The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age is a new fun- and free-to-play RTS multiplayer game on browsers based on the popular The Hobbit trilogy. Set in the chaotic Middle-earth, elves, dwarves and orcs are battling each other to achieve their own ambition. Join any of the three races and fight epic wars for honor!
Against the much-known back story, The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age leads you into the fantastic land directly via a simple tutorial. Construct couples of resource buildings, set up the defense, train some basic soldiers, and fight your first battle destroying the goblin’s camp – walking through the guidance, you will get a hang of all the basics of gameplay.
Build, Train, Research, upgrade and battle – all the established concepts in any middle-core strategy title are available here, arranged in the conventional way. Following the quest chain or your own pace of playing, you will shift between your base and the region, developing your empire or conquering wilds for extra resources.
The in-game construction takes both resources and time, with the latter factor being the main pace-setter. You won’t lack of resources for a long time because of the many sources of gaining them, such as by production, rewards, extra bonus from victory in battlefields, etc. But you will have to be patient with the completion of a project, especially with only one available building slot, unless you use Mithril, the hard currency, to instantly finish whatever is undertaken. Unlike some games of this type, you have the entire land rather than a small patch all at once in the beginning, so that you don’t need to unlock/purchase to expand afterwards. And due to the importance of defense, it’s suggested that you build your facilities in cluster and set up tactical defensive structures in time to protect the important buildings within their attacking range. That’s particularly important when you are out of the beginner’s protection period.
Synchronizing with the development of the empire, battles are unavoidable in the land ravaged by turmoil. You will need to hire famous heroes including Gandalf, Legolas and Thorin to lead your army. Based on your race, you will have your distinct army units that can be trained and upgraded in barracks and assigned to different leaders. To start a fight, you need to deploy a hero as well as his/her soldiers to the battleground, guide them to attack in the midst of battle, or simply let them assault at will foes and buildings on the map. Specifically, you pick up a hero, choose an invading entrance, order them to move to certain locations, and click on the enemies/structures for them to attack. The battle scene is fairly animated, but lack of enough diversity due to its similar style of background in the artwork and always units-plus-buildings pattern.
You will lose army units in battles. Once they are dead, you have to train some more to refill. And you need to give your heroes a break after a battle; otherwise, you need to pay the hard currency to immediately end the cool-down. Heroes will appear in battlegrounds, too, fighting with his soldiers and fighting with much more valor. In some fierce battles you may lose all your soldiers and see your Hero fight alone to achieve a hard victory. That may suddenly awaken a mixed feeling of tragic solemn and heroism in your heart. Or that could be the background music.
You will find many battles in the wilds in the beginning. Forests, plains, hills, goblins’ camps, etc. – different locations offer corresponding bonuses to your resource production and toughen up your heroes at the same time. The wilds are the training fields to prepare you for fiercer wars with other players. You can attack others for loots and join an alliance for larger scaled of wars.
Solid as it is, the game has some obvious kinks that needs to be ironed out. The initial tutorial doesn’t have any background music at all; there lacks of a button to allow players to directly return the castle from the region map; and no appropriate name for heroes. While these flaws don’t influence the bulk of gameplay, they certainly don’t make a good impression in the first ten minutes’ play.
The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age is a nice try to take fans of the trilogy into the conflicts depicted in the show. It offers a unique tactical depth with its variety of army units and heroes and extensive battles against AI, an individual foe or thousands of other real-players. Regardless the flaws and incomplete elements in the current version, the game has a potential to be a great strategy title above average in the future.