Review: LEGO The Hobbit (PS3)

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Title: LEGO The Hobbit
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (8 GB)
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: TT Games
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating:
LEGO The Hobbit is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and PC.
The PlayStation 3 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 380 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
LEGO The Hobbit is a curious game. While it has all the trappings of a tried and true LEGO game, something just feels off here. Let’s start from the beginning.

First, the game only covers the first two movies, An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. While I understand the complexities of releasing a game (or series of games) tied to a movie trilogy, the timing and content just doesn’t feel right. It has since been announced that the content covering the third film will be released as DLC for the game. How big the content will be and any pricing involved is yet to be determined but I’m not too thrilled with how this is being handled.

Don’t get me wrong, you can certainly expect to find all the major scenes from the first two movies and they generally tend to be wonderfully fun little LEGO recreations. Perhaps the fault lies in the source material and the characters available. The Hobbit movies, like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, tend to be pretty slow paced, punctuated by some action sequences here and there. That doesn’t always work well for a game, especially a LEGO game.

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The characters are also a bit problematic. Unlike LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and LEGO Harry Potter, where you have clearly defined characters that look very different and have different sets of abilities, there’s a numbing sameness to the dwarves as LEGO. It makes it much harder to tell who’s who on screen and which one you’ll need to get past a particular obstacle. Holding Triangle gives you a character wheel to choose, but more often than not I just found myself tapping Triangle over and over until the right one popped up. I usually found myself relying on just one or two characters because I liked the feel of their weapons. I’d then need to do a switch to remove and obstacle or open a path and then switch back.

There’s also a large (for a LEGO game anyway) forging system here. When breaking apart objects more than just LEGO studs will appear. You’ll find a ton of collectible materials such as wood, fish, minerals, and all types of food items. You’ll then need to combine these items to progress in certain areas. Even with my obsessive need to smash everything in sight, this became a little annoying after a while because I’d often find I was woefully short of a key ingredient which led to a ton of grinding. Essentially I love smashing things, but on my own terms. I don’t like being told that I have to go find fifty loaves of bread to complete a quest, not in a LEGO game.

Free Play sections are generally worthwhile for exploration and clean up of any items you may have missed but it can be problematic, as is evident in Bilbo’s house. You’re not given the ability to just explore the area as you quickly get locked into specific set pieces ruining the fun of exploration. There’s certainly a ton of stuff to do in the game between the Main Story and all the Side Quests. The problem is that it just doesn’t seem to be as much fun as the other LEGO games.

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I can’t really fault the developers for trying some new things here and there, I just wish they had been a little more thought out. The forging is an interesting idea that doesn’t quite hit the mark and it’s the same with the item building for bonus LEGO studs. The side quests have a bit of variety and there’s a rhythm game in there. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but maybe this game is just a bit too all over the place, trying to add too much to the traditional LEGO formula all at once.

Visuals:
While a lot of the wonder contained in the movies is on display here in the game, it feels as though the developers were a bit pressed for time. Disc space certainly wasn’t an issue as the download tops out at 8 GB but it does feel as if some corners were cut.

The settings are all recreated wonderfully, but it often feels as though the lens has been smudged with Vaseline. It really feels like a step back considering how good LEGO Marvel Super Heroes looked overall. It gets worse when contrasting cut scenes and gameplay but I’ll just leave it at that.

Audio:
With Christopher Lee narrating and the lyrical music of Howard Shore, the sound is generally one of the best parts of the game. You’ll get a lot of dialogue from all different characters which is generally great. The side quests and repetitive nature of the characters asking for help can be a bit grating at times though.

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Online/Multiplayer:
As a LEGO game, couch co-op is what we get and it delivers as expected. No real surprises or changes here.

Conclusion:
This is an interesting game in that there’s so much to do here that it’ll keep you busy for hours on end. The downside is the sometimes tedious nature of the game.

With three DLC packs out already (two character packs and an armor pack) priced at $1.99 each, it becomes a bit concerning how the final movie will be handled as DLC. Will it be the price of another whole game? Possibly. Will it be discounted? Hopefully. Will it be free? Unlikely. And what about everyone who can’t or won’t download it from the PSN? Will there eventually be a “complete” edition of the game on one disc or are they to be left out in the cold entirely, unable to play the conclusion of the game?

These are all questions I shouldn’t have to be asking when playing a Lego game. This is also something that needs to be taken into account when deciding whether to purchase LEGO The Hobbit.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Elgato Game Capture HD Pro screen capture feature.

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