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The Hobbit review

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age

Review with Gameplay Video

Publisher: Kabam - Released: Q1-2013

Genre: MMORTS - Real Time Strategy Game

Client: Browser Based

The Hobbit - PLAY NOW

It really was inevitable that The Hobbit would see a video game tie in when it released at the end of last year, and in the age of social media, free-to-play and iOS, it’s not a surprise that the people behind the film didn’t opt into creating a full retail game based on events in the first film (not unlike EA’s The Two Towers and Return of the King). Instead, in Armies of the Third Age, we have an MMORTS, the sort that links through social media and has an invite button to share with friends. It’s free, cheap advertising for the film in a hugely popular genre and is exponentially cheaper to build than, say, an action game. But despite all that, is it worth it? Can Armies of the Third Age live up to the expectations of the film? Read on to find out.

The Hobbit: Armiees of the Third Age Gameplay Video [ HD ]

The Hobbit  - positives

The Hobbit – Unlike Guardians of Middle-Earth, The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age makes no attempts to hide its link to the latest film as a game. The Hobbit logo is constantly, proudly displayed on every page and characters from the film pop-up on a constant basis. This is a real tie-in, and while that might lead to some negatives (see below), at least they’re brave enough to advertise what it is. At the end of the day, it's still a new Hobbit game.

Design and Graphics – The graphics for The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age genuinely are pretty, like a painting. Granted, nothing actually happens – it’s a static image placed behind the things you can build and the armies you can put into battle – but it still looks pretty. It’s also interesting to see the design choices the developers have made in terms of being able to place a building anywhere, in having battles actually happen (although it’s not fantastic). It’s a step forward for a browser-based MMORTS game and it’s a genre (-that's) desperate for a step forward.

The Hobbit screenshot 1

classic MMORTS look with Hobbit elements


Beta Testing – Armies of the Third Age is currently in the Beta test stage, although as far as I can see that’s just an excuse to release the game in time for the film without polishing it up. There doesn’t seem to be any limitations on who can sign up and although an NDA was linked to at the sign-up screen, I couldn’t actually access it – the button didn’t work.

FIGHT! – The battle system for Armies of the Third Age is interesting but buggy. Hopefully they’ll fix it as time goes by, because it has the potential to be one of the best of the genre. You control your army by clicking where they’ll go. Although this doesn’t give you much control over proceedings, and certainly not a tactical advantage, it feels like you’re more important a part of things than if you just had a message received – “You’re army is dead” - after ten minutes.

The Hobbit screenshot 2

there is so much to do


I’m Waiting… - As you’d expect from any game in the MMORTS genre, much of your time spent in Armies of the Third Age will be spent waiting. You’ll wait when building, when upgrading, when creating an army. You’ll wait for resources to come in so you can continue to play. This is fine if you’re playing it as a distraction at work or at school, but if you actually want a game, something to interact with, this isn’t the choice you should make, and that goes for any MMORTS game. You’ll be waiting anywhere from a minute for things to happen, so make sure you bring a book if you plan to play at length. You’re also unable to queue, so you can’t just set up a days’ worth of time and leave it.

Where are the Hobbits? – For a game based upon The Hobbit, there’s a distinct lack of links to the source material. You take part in a war that didn’t happen between characters that didn’t exist based in locations that seem unrecognisable. When I congratulated the developers for creating a tie-in, I meant it, but they’ve managed to let down fans of the original IP by turning it, instead, into a cash-in. JRR Tolkien is rolling in his grave, and Christopher Tolkien – not a fan of any of the modern Lord of the Rings adaptations – will definitely not be happy.

The Hobbit screenshot 3

Look who greets you

“Not a Reskin” – When announcing Armies of the Third Age, the developers specifically said it wasn’t a reskin of their earlier games. It takes less than a few minutes of Google searching to discover people listing reasons as to why this game IS just a reskin of stuff they’ve done before. Believe them or not, there’s a good chance that people who hated Kabam games in the past will be less than impressed with their latest efforts.

The Hobbit screenshot 4

Building, buildings, build build build...


The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age is a good attempt at doing an MMORTS, but the fact that it’s set in Middle-Earth is an atrocity. Like Kabam’s Godfather game, they’ve made no effort to live up to the IP and have instead just done what they’ve always done – built a half-decent game. Unfortunately, for a casual fan of Tolkien/MMORTS games, half-decent is more than enough. For anybody more passionate about gaming, about Middle-Earth and about faithful recreations of films and books in a digital space, this is one to miss entirely.

review by Mat Growcott

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