Lego The Hobbit review: it’s hard to take a Thorin Oakenshield minifig seriously
Lego The Hobbit is a Lego game based on The Hobbit movies, as you may have guessed, but don’t you go running into the stores to see if Bard the Bowman, heir of Dale, strikes Smaug with the last black arrow just yet.
In view of not encouraging spoiler-induced suicides all over the world, Lego The Hobbit walks players only through the first two movies: An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. Now, these movies are great, practically epic beyond compare, as I’ve come to expect from the Lord of the Rings series. But compared to both the movies it’s based off and the Lego games that have preceded it, Lego The Hobbit just falls short.
It looks boring
There are several reasons for Lego The Hobbit not passing muster in my eyes. Firstly, it’s visually unappealing. I mean, I play Lego games for the Lego bits. For the brightly-colored bricks of my childhood. But Lego The Hobbit doesn’t have any environments that can be built realistically enough with just bricks. It’s all about caves and dirt and grass and Hobbits and Dwarves, and in the case of the elves in Mirkwood, dying trees, more dirt, maybe a little water.
What made the last Lego game we played so good was how nearly everything was made out of brightly-colored bricks. It was great to look at, and satisfying to break apart. In Lego The Hobbit, not do you only have to deal with a color palette with the variety of mud and lichen, you also spend a lot of time wandering through caves and fields and other un-Lego-ey places. You do get stuff to bash up, but for the most part, things don’t look like they’re made out of Lego bricks.
That’s not Lego-ey at all. And don’t we play these games because we want to see Lego bricks?
Minifigs lack epicness
The thing is, The Hobbit films are just too serious and epic to turn into a proper Lego game. You’ve got Thorin pining for his rightful throne in Erebor, you’ve got Orcs waiting to swallow your guts after they dig them out of your belly. There’s just no space in The Hobbit films for any sort of the lighthearted dialogue previous Lego games are known for.
And two-dimensional minifig faces just don’t cut it for a game based off movies that cover a boundless spectrum of emotion ranging from the loss of an ancestral home to interspecies romance. I weep at the thought of Thorin’s magnificent black mane constricted into a soulless Lego hairpiece.
Fans will love the game experience
Still, fans of the movies will like Lego The Hobbit. While its quest hub doesn’t have the breadth or depth of the open-world quest hubs in the other Lego games, you are able to explore (and re-explore) familiar locales such as Erebor and Hobbiton, and to inspect every inch of Bag End.
One thing I felt the movies never showed us enough of was Middle-Earth itself, and it’s nice to be able to romp in the (wet) fields just beyond Bree, or to stroll through a pre-war Hobbiton. Lego The Hobbit also makes use of dialogue directly from the movies, though it doesn’t seem to have been well-processed; sometimes the characters can sound a little muffled.
As with all Lego games, characters from the movies end up as playable minifigs, each with their own unique ability. There’s a lot of emphasis on using more characters in Lego The Hobbit, possibly because the dwarves theoretically make up half a normal-sized minifig, and Bilbo makes up even less. That being said, many characters make a single-player campaign tedious, and I highly encourage local multiplayer.
But they won’t like the story
While fans of The Hobbit movies will enjoy the gameplay experience Lego The Hobbit has to offer, I daresay they’re not going to like the story shown at all. One thing Peter Jackson did superbly with the first two Hobbit movies was the script’s pace. Although each film lasted nearly three hours, there never was a boring moment or a sudden dip in plot tension. Plus the dialogue was amazing.
In Lego The Hobbit, we do get to see direct excerpts from the movie that jog the story along. Unfortunately these excerpts are truncated. They even missed out on the classic “good morning” scene between Bilbo and Gandalf, shortening it to just four lines, with one mention of good morning. What’s up with that? It’s like the game wants be the Lego version of The Hobbit movies so much so it wants you to dive into being a Bilbo Baggins minifig immediately.
The rest of the story gets its pacing thrown out the window with areas to explore and puzzles to solve before the next bit of dialogue gets narrated. Ugh.
All that glitters is not gold
Frankly, I feel like the Lego game formula is wearing a little thin. Although each new Lego game introduces something new to the table, such as the forging system in Lego The Hobbit, it’s essentially just: ooh, bricks! Bash them for bits! Those bricks can’t be bashed, can they be built?
This sort of gameplay is simplistic and somewhat satisfying, and is often accompanied by sassy dialogue from the characters that are doing to bashing. Unfortunately Lego The Hobbit is a chip off a too-serious block, and its subject matter is just not suitable for the tried-and-tested Lego game formula.
Fans of the series will appreciate this game, but for all gamers looking for yet another satisfying Lego game will probably want to try one like The Lego Movie Videogame.