Earlier this year, developer Free Range Games gave us a sneak peek at the world map for their upcoming base-building survival game, The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria. However, that map was not final. Luckily, Game Informer has the exclusive reveal of the game’s final map, along with two different variants. Here’s a look at what players can expect in Return to Moria:
Along with this exciting preview of the game’s maps, Game Informer had the opportunity to speak with Bradley Fulton, the art director of Return to Moria, about the game, its visuals, and the process of designing the maps and building the game in the beloved Lord of the Rings universe.
Setting and Designing the Game
When asked about the inspiration behind the game, Fulton explained, “From the very start of this project, we knew that the game would be a cooperative multiplayer survival game set in Middle Earth. Dwarves seemed like a natural fit as the main characters. Their hardy and industrious nature aligns well with the focus on mining, crafting, and building in the game.”
He continued, “Moria in the Fourth Age immediately jumped out as the perfect setting. The Mines of Moria are like the original dungeon crawl, and we wanted to go back to the source of inspiration for so many fantasy tropes. Setting the game in the Fourth Age allows players to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know about Moria’s history.”
Creating Authentic Maps
Fulton discussed the process of designing the maps, saying, “We wanted the maps to feel like hand-made artifacts of Middle Earth, drawn by Dwarves themselves. Our illustrator, who already had deep knowledge of the setting, was able to bring that authenticity to the maps. Everything from the subtle differences between Dwarven and Orcish tribes to the narrative connections came naturally.”
Procedural Generation and Unique Gameplay
As for the gameplay, Fulton revealed that procedural generation plays a big role in creating unique experiences for players. “Moria presents some interesting challenges for a procedural game. We have numerous unique landmarks and locations implied by Tolkien but never actually depicted. We wanted to arrange them in a way that fits the player’s journey but still feels varied each time. Key resources, events, and challenges are randomly placed to keep each ‘run’ fresh,” he explained.
Familiar Faces and Combat
When asked about familiar characters from the Lord of the Rings series, Fulton teased, “Even before the events of the trilogy, certain members of the Fellowship ventured into Moria, and players may come across signs of their passing. Balin’s expedition and the line of Durin are also significant to the story.” He also spoke about the combat mechanics, stating, “Crafting powerful gear is essential for survival, including combat. Players will need to upgrade and choose their weapons strategically to overcome different enemies.”
The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria Release Dates
The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria will be released on PC (via the Epic Games Store) on October 24. The PS5 version will launch on December 5, and the Xbox version is set to release in early 2024.