Let's be honest for a moment. As great as Bilbo Baggins may be, the real stars of The Hobbit are the 13 dwarves that help Bilbo on his journey through Middle-earth. Singing, dancing, washing the dishes...these dudes know how to party. But for as wondrous as Thorin Oakenshield's band of pint-sized heroes may be, they're also something of a mystery. At least until now. See, I've just played a bit of LEGO: The Hobbit and let's just say I came away with a far, far better picture of what makes these guys tick. And by that I mean I learned five really specific things about dwarves. Here we go!
Dwarves use the buddy system
This may come as a surprise, but LEGO: The Hobbit plays very much like a LEGO game. You run around smashing things, collecting studs, and swapping between characters when you need to employ someone's unique ability. But within that familiar framework you'll find a few new gameplay mechanics, most notably the "buddying-up" system. This feature allows several dwarves to come together and join forces to take down much larger, more powerful foes. In one situation, I used Kili to leap from Thorin's shoulders to take out the Goblin King, and a few moments later I scaled an impassable wall by having three dwarves stack together like a living totem pole as a fourth crawled up to safety. If the one level I played is any indication, these moments seem to pop up pretty frequently, so you might want to get a head start now on preparing yourself for hot dwarf-on-dwarf action.
But they also know when to split up
One of the biggest challenges facing developer TT Games is this: how on earth do you let players jump between 13 dwarves on the fly without the whole thing becoming a huge user interface nightmare? The solution, it seems, is to embrace those moments in the story where the party splits up. In the escape from Goblin-town, the game constantly switches between two bands of dwarves that have been separated from one another. This gives the player about four or five characters to choose from, the story jumping between the different groups as you see the others barreling along in the background of the scenery.
Dwarves (still) love scavenging
Just like its Lord of the Rings predecessor, LEGO: The Hobbit will allow you to collect bits of mithril and bring them to your friendly neighborhood blacksmith in order to build fancy new gear and weaponry. But the scavenging in The Hobbit goes beyond mithril. A new feature lets you collect random LEGO bits like rope and stone, then build them into various assemblages of machinery (think catapults and such) to help progress through particularly nasty swarms of enemies. The twist is that you're not holding a magical button to build these in one fell swoop, but actually sifting through individual LEGO pieces to build them bit by bit. Of course, these are all pre-designed "micro-builds" (to use the developer's preferred terminology), but TT Games' hope is that these sequences will help mimic the tactility of actual LEGOs. After all, dwarves love tactility. That's why they grow such mighty beards.
Virtual Dwarves sound like human actors
Like LEGO: Lord of the Rings before it, The Hobbit has licensed the dialogue from Peter Jackson's films. That means that every LEGO dwarf sounds like the actor who played him on the big screen. Beyond that, Christopher Lee has also lent his voice to the chapter introduction cinematics, allowing you to feel like you're cuddling up with Saruman for a nice little bedtime story before he imprisons you at the top of his tower. Saruman. Not Christopher Lee. I'm pretty sure Christopher Lee has never imprisoned anyone at the top of a tower.
No dwarf in the world is as cool as Bombur
You remember Bombur, right? He of the mighty orange beard and generously proportioned frame? Well, if not, all you really need to know is that this dwarf is basically the coolest dwarf ever. Simply consider his weapons of choice. Bombur's primary weapon? A giant iron ladle. But swap that out and you'll see Bombur go to town on some goblins with a sausage. Yes, a sausage. Amazing.