The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth – A Review

Watch Middle Earth themed progress bars and timers, wait for something to happen, pay money so you don't wait as long. Rinse and repeat.

Despite my personal issues with Kabam‘s use of the Middle Earth licence (which I rant about elsewhere), I have endeavoured to approach this review with an open mind, taking the game elements at face value. 

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As the game began, I begrudgingly noted the quality of the artwork and the polish of the interface – at least care had been taken to deliver something worthy of Tolkien’s creation. It quickly became clear that the essence of the game was as resource-gathering strategy ostensibly set in Middle Earth. Despite the myriad screens and deluge of information, the interface managed to be largely informative without feeling too cluttered.

The brief tutorial got me on the right path—via the premium item shop, of course—and I quickly set about building up my Elven empire (Dwarf is also an option). The game takes place over three views: an isometric view of your inner city where military and residential structures can be built and upgraded; a similar, expanded view of your entire city which allows the construction of resource-producing structures, and a grid-based display of the region, including conquerable terrain and other player cities.

A Game of Progress Bars

Essentially, I was facing a scramble up the TH: KoMH technology tree, with a view to researching and enabling the production of the various troop types which are either mounted, ranged or foot (read: rock, paper, scissors) but with Tolkienesque descriptions shoehorned on. This required a balancing act of upgrading the right structures in the right order to increase the efficiency of the production chain. The higher up the chain I got, the slower the progress bars moved.

This, it turned out, was the core aspect of the game – watching progress bars slowly fill. Sometimes hours pass with nothing to do. TH: KoMH is a game to play in your sleep. Then it struck me – this was basically Play-by-Mail updated for the internet generation. Once I’d accepted that I wasn’t actually meant to be engaged or interested in the game and that I should simply wait for the appropriate prompt, I found myself wasting a lot less time.

Communicate with Friends! On Your Phone!

Eager to find a more engaging part of the game, I followed my friend’s instructions to join his alliance (this amused me – last week an anti-games stalwart, this week an alliance leader!) and soon I was trading materials and reading about their diplomatic and conquest exploits involving neighbouring players. It transpired that the other alliance members—also real-life friends of mine—were behind the recruitment of my novice friend. So I was chatting with my real-life friends via a rudimentary in-game interface on a smartphone.

U-huh, exactly – it doesn’t make much sense if you think about it, does it?

Anyway, in order to give new players the opportunity to find their feet, cities are invulnerable to player attack for the first week (this can be cancelled early at the owner’s behest) so I have yet to indulge fully in the player-versus-player portion of the game, however I have sallied forth with assorted armies to conquer various adjacent lands.

Sadly, what I had hoped might be a more visceral and engaging part of the game just resulted in a battle report of which troops survived and which didn’t. More Play-by Mail.

Tainted Mithril Silver

So, to summarise, if you’re looking for a Middle Earth game in which you are forever waiting for something to happen or finding out that something has already happened, but which never actually shows much of anything as it actually happens, then The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth is for you.

The game is competently put together and doesn’t make a complete mockery of the source material (although out of respect you’d think they could have at least written the in-game text in British English), but there’s no getting away from how slow and dull it is. Of course, there is a way you could speed the game up and possibly make it a little more engaging. Can you guess what it is?

Alternatively, for a more rewarding and engaging experience, you could just send a blank cheque to Kabam and go read The Hobbit.

4
The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth – A Review
Watch Middle Earth themed progress bars and timers, wait for something to happen, pay money so you don't wait as long. Rinse and repeat.

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Author
Mat Westhorpe
Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.