|System: Xbox 360, PC, PS3|
|Dev: TT Games|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive|
|Release: Q3 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Wirtanen
I've always loved the Lord of the Rings. What I haven't loved so much is the way Tolkien's beloved masterpiece gets treated in video game form. Sure, there are a few Lord of the Rings games that are truly exceptional, but for the most part, they don't generally rise above the curse of the licensed game.
So you can understand my hesitation as I approached the LEGO The Lord of the Rings demo at the Warner Bros. booth during E3 last month. I mean, the LEGO games have their own sorted history, with some truly amazing titles as well as some mediocre "me too" entries.
But, from what I saw at E3, LEGO The Lord of the Rings seems to be doing quite well for itself. You see, it's actually revamping a lot of the stuff that we grumpy game reviewers have been accusing of being stale and formulaic, though it's still keeping all of that LEGO charm we expect from TT Games.
LEGO The Lord of the Rings is presenting itself as what the booth rep explained to me as "RPG-Lite." It's still simple enough as to not confuse the little tykes who love the series, but it's absorbing a lot of RPG elements to make it a somewhat complex game under the hood. For example, there will be tons of "miniquests" you'll be able to take on during your journey. Also, you'll have a backpack-based inventory, which allows you to collect and equip various types of armor and weapons. There's even a crafting element involved here, which is also tied to your backpack.
Perhaps coolest of all is that the team at TT Games is stepping away from the hubworld level formula that the LEGO games have become known for. Instead, players will be able to travel seamlessly across Middle-earth, with story events weaved in. This is designed to make this feel like an immersive world rather than a series of Lord of the Rings-themed levels or mini-events.
Now, one question that only the nerdiest of LotR purists will ask is whether this game will be based on Tolkien's beloved books or the more recent Peter Jackson films. Being the über Tolkien geek that I am, I asked this question with a straight face. The booth rep assured me that LEGO The Lord of the Rings is based off the films rather than the books, and the Tolkien fanboy in me made a sad face. But I guess it makes a lot of sense here, considering TT Games has the Warner Bros. license to play with.
One of the things that this license gives TT Games is access to the audio from the movies. And this isn't limited to the soundtrack. The LEGO figurines will actually speak with the voices of the actors from the Peter Jackson films, which mostly seem to be audio clips stolen from the movies. I have to admit, though, that when I saw Pippin fall down the well in Balin's Tomb (the Chamber of Mazarbul to the superfans) and heard Gandalf say, "Fool of a Took!" I may have giggled audibly. And I assure you, I don't giggle easily.