One of the most exciting titles we checked out at Gamescom was definitely The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria, as both its gameplay mechanics as a mining/crafting game and its canonical, never-before-told narrative seemed incredibly spot-on for Tolkien fans. Now, the game will release in little less than two months, and the devs over at Free Range Games told us much more about it in the very revealing interview below.
But to understand the deeper gameplay concepts behind LOTR: RTM besides the obvious, the developers draw two very interesting comparisons during the interview.
"Oh, I mean, it's such a great game. We're huge fans of that game", game director Jon-Paul Dumont points out about Subnautica. "So, where that really came in was, how do we allow you to go really high up and really deep down? Because, you know, with the dwarves, it's about delving deep. So, we wanted to figure out, that was just one of our inspirations for, how do you tell the story through lore? How do you have quiet exploration along with, then we added in orcs and combat and danger and darkness?"
"Yeah, and honestly, that's something that's kind of unique about this game is, unlike a lot of the survival crafting games, they're usually like a blank canvas that you build on top of", CEO Christopher Scholz adds when asked about being able to destroy or rebuild everything in the game like a very detailed version of Minecraft. "But here, it's Moria, right? And so, the wonder is, you break through a tunnel and you open up into this vista and you found some awesome corner of Moria. And then there's a sense of like, I want to restore it to its former glory. So, just being able to, it's a little bit of [Super] Mario Sunshine of like, you want to go in, you want to repair everything, you want to get it back to its pristine state. So, it's really, really fun."
Why Siri won't recognize "speak friend and enter"?
"Well, the very beginning of the story is [John Rhys-Davies'] Gimli calling everybody together to say, we're going to go in and then they hit a mystery", the director explains about this new tale in the uncharted Fourth Age. "They can't open the door. The famous 'speak friend and enter', the door won't open. And so, when they attempt to get in through more dwarvish means, they cause the incident that starts the game where your character, your party of characters is now trapped inside."
"And so, it starts off with 'let's just get out', which is a pretty classic Moria story", he continues. "But then you eventually uncover mysteries that go along with the history of Moria, of why Durin hasn't come back yet, why was the Balrog there in the first place, why can't we just come back in, why is the luck of the dwarves so bad?"
"And now we can kind of show you, as you can see kind of on the map, what has happened to Middle-earth in the 70 years since The Ring was destroyed"
"And so, you're going through the story and the lore, which you can do, or you could just say, 'I just want to sit here and rebuild this cool area'. I want to build a base. I want to extract everything and build all of the recipes. As you go, you're managing your light. You're learning the story. You're extracting gold, iron. You're making new alloys. You're learning new kinds of crafting recipes that get older and older. You start to build stuff from the Second Age and the First Age".
"And then eventually the orcs figure out you're there, and they don't want you there", Dumont teases finally. "And part of this is also the story of, 'why are the orcs there?' So, [Gimli] has called all the different tribes of dwarves together to do it, as was foretold. So, by going into the Fourth Age, it meant we could provide a world that people are familiar with, but not the same story. And so, you know about dwarves, you know about Moria."
In the full interview there's more on QoL improvements in the genre such as the crafting table, mission types, procedural world vs pre-designed landmarks, and of course dwarf shenanigans.