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J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is a fount of inspiration, and beyond upcoming Hollywood blockbusters, there's sure to be no shortage of tie-in video games. But considering the amazing reference material – a tale of adventure with dwarves and goblins – it's a shame The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth is so unabashedly boring.
While Kingdoms of Middle-earth is set within the universe of The Hobbit, it relates back to the film in theme only. Sure, you'll have the opportunity to assign "heroes" like Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins to watch over portions of your fledgling city. But Kingdoms of Middle-earth is in actuality a typical, free-to-play conquest sim with a veneer of Tolkien influence. Your primary goal is to build a secure city with a substantial level of might (troop levels) to fight back or conquer neighboring cities and their stash of resources. Better units require research into weapons, but the influx of troops will thereby require more farming to fill their hungry bellies.
Unfortunately, the wait-time to upgrade a building or train units can prove mind-numbingly long. And as there is essentially nothing else to do while waiting, Kingdoms of Middle-earth turns into a barely amusing distraction, rather than a game you'll actively play. Just reaching a point where you can attack another city takes almost seven real-world days. Of course, you can always buy some mithril via in-app purchase to skip the wait ("$99.99: Best Value!").
Alliances, or groups of players working together to dominate the game's map, are Kingdoms of Middle-earth's best feature, giving it a nice social edge. Conspiring to attack a rival alliance is rewarding, assuming you're not squashed under the might of your enemy and lose all your resources.
The bottom line. While The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth is enjoyable on a social level, the overall experience feels like a horrid chore.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Alliances are rewarding. Good for resource management fans.
Tedious gameplay with little payoff. Lots of waiting around. Incredibly prolonged setup.