Over the years we’ve seen plenty of games come out of The Lord of the Rings IP, but it’s been a while since we’ve had anything to be excited about. That’s all about to change thanks to the latest game from the LOTR IP The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria, an ambitious game that takes the IP to a new survival crafting direction.
While The Lord of the Rings Return to Moria is first and foremost a survival crafting game, it has been cleverly designed to attract new players to the genre, with the ability to forgo the usual base-building stuff and focus on recapturing and fixing broken camps.
While I’m personally a fan of survival games with an emphasis on base building, such as Ark: Survival Evolved and Conan Exiles, it has been a nice change of pace to play a survival game where I could simply focus on exploration and leave base building as an afterthought.
Of course, being a survival game, there’s some amount of either building or repairing you won’t be able to avoid. You need to eat, and you need to sleep, so a hearth and a bed are required as a minimum.
To be able to build you must place a Stone Hearth near where you plan to build, but thankfully, if you can’t find one to repair, building one only requires a small amount of coal, stone and wood scraps, and a bed just requires cloth scraps, which can easily be found around the map.
Exploring the Mines of Moria
Missions in The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria have you and up to seven friends fighting to delve deeper into the dwarven mines, finding ways to tunnel into new areas and mining for increasingly rare resources. Thanks to the procedurally generated maps, each time you play it feels like a fresh new experience with new areas to explore.
Among the procedurally generated maps are some set locations that LOTR fans will recognize, such as the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, as well as some runes left behind by Gandalf which adds a nice little touch of lore to the game, and serves as a reminder that we’re following the same path that the fellowship of the ring once followed.
Along the path, players will come across multiple statues which they can rebuild. Doing so will offer you new crafting recipes, although, as you progress you need to rebuild multiple statues to uncover one recipe, which gives you another reason to explore the mines.
As you would expect from a mine, players must deal with the dark and cold, but thankfully there are several torches you can build, as well as ones built into the map that just need fuel, helping to keep your morale up while you continue to push further through the darkness of the mines.
While you wouldn’t expect it to matter in a mine, The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria does have a day and night system in place, where the days are slightly brighter thanks to lighting coming through crystals throughout the mine. It’s not all dark and barren either, there are several chambers in the game that are teeming with life, such as the Elven Quater with its lush trees, grass, and brighter [such and such].
With procedurally generated maps and areas that are always uniquely different, I quickly transformed from a stay-at-home dwarf, hellbent on rebuilding Moria brick by brick to a seasoned explorer, wandering the depths of the mines looking for the next area and challenge to stumble across.
Fighting the Orcs of Moria
One of the main issues that plague survival games is mediocre combat, but with multiple weapon types each offering unique ways to cut through orcs, goblins, and trolls, The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria combat is strangely satisfying for a survival game.
The game manages to balance combat difficulty very well too, with stronger enemies only appearing once you’ve progressed further through the mines. Staying in one area too long can quickly become too easy as your gear progresses, but at the same time, trying to push too far through the mines can also lead to punishment when you’re gear is not up for the task.
I also noticed that if I tried to push too far, too quickly orc parties would soon set themselves upon my camp, meaning I had to withdraw and protect my small base, and a few times even had to return to rebuild large parts of it.
As a base builder in survival games, I’m personally not bothered about having to rebuild my base every now and then, it just gives me the opportunity to be more creative, and make a more defensive base on the next run, but I could see how this could annoy gamers that aren’t so much into building and just want to focus on the exploration side of Moria.
While I did come across a couple of minor graphical glitches in-game, Return to Moria is a technically sound game with an impressive concept which even after countless hours of playing still has me captivated.
If you’re a fan of survival games, exploring procedural digital worlds, or just love The Lord of the Rings, Return to Moria might just be the game for you. The little touches, such as your dwarf singing while they dig make it an enjoyable experience that is only made better by playing alongside up to seven of your friends.
The vast size of the mines offers something for every player, build upwards as far as the mines will allow, go exploring and find new rare resources, or take Saruman’s orcs face-on and engage in battle with a wide range of weapons.