(Wii U)

LEGO The Hobbit (Wii U)

Game Review

LEGO The Hobbit Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

We hates it forever

The LEGO series of games is a sales phenomenon, now established to a degree that it seems no matter how many releases are churned out on a yearly basis the sales flow, and steady praise flows its way. That's to the credit of TT Games and Warner Bros., but it's always a franchise at risk of spreading itself too thinly — as Bilbo Baggins would say, "like butter scraped over too much bread". OK, so that line is actually from The Lord of the Rings, but it applies perfectly to LEGO The Hobbit on Wii U.

The LEGO formula is well known, and that's no bad thing. When executed well it can be a treat, as it serves to be accessible and fun for gamers of various levels. The basic move-set of running jumping, smashing everything in sight and looking for bouncing LEGO pieces to build into a useful item is as familiar as it is accomplished. In some ways it's a series that — despite regular flaws of fiddly controls or design — manages to bring back the simple fun most familiar in the retro era of gaming, when controllers only had a couple of buttons and a D-Pad. Sure, the LEGO games aren't that simple in construction, but they can feel that way to play, incorporating modern ideas such as an inability to fully perish and seemingly infinite collectibles to keep players coming back time and again. On top of that, they're an entertaining spectacle.

LEGO The Hobbit absolutely nails the spectacle aspect. There are large, sweeping areas and a somewhat open world, or at least a collection of diverse staging areas, and they recreate the world of the film adaptations particularly well. Some areas look gorgeous, and it can certainly feel like a large world that's being traversed; fans of the movies will likely get a kick out of how faithfully Middle Earth is recreated.

There are a handful of levels that succeed in impressing in a visual sense, too, notably those featuring the deadly dragon Smaug and some high-action on-rails sequences. Occasionally the environments are a successful blend of film recreation and clever design, and when the title comes together in this way it truly belongs with its LEGO contemporaries, sparkling for those moments.

Yet the sweeping world and occasionally impressive visuals are a thin disguise for a host of problems underneath the surface. It's evident, frequently, that this was a project driven by a desire to cash-in at all costs, as the source material and core design often fall short of what the LEGO franchise is supposed to deliver. Some story missions follow banal tasks as there's not enough action in the films to cover its 7-10 hour campaign, and there are utterly baffling moments where game-like scenes of the films are less interesting in the actual game.

Some moments undoubtedly foster the sense that the development team on this title was rushed, unsure of itself, or both. There are stages where the action is broken up into awkward mini-puzzles that destroy all flow, there are boss battles that are utterly infuriating and nonsensical, and battle scenes that become a blurry, blocky mess in which the best tactic is to spam the attack button even as you struggle to see your character within the horde. While we praised some aspects of the presentation above, it is also portraying a slightly dark, grey-and-brown aesthetic from the movies, and telling characters apart from one another can be a trial. No other game has, in recent times, confused us so much when trying to complete the simplest of tasks.

It's unfortunate, as we'd say the split between enjoyable levels and those that are poorly executed is marginally in favour of the latter. At their best stages really are a lot of fun, but many seem to have been pushed out into the final product without the testing and quality control processes that would send them back to the drawing board. Most tellingly, we suspect young children will get frustrated, or at least have to resort to repeatedly 'dying' before stumbling across solutions.

The open world aspect, to its credit, does continue the tradition of giving players an enormous amount to do. There are NPCs everywhere that want to be escorted or helped out to produce some trinket or other, and it's a wise move to harvest materials for various super-builds in the game, some of which are mandatory for progress. Our story progress was never blocked as we always had the materials, but additional side-quests often necessitated a lot of extra work. Taking on story levels in free play and accessing all those extra areas is a vital activity in the daunting quest for 100% completion.

That character roster for unlocking the substantial extras is as large as ever, with some arriving in the story and others up for purchase. Yet it's an uninspiring line-up, once again, due to the restraints of the license and a lack of creativity in execution. There are multiple classes that have some key abilities, yet the practicalities of this are either limited or unexciting. There's clever use of Bilbo and his ring, doubling up attacks with dwarves raises a smile and a couple of the diminutive warriors have fun uses, but a lot of the characters simply blend into an indistinguishable mass. This is actually a problem during missions, as the characters are so unremarkable that it often remains a trial-and-error process to identify special abilities and select the hero for the job.

That lack of personality and charm carries across into storytelling, too. As we explained in our review of the 3DS version, the LEGO humour is largely lost aside from some physical gags. The whole game has an odd tone, in that respect, as intimidating music will show an orc demanding that his minions kill all the dwarves, for example, before a clichéd visual gag of a character falling over is thrown in. It's jumbled and frankly not particularly entertaining.

One area where the title does actually flourish is with its use of the GamePad. It's best used as a map most of the time, though is also handy for switching between characters; it serves as a very useful extra tool. Local multiplayer is accommodated, too, with one player having the opportunity to play exclusively on the controller's screen, which is preferable to the default splitscreen. That's the biggest benefit of owning the Wii U version, though multiplayer does bring the framerate down to a juddering degree — that aspect of performance can get choppy throughout the single player adventure, too.

There are fleeting moments of strong ideas as well as a sheer generosity of content that can encourage goodwill towards this release. Despite this, much is wrong with this game, and its sloppy design and implementation in the majority of its story levels — with some honourable exceptions — drags the experience down. Some of the stages and set-pieces truly are the worst we've seen in any LEGO title, and when you throw in mediocre optimisation — it crashed our normally reliable Wii U multiple times — this feels like a rushed, lazy effort.

Conclusion

LEGO The Hobbit has some strengths, and it's perhaps tempting to look at the sheer size of the world and volume of content and give it a pass. However, we feel that the frequently poor design and shoddy gameplay experience represent a low in the franchise. We're often supportive and complimentary of the LEGO series for what it does achieve despite some flaws, but this is a sloppy effort from Warner Bros. and TT Games. A typically rushed movie tie-in, and an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise excellent franchise.

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User Comments (39)

6ch6ris6

#2

6ch6ris6 said:

i never understood why people like these modern lego games. they are all the same!!

rjejr

#3

rjejr said:

@ThomasBW84 - How did you manage to write that entire review w/o once mentioning the movies - and therefore this game - are only 2/3 complete? And we don't even know yet if or when the 3rd movie will be covered? I'm legitimately concerned it will be DL only and the Wii U won't get it.

I'm almost glad it got a bad review for them rushing out a 2/3 finished game. They already had The Lego Movie Lego game, they didn't even need this.

karma at it's finest.

Trogue12

#4

Trogue12 said:

After playing lego city undercover i cant play any other linear lego game :c

Gerbwmu

#5

Gerbwmu said:

I guess now I'm waiting to see if E3 has any announcement for Lego City 2......if not I will pick up Lego Marvel soon as a Christmas gift for the boys. They need a new Lego game.

6ch6ris6 - They are, for the most part, fun games that are accessible to younger kids (i have 2 boys under 6 and they love to play Lego City Undercover). Repetitive and similar, yes, but a great change of pace and good humor throughout the ones I've played and seen.

Kaze_Memaryu

#7

Kaze_Memaryu said:

I never found any of the LEGO games except for LEGO City: Undercover to be good to begin with, but this review is still surprising. Well, that's what happens when games have strict deadlines - they fail.

@Gerbwmu Don't forget all the nods to 80's crime and cop series in Undercover - they exist to entertain older players along the way, and it works really well!

Volmun

#8

Volmun said:

Iv been tempted with this one for some time... but after the demo on the PS4 I personly found it way to hard to see whats going on and what to do compered to the other Lego games... supose il wate till its cheep.

Darknyht

#10

Darknyht said:

I think it is just that the formula is getting stale foe me, but not sure I would disagree with this review. Lego City Undercover was fun because of the open world map. I dragged myself through the levels just to be able to unlock more, not because the levels were fun.

Artwark

#11

Artwark said:

@6ch6ris6 Probably the same reason as why people still play Mario and Zelda games as well (even though, majority of them are entirely different :P).

maneauleau

#12

maneauleau said:

I am glad you are being harsh with buggy ports. I have Lego Marvel on Wii U and while it's a good game for my son, the bugs and crashes are so frustrating that this game could have also been marked down especially since they don't patch it when they could...

Kid_A

#13

Kid_A said:

Wait...what? This felt like a high point in the series to me, despite some ocassional bugs. Better puzzle design, better use of its large cast of characters, excellent open world, and charming as heck. Admittedly I do love the Hobbit films, but I've been playing this a lot with friends and we all seem to agree that's the best Lego game, Lego City aside.

Action51

#14

Action51 said:

What a shame. I like the Lego games and I love J.R.R.Tolkien.

I have been noticing a drop in quality in the franchised Lego titles lately. Lego Batman 2 and Lego Lord of the RIngs being decent but full of bugs. Now it seems Traveller's Tales needs a little break to sort of their Lego bins.

I suspect Warner Bros....They've been pumping out a lot of sequels lately and the quality control isn't up to standards on titles like Arkham Origins.

AyeHaley

#15

AyeHaley said:

I'm not surprised at this....rushed and the formula is getting stale. I would love a sequel to Lego City though. If it has better loading times and enough new stuff to do.

Anyway, even the films are just a cash grab. Making 3 movies out of 1 (relatively short) book.

rdrunner1178

#16

rdrunner1178 said:

@AyeHaley Yeah the should've done just 2 movies instead of 3 for the Hobbit, that was definitely a cash-grab. Too bad they didn't have the idea of splitting the Return of the King into two parts like they did for Harry Potter, Twilight, etc. It definitely could've used one more movie.

jakysnakydx

#18

jakysnakydx said:

@Darknyht This is where I stand as well. It's not a bad formula but if people rant and rave that Mario needs to stop because it's too repetitive, well at least each game had different gameplay and mechanics. It's just the same process over and over with a different costume. It's not bad by any means but just getting increasingly stale.

I have to give it to Mr. Whitehead, I really find his reviews to be 3 and 1/2 steps more professional than many of the others on here. I hope the others can emulate his skill in writing or he will do more reviews for us!

ejamer

#19

ejamer said:

Yeah, restricting the final 1/3 of The Hobbit to DLC add-on content absolutely killed my interest even before the quality concerns were reported. What a shame. I understand that they don't want to release movie-based content before the movie comes out... but it still makes the game much less desirable to me.

paburrows

#20

paburrows said:

I totally disagree with this review, Lego the Hobbit while not perfect is a great game, I've invested many hours into it and still find it very fun going through the levels and trying to gather everything on the open world, I still like Marvel the best, but this one is pretty great. The only thing that I would really change is the Lego game screen freeze that seems to plague every Lego game on the Wii/Wii U. Usually I hold Nintendo Life's reviews in high reguard, but this review knocks the site down a few pegs in my mind.

paburrows

#21

paburrows said:

I actually like the idea of the 3rd movie being DLC, that way it makes it all part of one huge world. The thing is that the third movie just takes place in three places that have already been covered already in the game, inside the mountain, in front of the mountain (the battle of the 5 armies) and Laketown for the dragon battle.

Nico07

#23

Nico07 said:

@Gerbwmu Lego City Undercover got me hooked as well. I played it with kids in the Wii U drought of early 2013. We then grabbed Lego Batman 2 and Lego Marvel. Both of these games had excellent two player separate experiences. Even the latest Lego Movie game is fun. I held off on Lego Hobbit for content as my kids are still young for these movies. But Lego Batman 3 should be great on Wii U. Lego Marvel 2 is almost certain and despite not selling well (because of a low Wii U system owner base) I would buy a Lego City 2 game day one.

Nareva

#24

Nareva said:

That's a shame. I probably would have bought this at a 7 after a price discount, but 4 is just too low. My gaming time is limited enough that I generally disregard anything rated 6 or below. There are exceptions, but they are few.

KoiTenchi

#25

KoiTenchi said:

@paburrows

It still would have been part of one huge world if they waited until the last movie was out and released this game with the story of all three movies included.

That's what most people were hoping they would do, rather than release an essentially incomplete game intentionally.

If the game were focusing on one movie, it would be one thing (there have been plenty of games that have done that) but this is just caled "Lego The Hobbit" so it's pretty misleading when the purchase doesn't include the whole Hobbit out of the box!

paburrows

#26

paburrows said:

@KoiTenchi

True, but playing it I haven't gotten the feeling at all that it was incomplete, to me it feels like a whole game. The DLC is added bonus like the DLC of Fire Emblem.

TantXL

#29

TantXL said:

Buy the Lego Indiana Jones games instead, They are the best Lego games!

erv

#30

erv said:

Surprising. I wouldn't know if I agree or disagree with this review, but I do know me and nintendolife occasionally disagree - nothing wrong there of course. However, sometimes I wonder, with chasing aurora and abyss being the worst gaming advice I've had from nlife reviews (games that should've gotten a 2 or something) when many people having fun with a game like this is an indicator of something reverse happening here.

Although I've yet to play undercover, which the same people that like the hobbit regard as much better.

midnafanboy

#35

midnafanboy said:

Every lego game that comes out are always buggy and crash for no reason. But i really hope lego batman 3 is not like this i love lego batman.

Dodger

#36

Dodger said:

I can't say that the idea ever sounded fun. Neither the book or the movies expect you to really tell the dwarves apart except for a few that repeatedly do things and Bombur. The Fellowship section of LtLotR already had an awkward amount of characters. It already seems pretty clear to me at least that two movies would have been a better decision and one, finished Lego game would be the way to go.

The glitches my dad and I are running into while playing the PC version of Lego LotR are crazy though. Falling into walls, boss fights that refuse to move on once they are finished, the ground not loading under your feet, making you fall into the void until you restart, falling out of the stage in Rivendell, Etc. When it works, it is good fun but major glitches are shamefully common. Lego Marvel sounds fun, but I am worried about the same thing happening.

jenkje

#37

jenkje said:

Me and my two sons likes this game a lot. We have played all the Lego Games and this one are among the better ones. 8/10. If you like Lego Games in general you should get this game. We are waiting for christmas to arrive so we can finish the third part, hopefully as a DLC...

DBPirate

#38

DBPirate said:

This is the first LEGO game I won't be getting on a Nintendo platform. It looks very rushed. I was watching a walkthrough and it seemed VERY boring. Thankfully, LEGO Batman 3 doesn't seem to have that boring feel.

Mega719

#39

Mega719 said:

I played this and loved this on Wii U i don't see where any of this game from. Since i didn't see the movies i found the story interesting not boring

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