It is testament to the appeal of the Lego games Traveller’s Tales series that Assassin’s Creed III has sat largely unplayed since I bought it in November, whereas Lego Lord of the Rings was snatched up from a second-hand shop for almost half the price of the other game and completed to 100% (with only a little help from walkthroughs for the last 10%) within a ten day period.
Following the precedent set by Lego Batman 2, the mimed and mumbled cut-scenes are replaced by English dialogue, in this case pulled straight from the film. All the cool lines are there from ‘You shall not pass!’ to ‘Don’t tell the elf’ etc. All the characters from the film and books can be collected (Old Tom Bombadil finally makes an appearance for instance, and Radaghast is there too). TT have been very clever to shortcut particular key moments adding a lot of humour to proceedings and avoiding some of the horror elements – for instance the Mouth of Sauron is a collectible character but gets no screen time for fear I guess of frightening the younglings.
There are collectible treasures as well as the expected Mithril bricks (rather than Gold bricks) and Red Bricks to give you the usual extras (score multiplyers being the usual most sought after bricks). Treasures come in two forms – the usual minikit treasures troves and quest objects which can help in freeplay but also need to be taken to people dotted about the Middle Earth map who will then either give you a Mithril piece to add to your collection or present you with the opportunity to purchase a red brick. Some of the treasures are quite useful and some are simply fun. Mithril bricks can be taken to a blacksmith who, during a tedious not skippable cut-scene, will hammer them into shape along the lines of designs you have also collected. The designs are found in the levels and let you create very useful items such as fireworks, climbing shoes an everlasting bucket of water that mean you can avoid having to select special characters in freeplay to complete puzzle actions. I particularly enjoyed carrying the Disco Phial and listening to the funky music while my partner in crime grooved.
The puzzles are not half as taxing as some featured in previous games, object locations not as devious and the bonus level not as tricky. Or maybe I am just getting better at these games? That said I did think it was one of the more enjoyable Lego outings comparable in terms of quality of execution with Batman or Harry Potter and much better than the Pirates ‘conversion’. It is the element of humour and fun somewhat lacking in the original films that brings the story up a notch on the entertainment scale and it is also dotted with references to the Oscars the film won, other games such as Skyrim, Assassins Creed and Metal Gear Solid.
My only criticisms of the game are that it did seem to contain a few annoying bugs and level navigation seemed overly dependent on the map which while authentic contained a lot of blank space. I would have preferred all the minikits, character creation and blacksmithing elements to be centered at a hub in the same way as previous games (e.g. the Batcave, Hogwarts etc.) perhaps at Rivendell for instance. It’s a minor point.