LEGO The Hobbit Is Better Than LEGO The Lord of the Rings in Almost Every Way

LEGO The Hobbit Is Better Than LEGO The Lord of the Rings in Almost Every WayLEGO The Lord of the Rings was my favorite of all the LEGO games thus far. I loved it enough to score the Platinum Trophy, and that’s a feat I rarely accomplish these days.

So when I heard there would be a LEGO The Hobbit game, I was both excited and nervous — excited by the prospect of spending another 40ish hours in LEGO Middle-earth; nervous that the formula might be wearing out its welcome.

Because really, Traveller’s Tales could have kept just about everything about LEGO Middle-earth the same and just offered some new levels and characters, and it wouldn’t have even been that bad. We’d have complained a bit, sure, but we wouldn’t have complained that much.

Instead, they refined just about every aspect of the game.

LEGO The Hobbit Is Better Than LEGO The Lord of the Rings in Almost Every WayThe graphics, for example, are definitely improved. The lighting effects are better, the landscapes are more detailed, and the figures just look more plastic-y. It’s possible that the new consoles might have forced their hand a bit here, but I played both games on the same old PS3, and I noticed a fairly drastic improvement almost as soon as The Hobbit disc started spinning.

The world of Middle-earth has expanded as well — maybe not in size, but in the sheer amount of things to do. There were several times when I found myself straying way off the beaten path, surprised at just how far I could go before bumping into the edge of the world.

And some of the new activities are really great. The new crafting system, for example, has its fair share of detractors, but I’m tickled pink by it. And LEGO The Hobbit features one of my favorite sequences in a LEGO game yet, in which you’re tasked with climbing a stone giant Shadow of the Colossus-style.

They even brought in Christopher Lee, Saruman himself, to do some narration (though I admit he sounds like he’s phoning it in a little.)

LEGO The Hobbit Is Better Than LEGO The Lord of the Rings in Almost Every WayHowever, there are bugs. And sure, bugs (as well as badly implemented cameras) will always be one of the frustrating hallmarks of the LEGO games, but they’re almost unforgivable here. I found my PS3 crashing during loading screens, or just freezing up completely, causing me to lose a good chunk of progress over and over again.

And then there are places where minifigs just get trapped in little crannies in the environment. I had one instance where I had to quit out of a level because the character I needed got himself stuck irreparably in a cave.

I’m also a bit uncomfortable with the way the game hangs after the second Hobbit film, with the third film to be covered later as DLC. I’ve said a few words in defense of this DLC plan, but I’ve never grown completely comfortable with it. It just feels a bit like Warner Bros. is pilfering money directly out of my little Hobbit pockets, especially when there are so many LEGO games coming out this year.

Still, despite the bugs and the absent third film, LEGO The Hobbit is a remarkable, fascinating second breakfast of all-ages fun.