My initial impressions ... Had about a full day with the game, so obviously take it with a grain of salt - I'll need a lot more plays to be able to really get a good, true impression, and of course future code updates will have a big impact. But I thought perhaps some would be interested in some initial thoughts. Also this is the first time I've ever played the game, and of course it was purchased knowing those risks (same with GB).
1. As has been said by many, this is a beautiful game. I'd agree that this is probably the best looking game I've ever seen. Everything about it is just a real testament to the folks who designed the art for the game, the playfield, the bumpers, the lighted wording in the ramp, etc. Bravo there.
2. Again, no surprise here, the display is incredible. The animations are incredible. Heck, even the adjustments menu is incredible! You can start to understand why it takes so long to code the game with everything that is tied together.
3. Sound - overall excellent. Will be further enhanced with more call-outs with newer code.
4. No issues with flipper power out of the box for me - I read from others this was a concern, and that it can be adjusted, but as of right now I find no need.
5. I do like when you are starting a mode, the ball goes to the Windlance and you have a bit of time to read what mode you've started and how to win. This is important for this game, and is executed well. Starting a mode while trying to play the ball (or trying to cradle) would have been a really bad decision here with the complexity of the game - this was a great idea, and definitely needed.
6. Ring Save - awesome.
7. Everyone likes the flipper post - it creates some really interesting and cool saves sometimes with the ball going through the flippers and back up the out-lanes from hitting off of the post at an angle.
1. As noted in my original post, the biggest con to me is the one ball hangup that requires glass removal, that happens maybe once every 10 games or so for me. At this point I don't know if it will be specific just to me, or if others are going to have the issue on this ramp. It is rather easily fixed with an addition of a post where the screw is, or a plastic.
2. (#1 is #1 for a reason, however everything else starting with this one is in no particular order) I'm just going to call the popups Orcs for simplicity - I know they are 4 different. They are not smooth to the playfield as my MMR. The MMR trolls, at least on my machine, are perfectly smooth to the playfield and have zero effect on ball travel, even when ball speed is low. The same can't be said about the Hobbit - the Orcs are not completely smooth to the playfield (none of them), and thus they can affect ball trajectory. Now, it's not major, and generally it only happens at very slow ball speeds, but nonetheless, a very noticeable difference between Hobbit and a machine with similar mechs, MMR. Not sure if that is more of a testament to the build of an MMR, or a detriment to Hobbit. But it is noticeable to me.
3. Lack of substantial toys is noticeable. The Orcs and Smaug are the main toys in the game, and that's about it. I don't count the book as a toy because it simply acts as a Mode display, and countdown timer - I don't think I can classify that as a "toy" (yes it does look great, and the graphics are superb on the book). It's severely lacking in that department compared with WOZ, and many other newer machines. There is no "cool" toy in the game at all - Smaug looks great, but it's simply a turning head with a simple jaw movement. T-Rex is a much better "toy" in terms of what it does. There's no intuitive magnets, locks, or other interactive toys - especially when you compare it to WOZ with the upper playfield, monkey lock, spinning house with pop-out feet, etc). The Orcs are pretty much it. A clear Smaug target past the popups would have gone a long way here (ie AFM, ST, etc), and some more imagination with some magnets, or simply going with two Orcs and making the other two something "different" - ie a trap door, etc.
4. The gameplay, as it currently stands, is not meant for casual gamers, and neither is the layout. It is definitely a game that you need a rulesheet for so you can decipher what-is-what on the screen, and what you are trying to do (other than Smaug lock/multiball which is easy to figure out for all). I do think this can be fixed with code, but I'm not sure it will be to the extend of making it easy to understand.
5. Really weak kick-back / "windlance" - many times it just comes out so very slow. I'm assuming this can possibly be adjusted in the game - haven't look. But out of the box, the weakest kick-back I've seen in a game.
6. Code. Example - I get no sense during Smaug multi-ball if I'm having an effect - I seem to be hitting a ton of lighted shots and lasting forever, but there is no sense that I'm actually doing anything. I'm really thinking this is simply an early-code issue.
7. This isn't so much of a con, as a "What is happening here?" .. I'm assuming this is a mode, but when playing two games the drop targets started going up and down really fast across the playfield - it sounded like a machine gun going off. I thought there was something wrong with the game (I hope not!), but again, assuming it's just a mode or something else. But it really didn't jive with the game, especially with how loud they were when they are going crazy. We're not talking about the Skillshot type of noise with one target going up and down every second - this was about 5-10 targets going up and down every second like crazy. And it lasted seemingly forever. I thought Bilbo had retrieved his magic AK47.
8. The ramp set-up does take away from the flow of the game - in that both of the only ramps in the game feed the same flipper that you use to make the shot. In looking at all of my other games - there is no other game I have that does this. They all feed the opposite flipper to make a different ramp shot. This does take away from that "flow" feeling of hitting a ramp feeding a flipper to make a different ramp shot. There's only so many times you can change the page of that damn book!
9. I think the two drop-holes in the playfield could have been implemented better - with the amazing art and everything all around them, they are pretty bland holes that are just "there". Again, looking at other games, I think they could have built something better around them to incorporate them better (think a cave, or covering of some sort, etc).
10. The top flipper - I think ST has perhaps influenced me here with the satisfying warp shot. There's just nothing for that top flipper to go for - just really the drop targets, and that's not a great deal of fun. Would have loved some sort of shot coming off that top flipper.
OK well, that's my initial feedback. You can see of course there are a lot more cons right now, but it's not about quantity of either. At the end of the day it's going to come down to game-play, and as of right now the code is wayyyy too early to see if the code can overcome some of the cons. I think it's going to be harder to code this game than WOZ because WOZ just has a lot of toys to work with (not in terms of actual programming difficulty, but rather Hobbit is going to need to rely on code a lot more than WOZ because there's not as much to work with).