While I am a fan of the Lego series, I am aware it is a series designed for children, and I can't say I didn't feel a bit foolish when telling my eight year old cousins I had the same game as them on my Christmas list. With that in mind, I haven't been able to put this game down the past few days.
Lego Lord of the Rings is the first of the franchise to include voiceovers, and with all the actors, including the villains, having returned to do the work they delivered classic lines from the movies splendidly. There were a lot of cutscenes, almost too many, throughout the levels and in between, yet some of the funniest things in the game were in them. At least for the first playthrough, I suggest watching rather than skipping--Peter Jackson even has a couple cameos in Lego form.
I completed Story Mode in less than a week, playing a couple hours a day; that left me at 30% completion. The real bulk of the game takes place afterwards in Freeplay Mode, when the unlocked characters and crafted items are available to find hidden rooms and solve puzzles.
Unlike other Lego games I own: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Batman, Lord of the Rings doesn't have a single hub where a player spends most of their time buying other characters and deciding which level to play; instead, there is an overworld similar to a classic RPG. Not only can I fast travel to a level for Freeplay via the Middle Earth map, exactly like the system I'm accustomed to, I can travel around and explore. For example, after I finished Story Mode, I spent a solid hour climbing around the walls of Minas Tirith in search of Mithril blocks, and I must say, the view from the highest tower was spectacular for a Lego game.
The reason I searched for Mithril blocks is because there's a blacksmith in Bree. Once I've discovered a design in a level or the overworld, I can save up blocks and purchase a Mithril item I help the blacksmith forge. A lot of the items are cosmetic or used solely as hand-ins for the many fetch quests the overworld sports, but not all of them are Mithril. I happened by a rubber duck helmet as a treasure last night, and I had a laugh while the duck replaced Gimli's helmet. My favorite has to be a disco phial I crafted last night, which plays a techno mash-up of game voiceovers, and if you stand close enough to NPCs accompanying you, they'll dance. If I had one complaint about this system, it's that I constantly have to reapply the objects.
After creating a Mithril squeak sword, I wasted time racing sheep and tracking down characters I wished to play as; rather than a shop, the unlockable characters are scattered throughout the overworld. Many of them are familiar, but I was delighted to see Tom Bombadil and Radaghast the Brown made the cut, even if Radaghast looks exactly like Gandalf...except brown. I even found a blacksmith design for Mithril Fireworks--this was handy as it's the only thing I know of that can explode locks and metal--hidden above Gothmog (you'll remember him as the disfigured orc that commanded the Witch King's army against Minas Tirith) in Mordor.
As usual, different characters have different abilities. Legolas shoots targets with bows, can walk on top of ropes and snow, and jumps high. Gimli can smash hard objects, crawl through doors like the hobbits, and can be thrown by the taller characters. Sam can cook or fight with his frying pan, light fires, dig and grow plants while Merry fishes, and Frodo uses the Light of Earendil to brave dark spaces. There are more abilities as the game progresses, which any character, if you have the right Mithril items, can perform without having to switch later on.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with Lego Lord of the Rings. I was almost inundated with things to do after completing Story Mode, and for the first time, it wasn't just grinding through the levels over and over from one hub until I had finished all the achievements. I didn't see or experience any of the glitches I have read about, though I did receive an update before I could play that might have had fixes. At the moment, I'm at 45% completion so I have a long way to go and hours of enjoyment ahead of me--replay is still one of the shining aspects of the Lego franchise.