The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria’s announcement reveals a multiplayer survival game

By Craig Pearson

The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria was one of the big surprises revealed during the Epic Games Summer Showcase. In Free Range Games’ survival crafting game, players will form a company of Dwarves and return to their homeland, seeking to reclaim riches, and restore the ancient mines to their former glory. Let’s delve greedily and deeply into The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria. 

It started with the Dwarves, according to Jon-Paul Dumont, Game Director of Free Range Games. They’re the perfect avatar for a crafting and survival game set in Middle-earth: “They are the ultimate crafters,” he said. “Which immediately meant we had to set it in a hard-to-survive place, of which Moria is the ultimate. It was our first idea, and we ran with it.”
The Lord Of The Rings Return To Moria Announcement Dwarves
Partnering with North Beach Games, they began digging into the Mines of Moria, which presented them with a variety of interesting opportunities to put players in peril. “Moria is iconic,” he said. “Scary and dark. Making too much noise brings hordes of enemies. So, we knew our flavor of survival would involve light, dark, noise, and lots of danger.” 

Players are summoned by Lord Gimli Lockbearer to the Misty Mountains. He seeks to restore their grand realm. Darkness and evil dwells where the Dwarves once reigned in Moria, and a company of brave diggers must venture down, mining, building, and surviving in the shadows. 

You’ll create your own Dwarf before heading down into the depths. According to Dumont: “Dwarves can be customized in a variety of ways to create a unique Dwarven identity using our comprehensive Dwarven character builder. The broad range of backgrounds found in the Dwarves hasn’t been deeply explored in other mediums. So, without giving too much away, our character creator really lets you be the Dwarf you've always wanted to be.”

And then you head into a Tolkien world inspired by a number of games. Dumont cites 7 Days to Die, Stranded Deep, Subnautica, Valheim and The Forest as key touchstones, with mining as the game’s focus. 

“It all starts with mining,” he said. “Other games surround you with trees to chop down. Under the mountains of Moria our ‘tree chopping’ is the rich veins of iron, gold and eventually Mithril. From there, we dive into metalsmithing, which often comes a lot later in most survival games. Building a furnace or re-activating a giant, legendary one smelts the ore, then giant forges shape several tiers of known and fantastical alloys into weapons, armor, and tools. Finally, since the Dwarves are fine craftsmen, you customize weapons with gemstones found in the darkest deeps. In parallel, we will have roaring fires and elaborate meals you’ll want to sing about in your home base.”
The Lord Of The Rings Return To Moria Announcement Base
It sounds cozy, but it’s a harsh world. The group of up to eight players (though you can go solo) will have to conserve resources, hunt food, and even manage noise, sleep, and temperature in the procedurally-generated mines (no Moria will be the same). The darkness is battled with more and more light; the orcs and other creatures are fought off with axes and more. 

To make life a bit more comfortable, you’ll carve out spaces and build bases, either from scratch or within the impressive architectural halls of dwarves past. A lot was left behind: crafting plans, amulets. As you refire the forges, and build and craft, the noise can stir up trouble. There are orcs and other horrors beneath the mountain. As Dumont warns: “We also have a few surprises based on Gandalf’s description of the older, fouler things in the deep places of the world.”

The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria will be available exclusively on PC via the Epic Games Store when it launches in Spring 2023. Players interested in securing their role in the adventure can add the game to their wishlist starting today.