How long has it been since we last played with our digital building blocks? Three games based off the popular Lego playsets in six months is a multicolored plastic brick overload, especially since each game in the series feels all too similar to the last. And yet, it’s amazing what a simple change of scenery can do to make something feel brand new again, as Lego The Hobbit is just as fun and full of charm as we’ve come to expect from Warner Bros' long-running series.
If you’ve played any of the previous Lego video games, you’ll recognize the formula instantly. Over the course of the six-to-eight-hour-long narrative, you’ll run through 16 missions that follow the plot of the two Hobbit films. Taking control of the plucky hobbit Bilbo and a band of dwarves, you’ll demolish scores of Lego objects and rebuild them out of the debris, switch characters to solve puzzles, and find tons of hidden secrets along the way. It’s actually pretty impressive how closely Lego The Hobbit follows its source material, even if most of the nuanced character development is lost in the Lego franchise's signature tongue-in-cheek fashion.
In fact, Lego The Hobbit is one of the most narratively complete licensed games TT Games has made. If, that is, you don’t take into account the ending. Because the third film in The Hobbit series hasn’t been released yet, Lego The Hobbit only covers those first two films, leaving players who finish the game with a highly unsatisfying cliffhanger. Future DLC will rectify that by adding the final film’s events to the game, but it’s still disappointing to reach what is essentially the 2/3rds mark in this story and have it just cut to credits.
Other than a new crafting mechanic and a small handful of new abilities, Lego The Hobbit is almost identical to previous entries in the series. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t offer a ton of stuff to do. In between story missions, you’ll explore the massive world of Middle-earth, with your travels taking you from the humble village of Hobbiton, through the elven mountain town Rivendell, into the murky forests of Dol Guldur and beyond. There are countless sidequests peppered throughout your voyage, and the various citizens of Middle-earth have requests that reward you with Mithril bricks for crafting or those elusive cheat-enabling red bricks. These quests range from interesting (solving riddles and platforming challenges) to dull (fetch quests or escort missions), but there’s a decent enough mix of the two to keep things from getting boring. Even after completing the main story, I was only 30 percent finished with all that Lego The Hobbit has to offer.
That being said, there might even be a little too much going on. Bilbo didn’t go on this adventure alone--along with Gandalf, there are 13 dwarves that make up the company that sets off in search of the Arkenstone. During your adventure, you’ll be switching between over a dozen different characters, each with unique abilities--and all of these are required at certain points in the game to progress. I found myself frequently wondering who had the flail so I could cross a gap, or who had the shovel so I could dig up some soil; with so many characters available, this becomes overwhelming. And though Lego The Hobbit does list who does what on the character select screen, it can be difficult to parse at a quick glance due to the sheer amount of information.
The crafting system piles on top of the massive amount of characters and abilities as well. While interesting, it can also be very frustrating to deal with at times. As you break every single Lego-built object that isn’t nailed down, you’ll often find bits of wood, rope, gems, bread, or other items along with the typical Lego stud currency. Collecting these is important, as you’ll often stumble upon quests or roadblocks that require a specific number of crafting materials to progress. It’s fun when you finally get enough pieces to craft some really interesting weapons, tools, and Middle-earth-themed structures, but unless you’re breaking everything in sight on a constant basis, you’ll likely be just shy of the items needed to continue.
Despite its faults, there’s a reason that these Lego games are still fun despite so frequently getting new entries. And even though the narrative here only covers the first two films, make no mistake--Lego The Hobbit is jam-packed with as many secrets, as much content, and as much plastic bricky-goodness as you would expect.
This game was reviewed on PS4.