The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth (iOS, Android) review
The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth is a new iOS and Android title from Kabam, designed as a tie-in product for the upcoming movie of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic The Hobbit. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store and Google Play.
The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth is a reskin of the same game Kabam has already released several times on the App Store, with a couple of minor twists to fit the Tolkienesque theme. At the outset, players have the choice of swearing allegiance to either the Dwarves or the Elves, and are then thrown into an interactive tutorial that follows the exact same sequence of actions as seen in both of Kabam’s previous mobile titles Arcane Empires and Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North. Players are introduced to the construction of various types of building, upgrading structures and researching new technologies. Following the tutorial, players are then led through a series of “recommended quests” that reward them for building up their forces and defenses in a logical fashion. Players are free to deviate from this, but the rewards on offer for completing quests are often too good to ignore. The sequence of tasks the player is encouraged to perform is identical to Kabam’s other games, and places a strong focus on building up forces and upgrading buildings before even thinking about combat, giving the game a very slow-feeling pace.
Gameplay in The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth is split into several components. Players must build a city and take advantage of the surrounding farmland to generate resources and income. They must then raise an army and take the battle to the other players who populate the persistent game world in an attempt to assert their dominance over as much of the map as possible. Combat is asynchronous, with results calculated according to the relative strength of both players’ armies and defensive capabilities. The user is protected from attack by other players for a week or until they reach a particular level boundary, at which point other players may assault their cities at any time. Suffering an attack means that the player may lose some of their resources, so it is important for players to build up their defenses.
Social features for the game include a real-time chat facility that enables players to converse with one another in real-time. There is also an in-game mail system that allows players to exchange longer private messages with one another. This is also used to deliver game news to players. After constructing an Embassy building, users are also able to create and join “Alliances” in order to play together, support one another and cooperate. The game uses its own proprietary network and “Kabam ID” login, though the player is not required to use the same username for The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth as they may have done in the developer’s other games.
Monetization primarily stems from the in-app purchase of the game’s hard currency Mithril, which is used for a variety of purposes. Users are encouraged to purchase hard currency early with a “Beginner’s Sale” promotion which lasts for 72 hours following their first play of the game. Mithril may be used to play the “Gollum’s Riddle” chance-based game (which can otherwise be played a limited number of times per day for free). It may also be used to acquire various special items that perform various functions ranging from speeding up production to completely moving a city that is an inconvenient location or building a second city.
The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth isn’t a fundamentally bad game — users have responded positively to Kabam’s previous games and engage well with them despite their complexity and glacial pacing — but the trouble is it is the exact same game as Kabam has released twice on iOS (and even more times on social networks) already. Someone who has already invested a lot of time and money in Arcane Empires or Kingdoms of Camelot may be hesitant to do the same thing again in another game that is almost identical, and the Hobbit connection is little more than an excuse to include pictures of recognizable characters from the movies. On the flip side, the Hobbit connection may prove to be a powerful means of attracting players who might not have thought to try one of Kabam’s titles previously. Judging by the game’s current relatively strong showing in the Top Grossing charts, it appears to be a strategy that is working.
Ultimately, though, it is disappointing to see Kabam simply reskinning its games rather than coming up with something genuinely new. There is absolutely nothing new about The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth, leaving it feeling somewhat like a cynical cash-in rather than an attempt to genuinely engage with fans of the book and movie.
The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth is currently ranked at No. 54 in Top Grossing Apps, No. 71 in Top Grossing iPad Apps, No. 72 in Top Free Games, No. 45 in Top Grossing Games, No. 119 in Top Free iPad Games and No. 47 in Top Grossing iPad Games.
We’ve seen this game twice before on mobile platforms; this time it has “The Hobbit” written on its title screen.