The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age review

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age is a new Facebook game from Kabam. It is not related to the company’s recent iOS and Android game The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth, which we reviewed here. It is currently featured on the front page of Facebook’s App Center.

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The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age is a midcore strategy game of Kabam’s usual breed, but unlike some of the developer’s other recent titles it is not simply a reskin of Kingdoms of Camelot. Beginning by pledging allegiance to the elves, dwarves or orcs from Tolkien’s classic — a largely aesthetic decision — the game then provides players with an optional tutorial before presenting them with the usual rather “freeform” experience that the midcore strategy genre offers. Players will divide their time between building and upgrading their base, attacking computer-controlled “wilds” areas and attacking other players. A sequence of quests guides players through a series of suggested actions, but aside from these quests, which provide little more than context-free objectives, there is no sense of unfolding narrative or direction to the game. This may leave players hoping for an authentically “Tolkienesque” experience somewhat disappointing.

Building a base is achieved in a similar fashion to other midcore strategy games and bears a particular resemblance to titles such as Kixeye’s Backyard Monsters, Digital Chocolate’s Galaxy Life and Kabam’s own Edgeworld. Players construct buildings using collected resources and currency and may either wait for them to complete construction or bypass the wait timers using hard currency. The layout of the base is relatively important, as defensive structures only cover a certain area — this means it is necessary for higher-level players to ensure as much of their territory is protected as possible for when other players come knocking. There is little risk of this early in the game due to the usual “beginner’s protection” provided to the player — though this protection immediately and prematurely disappears if you attack another player’s city or an area under their control.

Hobit

Attacking other areas is achieved on the Region map, which is divided up into hexagons, each of which has a particular “level” and terrain type. Early in the game, players are tasked with attacking certain specific types and levels of terrain tiles to complete quests — unfortunately, the seemingly randomly-generated persistent online world map doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the player’s first city will be located anywhere near one of the tiles necessary to complete one of these quests, which seems like something of an oversight. There’s also no way of switching back to the player’s city directly from the Region map — the player must instead first switch to the largely-useless (but attractively-presented) World map before they can then switch back to their city. Clicking on the World map allows jumping straight to a particular Region, but given that the game doesn’t show coordinates while browsing the World map and the Regions zoomed to often bear no relation to the area of the World map clicked on — apparently The Shire is a barren wasteland devoid of all life — it is not particularly helpful.

When the player has chosen to attack a territory, they bring in the heroes and armies they have trained in their city and place them in deployment areas, then command them to attack specific enemy groups or structures. This part of the game is somewhat akin to real-time strategy games, but the interface is so simplistic that there’s not a lot of opportunity for developing complex strategies on the fly, and combat more often than not comes down to whoever has more, stronger units. This is nothing unusual for the midcore strategy game genre, but it’s a shame Armies of the Third Age doesn’t try anything a little more adventurous or different.

Social features in the game include a real-time chat facility in the corner of the screen that allows players to talk to one another. There is a lot of off-topic chat going on at all times — occasionally of a somewhat inappropriate nature — but it does at least allow players to get to know each other rather than simply treating each other as “resources” to be tapped. Players may also form and join alliances and compete against one another to determine who has the most “valor” in the land — this also allows for easier communication and collaboration between a smaller group of players.

The game monetizes through its hard currency mithril, which is used for several purposes. Its most common use is to bypass wait timers for building, training and research, but it may also be expended on playing a chance-based game to win prizes, or on resources and special items from the in-game shop. The game can be enjoyed without expending hard currency, but paying players will make faster progress.

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age would be a reasonable, if fairly unremarkable, midcore strategy game were it not for the myriad issues it has at present. These problems begin with the initial tutorial, which inexplicably has no sound whatsoever. They then continue with all manner of incomplete game elements, such as heroes who join the player’s army without a name, the inappropriate ability to add line breaks to custom names and dialog boxes that pop up with placeholder variable names and resource costs listed as “NaN” (Not a Number). Given that most of these flaws were encountered within about ten minutes of starting the game, it’s very clear that Armies of the Third Age hasn’t had anywhere near as much testing as it should have before being released to the public. A company as large and successful as Kabam is capable of much better than this rather unprofessional-looking experience.

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Once the flaws are fixed, Armies of the Third Age is likely to enjoy some success. There already seems to be a fairly active and communicative player base playing the game, and midcore titles often monetize better than more casual titles despite tending to have smaller overall audiences. For now, though, the game issues and bugs are too noticeable to make a truly enjoyable game, so this is one to keep an eye on from a distance for now and perhaps check in on again in a month or two.

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age currently occupies the 10,000+ MAU tier with a rank of 4,954 and the 10,000+ DAU tier with a rank of 2,025. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.

Wait

Something of a buggy mess at present, but there’s potential for a decent — if relatively straightforward — midcore strategy game here.

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