Though many of us choose to forget, gaming on social network platforms is actually still a thing and has matured much since its Farmville heyday. Whether scrolling through Facebook on a phone, tablet, or at your desktop computer, there’s no getting away from the constant barrage of notifications, invites and updates. As a traditional “gamer” a good ninety five percent of the junk that crops up on my feed goes completely under the radar, but that hasn’t stopped game-makers from trying to draw me in.
This has been solely through the use of familiar licenses and properties, some of them originating from actual video game series. Casting a quick look over my Facebook history I found names including Assassin’s Creed, Dragon Age, inFamous, and even Uncharted. However, more recently, it has been film and television reeling me into the foreign realm of social game. That, and the genre’s accessibility on mobile and tablet devices.
This time around my weapon of choice has been Kabam’s Legends of Middle-Earth. “That’s odd”, you might be thinking, “doesn’t Kabam already have a Middle-Earth mobile game on the go?” That would be true. In 2012, the international studio teamed up with Warner Bros. to release Kingdoms of Middle-Earth, coinciding with the launch of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Anyone used to skimming the App Store and Google Play will know what sort of game Kingdoms just by looking at the title and a handful of screenshots. As either elves or dwarves, you gradually build a stronghold over time while fulfilling quests and cycling through various menus. Dubbed “Massively Multiplayer Social Strategy”, this sub-genre is packed to the rafters with all sorts of clones and reskins.
Though it technically falls under the same umbrella, Legends of Middle-Earth is more about building a fellowship as opposed to your very own kingdom. In shifting focus, it feels more accessible and has fewer menus to dig through while still maintaining an enjoyable level of complexity.
After choosing a starter hero, players will immediately embark on an adventure. Naturally, your journey begins in The Shire which, like every region in the game, is made up of zones that come one after the over. Your ultimate goal is to travel Middle-Earth in its entirety while recruiting heroes to your four-man squad and watching them develop.
The zones themselves are navigated by simply hitting the “explore” button. A brief animation will trigger as the progress bar fills by one block. Every time you explore, there’s a chance you’ll recruit a new companion or engage in battles. These encounters are devoid of an sort of active input and essentially come down to which team has the better statistics.
The best way of measuring progress is to look at the make-up of your fellowship. Each has its own attack and health stats as well as combo powers that trigger when two or more compatible heroes are aligned. Instead of ranking up on the battlefield, your team will essentially need to be fed in order to earn experience. Any duplicate or weak cards can be sacrificed to improve their stats or even evolve them into more powerful versions. It’s a familiar system that’s been used in a whole raft of social games, including puzzler hybrid Dungeon Gems, though can be viewed as a double-edged sword.
On one hand, collecting new heroes can get addictive but then there’s the inevitable grind to consider. Booting the app every so often just to tap a few menus and bolster your existing party of characters – though appealing to some – began to feel like a chore. Still, if you’re a big Middle-Earth fan then there’s certainly a novelty in trying to form your very own dream team.