LEGO Lord of the Rings is the latest in the best-selling LEGO games based on much-loved movie and comic franchises. Not only does it give J. R. R. Tolkien's story a LEGO twist, but it recreates it with an open-world fleshed out with side-quests and collectables.
Coming hot off LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, Travellers Tales is employing the use of an open-world to give LEGO Lord of the Rings a more epic sense of scale than previous LEGO games, one that aims to live up to the breadth of the films and books.
While you shouldn't expect something on the scope and freedom of Skyrim, it's said you'll be able to stroll from The Shire to Mordor in one go - with not a single loading screen in sight - through interconnected villages, caverns and forest trails that make up Frodo and the Fellowship's journey.
Fetch-quests, crafting and combining items
As well as the expansive environment, LEGO Lord of the Rings also offers role-playing game-style side-quests, mainly consisting of fetching items from one place to another.
This helps flesh out the world in a number of ways; it makes different areas in this more open Middle-earth feel interconnected, expands on the lore and relationships between characters across multiple locales, and fleshes out the world to be used more fruitfully than just for the story we know so well.
The RPG-feel also comes into play when it comes to items. For the first time a backpack allows characters to hold objects on their person, allowing them to be stored and deployed later, and even combined with others to create something new.
Mithril bricks, meanwhile, are collected during side-quests to craft new weapons or enchanted equipment. The benefits of tracking down or creating these items comes into play with combat and exploration.
Two examples are a pair of boots that give any character - from wizard Gandalf to dwarf Gimli - the ability to leap like Legolas, while a musical jug makes any nearby individuals helplessly dance on the spot, perfect for livening up villages or distracting attackers in a tight spot.
But still a traditional LEGO experience
Of course, side-quests and hunting down Mithril bricks are optional for those who want to undergo the regular LEGO campaign, which makes a return but with a few inevitable tweaks to keep things refreshing.
Missions within the open-world are of the same isometric puzzle-solving variety, where you jump between different characters to make use of their respective abilities.
One particular mission set during The Fellowship of the Ring has Sam use his horticultural expertise to dig up tomatoes while Pippin goes fishing, the spoils of which can be combined for a cooked breakfast.
As per the story, it kickstarts a pursuit from Ringwraiths to the peak of Weathertop, where you must use both Sam and Frodo to evade capture. Again, there's a twist; with Frodo wearing the Ring, he has to enter the blurred, Wrath dimension to collect wood so Sam can build fires and keep the attackers away.
Voice work from the movie trilogy
Another advance established by LEGO Batman 2 is the addition of voice acting. But instead of using spoken dialogue to better tell an original story, LEGO Lord of the Rings rips audio directly themselves and recreates scenes from the movies.
While the outcome should be jarring, with its clash of realistic voices from well-known actors combined with LEGO's cutesy charm, it works surprisingly well.
It also provides a wider scope for parody - something which previous LEGO games are well known for - giving memorable moments from the film some clever visual twists.
Not only are they to better suit a family-friendly audience - Aragorn slurps milkshake instead of smoking a pipe in Bree's tavern - it's also to offer obscure nods to die-hard fans - Arwen's apparent continuity error with her costumes as she's first introduced is also reflected in-game.
LEGO Lord of the Rings looks to be the most ambitious LEGO game yet, continuing the welcome steps made by LEGO Batman 2 to create a visually rich, fleshed-out hub environment packed with content.
While it's clearly the same accessible, family-friendly game it ever was, by taking an idea or two from role-playing games it looks to offer older players a little more depth, too.
> Read our LEGO Lord of the Rings interview with TT Games
LEGO Lord of the RIngs is available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, 3DS and Wii this holiday.