorite Lego title from TT Games, unseating Lego Batman in my mind.
The gameplay premise of Lego: The Lord of The Rings is the same general model as the previous forays from TT games. You travel through various scenarios, battling enemies, solving puzzles, collecting studs, and finding secrets. The magic in this game version is the fact that a cohesive story is told mirroring the three movies in the trilogy and using actual dialogue from the films. This is only the second TT Games Lego title to use audio (Lego Batman 2 got voice actors for the story segments) but this one is made wondrous by hearing the actual actors from the films as the Lego action unfolds on screen to varied serious and comic results.
Many scenes are shown verbatim from the films, the sequence of Gandalf on the bridge screaming ‘You Shall not Pass’ to the Balrog gives me goosebumps. TT Games cleverly switched dialogue around so they could manipulate the imagery to push the 9+ hours of film moments into about an hour of cutscenes. They did this so expertly that for the first time in my long history of playing Lego games I was actually looking forward to the next story segment. The use of voice is the best addition to the series in a long time and I am hoping it is here to stay, I don’t think I can go back to the mumbles from previous games again.
Gameplay-wise there is an extremely satisfying series of missions throughout Middle Earth. Unlike the Star Wars or Indiana Jones games there is no main mission hub, instead there is an always accessible map of Middle Earth and you can go to each discovered location or mission anytime with quick travel or actually walk overland to your destination.