Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria is a survival exploration game that will have you diving deep into the mines of Moria, the legendary home of Middel-Earth’s Dwarves.
Some Lord of the Rings fans had their reservations. The franchise has been translated into a variety of video game genres, but never a survival game. Did it make the transition, or did it come a little short?
Is Return to Moria a good game?
Let me start by saying yes, Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria is a good game. Both fans of the franchise and those who couldn’t care less will be able to find some fun in it, as it prioritizes a jaunty good time in Middle-Earth over being just another product with a world-renowned brand name stamped on the cover.
Return to Moria is a low-stakes experience, one that leaves room for player creativity while making you earn every little bit of success. It wants you to understand and embrace the Dwarven cultural experience by cooking hot meals for your insatiable gullet, mining away at ore veins, and crafting precious artifacts and simple tools. The Dwarves are hard workers, so you, the player, are going to have to work just as hard as they do.
Return to Moria is definitely best played with friends, though, a full and satisfying playthrough can be enjoyed by solo players.
Making Moria into a Sandbox
Return to Moria procedurally generates a whole new version of Moria with every new instance you create. This will keep you on your toes as no two Morias will be exactly alike. Since you can’t memorize, say, every prime mining location, Return to Moria’s procedural generation presents its world as more of a sandbox that encourages you to get creative. Mix things up. Try new things, and explore new paths.
This is best exemplified in how you’re able to destroy each chamber you enter and build it back up however you see fit. It encourages you to revel in Dwarven culture and history, but also blaze a new path forward to a brighter future.
You cannot build walls and structures just anywhere. You can only build around a Hearth, meaning you have to keep building Hearths to expand the possible building area. Being able to place quick wooden platforms outside of a Hearth’s building zone, however, allows for greater mobility.
As you discover new materials and unlock new builds, creating a proper homestead isn’t far off. Think of Return to Moria as Extreme Home Makeover: Middle-Earth Edition. The dwarves are back and want to restore their home to its proper state, and then some. You can do so by decorating the halls of Moria with ornaments, arches, and columns, all the while clearing away all the debris and ruin to wipe away the memories of a tragic era.
But it’s not that easy. Random events like sieges and horde attacks add a sense of suspense. Evrything you’ve built could be dashed away by orcs in the blind of an eye.
Related: Is Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria on the Steam Deck?
Form your own Mountainhome
There are a few features that make Return to Moria a fantastic game for multiplayer. If you band with your friends, you all could form your own space to live and thrive.
Reminiscent of Terraria, you can create numerous worlds, each with different seeds, and can have numerous characters. This allows you to explore numerous Morias with the same character and allows you to have dedicated characters for certain worlds.
You could create worlds and characters specifically for you and your friends to design to your liking. you could import resources from other worlds to give you and your friends a little boost. Cooking presents an opportunity to bond the Dwarven way by devouring huge meals at a big table so you and your buddies can fuel up before the next enemy siege. Return to Moria is truly best experienced with friends.
The mid-review turnaround
Death isn’t really a barrier. Those who prefer a more hardcore survival experience won’t really get one here. Upon death, all of your items drop and stay dropped. You are free to dally on over and grab it. If enemies destroy your property, no materials actually get lost, you just need to rebuild things.
This low-stakes gameplay may be uninteresting to some, but I imagine it’ll be appreciated by those looking for a more chill experience. Visually, Return to Moria leaves a bit to be desired. It sticks with the overall aesthetic established by Peter Jackson’s film trilogy. It’s simplistic in design, but my eyes adjusted So don’t be too put off by the graphics when you get into the game.
How it feels to be a Dwarf
When mining, or when looking at something especially inspiring, your Dwarf may be compelled to sing. It adds a sweet Tolkin touch to what would otherwise feel like busy work.
Throughout Moria you will find Hero’s Tokens, memorabilia from fallen Dwarves. If you collect enough, you can construct monuments to honor your ancestors and spruce things up. This sense of pride can also be exacted by rebuilding fallen statues found around Moria.
Related: Does Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria have crossplay?
So… is Return to Moria a good game?
All things considered, Return to Moria is a very enjoyable experience. Embracing the lifestyle of a Dwarf whilst making Moria into what you want it to be is a satisfying and gratifying process. Plunging deep into exciting areas around Moria and uncovering new ores to process and new items to figure out is fun and engaging.
The game may be low-stakes, but the process of surviving in Moria is complex enough for each player to need to prepare for an outing, whether it’s to fight through numerous enemies and explore or to go on a resource run.
There is lore to be found that will appease any Lord of the Rings fans which also serve as little lore bites for those who don’t particularly care about the franchise.
I love the fact that we have agency enough to do what we want, but we must still earn and mine every little piece of the picture we want to create. Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria is a satisfying survival sandbox game where you can embrace the life of a Dwarf trapped in a perilous mountain.
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