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The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth

For: iPad   Also on: Android, iPhone

Lord of the remakes

Product: The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth | Publisher: Kabam | Format: iPad | Genre: Simulation | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth iPad, thumbnail 1
Playing through The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth, I was struck by a strong sense of familiarity.

Could I be recalling Tolkien's timeless tale of travel, bravery, and friendship, upon which this freemium city-builder is very loosely based? Could it be the past decade and a half of watching Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy?

No. It's got nothing to do with the source material. It's the fact that I've played this game before, not three months ago.

Ringing the changes

Take The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth, strip it of its tenuous links to Tolkien's universe and slap on a King Arthur-type skin instead. You now have Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North almost in its entirety.

Developer Kabam is responsible for both games, so similarities are inevitable, but the extent to which these games play - and indeed look - the same is a bit of a joke.

Naturally, Tolkien's Middle-earth is a more familiar, well-realised place to spend your time. But, as I said, the links to this rich universe are pretty weak anyway.

Picking sides

Choosing to play as the elves or the dwarves, you'll be taken through a tutorial section by Legolas or Thorin respectively. They'll introduce you to the usual freemium city-building tropes of building stuff (or waiting interminably for stuff to get built) in order to to get more stuff. You know the score.

It's a matter of inching each element forward - more houses to increase your population, upgrading your wood-working facilities in order to train up archers, and so on. It's a thinly disguised and really quite linear game in many ways, and it's not helped by the artificial restrictions of the freemium model.

As with Kingdoms of Camelot, you can only build or upgrade one building at a time. These buildings can take minutes or even hours to build - unless you pay some Mithril (the game's currency) to hurry things up.

Naturally, in order to acquire Mithril in any great quantity you have to loosen your purse strings. With prices starting at £2.99 for 50 pieces of Mithril, it's not cheap.

Short shrift

The way The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth grinds to a halt after an initial period of quick progression proves infuriating. Things pick up a little once the stabilisers are properly taken off and you can engage in battle against real-life opponents, but battles are a simple matter of pushing numbers around.

As with Kingdoms of Camelot, the game can prove quite a pull if you throw yourself into the social side, monitoring the chat channels and joining an alliance for protection and support. Otherwise, it's a strictly limited experience.

As mentioned, Tolkien's universe is poorly utilised here. You can use well-known heroes to bolster your abilities and improve your training, but they're just thinly described skill buffs. None of their personality is brought to the game.

If you're in the market for another social freemium city-builder - and you haven't played one of Kabam's previous attempts - you'll probably find some fun here. For most people, though, it's just a reskin of an already pretty average game.
The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 22 November 2012
A cynical reskin of Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth will be a disappointment to Tolkien fans and experienced freemium city-builders alike
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