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Differences between handheld and console versions
on November 3, 2012
So, I'm going to make comparisons between this game for the DS, what has been shown of the game on the consoles via convention demos (look on youtube), and my experience with other Lego games:
Unlike Lego Batman 2, which got rid of the open world for the handheld version, Lego Lord of the Rings has a semblance of open world. Whether it is similar or different to the console I cannot tell. It is not an open world like, say, Skyrim (which I haven't actually played). Its not even an open world like Pokemon games... However, there is no central hub but rather multiple, large resting zones between groupings of levels. You can replay the levels from these safe zones. There is an individual map for each zone and then a large map of middle earth so that you can quickly jump between zones. So far I have seen The Shire, Bree, Rivendell, Pass of Caradhras, Lothlorien, Rohan, Edoras, Helm's Deep, Dunharrow, and Osgiliath. There is also Minas Tirith and Mordor and possibly more but I have not completed the story yet. So (as of yet) you cannot walk everywhere, such as up to the Lonely Mountain. However, this is better than I was expecting for a DS game. Here are the let downs:
There are levels/fights that are in the console games that are not in the handheld. One example is Gandalf fighting the Balrog in the air as he falls down the large crack in Moria. Spoiler: You do get to fight the Balrog on top of the mountain later, though. (There is no Palantir option; the game switches between storylines as it pleases). Other levels that are missing but that I am not sure if they exist in the console either are: Battling the Warg riders, Battle of the Ents, the final encounter with Saruman afterwards, etc. The cutscenes are confusing due to lack of these encounters. There is also missing dialogue. The developers promise the most iconic dialogue would be in the game but there was no "One does not simply walk into Mordor" in this version.
There is no item/ability wheel to select for for each character as was shown for the console. In story mode, your character simply gets a new item or armor and has different abilities. Some abilities are missing, such as using Legolas' knives. In free mode, you see that you have multiple characters representing each level of their progression. Example: In free play, you part could consist of Frodo (Shire), Frodo, Frodo (Adventurer), Frodo (Phial of Galadriel), Sam (Shire), Sam, and Sam (Elven Rope). These can obviously be switched out with any character you have unlocked via Super Free Play button. (You only get two onscreen at a time of course). You get these items/character levels via the story mode. There is no Mithril blocks or Blacksmith forge to create new items as the console is supposed to have.
The "side quests" are not extra playable levels (unless I have yet to unlock them). Side quests are simply treasure tokens that you find throughout the game. These tokens have one purpose: to give to characters found in free play in return for red bricks. I believe most of these characters are unlockable at some point. Listing these characters might be an important spoiler... *wink wink*
My last complaint is that there is no multiplayer mode unless it must be unlocked. So no playing with friends on the DS...
Other important info for buyers: I believe there are 62 characters (many of which have variants (like Urukhai) plus three customs, probably totalling to over 80 but I haven't actually counted each variation. There are about 12 of the previous listed safe zones and 13 fighting levels, to my knowledge. No minikits or red/gold bricks in levels, only character and "treasure" tokens.
Final word: Not as good as console version is supposed to be. If you are going to buy the handheld version, buy the cheapest (DS). Even the better graphics of the 3DS won't make up for what the console version is lacking. However, this is based on the assumption that the DS, 3DS, and PS Vita games are all the same (as usual), but I have not played the others the latter to to know that for sure. All that said, I am still enjoying the game very much.