Published on November 9th, 2023 | by Chris O'Connor
Return to Moria PC Review
Summary: Return to Moria and reclaim your lands.
There have been many games inspired by the fantastic works of J.R.R. Tolkien, some better than others. My first foray was with The Hobbit on the Sinclair Spectrum circa 1982 or so. In some ways it was perhaps inevitable that a game utilising the crafting mechanic would make it’s way to our gaming platforms and indeed Return to Moria is that game.
I was interested from the outset… the concept seemed quite cool… explore the mines of Moria and craft tools and structures as you go… but I was not prepared for the dangers that lay within!
Seriously though… this isn’t a gentle Minecraft type experience… not long after starting you will find yourself fending off a variety of creatures that don’t want you back in the mines. In this sense the game benefits from the multiplayer option as you can share duties, someone looking after the camp site while someone else tackles any attacking creatures. In single player it is a bit punishing… but not intolerably so… you just have to get a feel for how best to advance into the mines in order to have access to the resources you need to continue making progress and resources are crucial here.
But we should take a step back here… the introduction is quite a lovely bit of story telling helped in no small part by fantastic voice acting. Who doesn’t love hearing the tones of John Rhys-Davies (a man with an impressive bio of game acting and voice work). The scene is set for the dwarves returning to Moria now that the world of Middle Earth seems to be settling down after the events surrounding the ring of power and it’s destruction. But the return is not so simple… entry seems to be blocked and when you finally do manage to get into the mines, your way out is barred. Thus starts your task of discovering what was blocking entry and establishing contact with any friends in the mines and ultimately establishing access to the outside once more.
Much like other crafting games, you start with limited knowledge of items you can craft… as you progress you unlock more items/structures. As you uncover former dwellings you may uncover blueprints or other items that will help you rebuild the dwarven presence in the mines. But the sense of danger is ever present (not least the knowledge of the vile Balrog that once stalked the halls). You will need to establish locations to perform you crafting, to rest and to regain your strength in order to be able to mine the resources you need and salvage what you can from the materials left behind. If I’m being blunt… the crafting is a bit restrictive and you are best building bases in areas that are clearly hinting that they want you to build there… but I generally was having too much fun exploring to mind too much.
The character customisation is a bit of fun too… you are not limited to the traditional dumpy dwarf… you can create a leaner figure or even develop a lovely bearded lady dwarf to tackle the depths of Moria. There aren’t a lot of voice options but there are at least a few you can choose from to personalise your character a little bit more… plus, at points you have an option to sing a mining song as you gather ore and stone… that’s a nice touch. The visuals have a slightly cartoonish feel to them, sort of like a more modern and slightly more realistic look than the classic World of Warcraft characters. Ultimately it works fine and is consistent throughout… all of that is somewhat forgotten when you come across some of the lovely architecture that is still standing… the odd statue here, columns there.
It may not be a gritty battle filled game like many of the previous releases… but it’s also no walk in the park. I found it pleasantly steeped in the history and lore of Middle Earth (you will come across items that have legends/stories/history attached to them that you can read about in some of the information menus). It takes a bit to get the balance right between advancing and making sure you are still close enough to decent resources… but when you managed to get to a new area and the fantastical scenery it’s all worth it.
Certainly grab a copy if you are a fan of Middle Earth and if you like the crafting genre… or even just if you are a fan of Middle Earth, there’s more lore here to absorb whilst traveling the halls of Moria (or digging them out).