If you've played any of the previous Lego games, then you already know what to expect from Lego The Hobbit. It's roughly in line with the other Lego games that I've played in the past. My introduction to the series was with Lego Marvel Super Heroes back in October, meaning I've played 4 Lego titles in 6 months (I played through Lego Marvel on two platforms). That means I've played roughly the same game repeatedly, like walking into the same room and sitting on the same couch over and over again with only the wallpaper and upholstery changing. Surprisingly, I'm not tired of it yet. It's a comfy couch.
Lego The Hobbit is based on the first two of the Hobbit films, An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. The third film, There and Back Again, isn't out until December of this year, so TT Games will be releasing downloadable content covering that movie. It's odd, because it's not like the end of the Hobbit is much of a spoiler, but I suppose the move will give Lego The Hobbit a small boost around the holiday shopping season. It is a bit weird to see the credits roll in the middle of the story.
One thing that hit me pretty early on about Lego The Hobbit is how great it looks. I don't know if it's an updated engine or just the fact that I started on PlayStation 4 this time around, but the entire game looks spectacular. Especially in cutscenes. Waves of orcs, sleepy towns, rivers winding through mountain crevasses; it's all quite impressive when contrasted with the simplicity of Lego blocks. TT Games absolutely sells the epic feeling at times in Lego the Hobbit. It's not Metro: Last Light on Ultra Settings, but the studio is still pulling out all of the stops for its intended audience.
You'll experience family-friendly, humorous Lego versions of all the big scenes from the first two films: Dol Guldur and the battle with the necromancer, the band's capture and conflict with the Great Goblin, Bilbo's meeting with Gollum, being saved from giant spiders by Legolas and crew, and Bilbo's first encounter with the dragon Smaug. Everything's here in the Lego style you've come to expect: two-player cooperative gameplay, linear beat-em-up levels, ability-based puzzles, and a whole host of characters to unlock.
All of this is connected by a world map that feels more cohesive than what was found in Lego Marvel or The Lego Movie. Lego Marvel's Manhattan is grand, but it feels more like a playground than a fully-realized world. In Lego The Hobbit, as you progress through the game, you'll unlock more of the world map, including quests and other collectible goodies to find. At some point, you can wander aimlessly from one side of the map to the other, which goes a long way towards selling Lego Middle-Earth as a living place.
Lego The Hobbit features 98 characters to unlock with a host of unique abilities spread randomly across the entire lineup. All of the abilities required to proceed are available in the primary cast, with everybody else just being there for fun. One problem that creeps up in Lego The Hobbit is the lack of distinctiveness in that primary cast; unlike Lego Marvel or The Lego Movie, the dwarves that make up the cast don't have wildly different looks. Occasionally, you'll struggle trying to remember which one has the bow, or you'll spend a bit of time pondering if you're picking the dwarf with the slingshot or the one with the flail. It's not game-breaking or anything, but it is a bit annoying.
TT Games decided to make the co-op play more overt this time around. Many puzzles require two players doing things in tandem, or at least one player switching characters. There's also tandem Buddy Attacks, which are needed to dispatch the larger and harder foes. It does improve the feeling of actually playing together, whereas in Lego Marvel and The Lego Movie there was very little in the way of direct interaction.
Since this is a Lego game, there's also a few mechanics built around building items out of the famous blocks. The build mini-game from The Lego Movie returns here: the game builds an object and then offers players the chance to select the next piece in the process. Choose quickly and you'll get bonus Lego Studs that add to your overall count. There's also the new Lego Loot. When you're out there smashing everything you can find for more Stud-ly goodness, Lego Loot will also drop. This loot takes the form of wood, stone, meat, or even precious gems. At specific stations around the world, you can spend this loot to build new objects. Lego The Hobbit has a pretty robust quest system built around Lego Loot and the objects you can create from it, with the denizens of Lego Middle-Earth requiring your building talents to move on with their lives.
Lego The Hobbit is a great little game, even if the source material lets it down a bit. It looks great, but the cast doesn't bring a lot to the table, like it did for Lego Marvel or The Lego Movie. Outside of their extra side abilities, they all play largely the same, so there isn't a strong desire to pick a favorite this time around. TT Games is still at the top of its craft, but if you had to pick one Lego game on retail shelves right now, I'd go with Lego Marvel. That said, Lego the Hobbit will probably be a great buy this holiday season once the DLC hits and the game has gained some distance from its better predecessors.
Lego The Hobbit brings the first two Hobbit films to life in TT Games' great, family-friendly style. On PlayStation 4, the game looks absolutely amazing, especially in the cutscenes and major battles when it matters most. Unfortunately, the source material lets down TT Games here; the dwarves just aren't very distinct when compared to the cast of Lego Marvel and The Lego Movie. All told, Lego The Hobbit is very good, but it doesn't reach the best of those previous titles.