LOTR Return to Moria Q&A

The forthcoming video game LOTR Return to Moria, set to launch this October 2023, is currently in development by Free Range Games and will be published by North Beach Games. It takes place in the imaginative world of Middle-earth, initially crafted by J. R. R. Tolkien. In this gaming experience, players answer the call of Lord Gimli Lockbearer and step into the roles of a band of Dwarves entrusted with a significant mission: the retrieval of Moria’s long-lost wealth. Moria, also known as Khazad-dûm or Dwarrowdelf, is a Dwarven realm concealed deep within the earth. Achieving this objective demands unwavering endurance as players venture into the intricate Mines of Moria in search of hidden treasures.

LOTR: Return to Moria

Free Range Games team members shared their time and conducted a question-and-answer session, answering questions from their discord channel in this LOTR Return to Moria Q&A.

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LOTR Return to Moria Q&A – Story

How did you decide what lore to incorporate or invent for LOTR Return to Moria, particularly given the limited information about the Fourth Age?

There are very few sentences in J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings concerning dwarves, according to game director John-Paul Dumont of LOTR Return to Moria. Nonetheless, further details of the Fellowship members’ fates may be found in the appendices. Up to a certain point in the chronology, extrapolation using this knowledge is possible; but, as the story continues beyond that point, it becomes increasingly difficult. Up to Aragorn’s passing, Tolkien wrote extensively, but his latter works are less well-documented. Dumont stated that the LOTR Return to Moria’s history began with Gimli’s establishment of the dazzling caves near Helm’s Deep and her involvement in the reconstruction of portions of Minas Tirith.

LOTR: Return to Moria Fourth Age

To comprehend dwarven history, particularly about Khazad-dûm, Farrha Khan, the narrative designer of LOTR Return to Moria, clarified that they depended on the sparse lines from Tolkien’s key works, such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. To piece together the dwarven viewpoint on their culture, history, and important figures like Durin and Balin, they looked at anything that was spoken about dwarves by different characters, both dwarves and strangers. They were able to close holes and provide a more thorough narrative from a dwarven perspective thanks to this technique.

We recognize the need to avoid giving away too much about the endgame gameplay since many community members have inquired about it. But could you perhaps explain whether or not LOTR Return to Moria has a conclusion? And if so, what choices do players have once they get to that point? Can they go back to places and carry on with their adventures?

Dumont explained that LOTR Return to Moria features a concluding story but continues in a sandbox mode after its conclusion. As players progress and explore, they unlock more of Moria, making LOTR Return to Moria increasingly sandbox-like. Even after finishing the main story, the game remains engaging, offering additional materials, tools, weapons, and armor that unlock post-story. This provides a strong incentive to continue playing despite solving the core mysteries. The development team has planned content for at least a year, if not multiple years, ahead. This content includes enhancements to the overall game, the realization of cool ideas initially on the back burner, and the expansion of sandbox gameplay after the main narrative’s conclusion.

Can you elaborate on the sound and music choices within the game and the soundscape you’ve created for Moria?

Fulton explained that creating a sense of suspense was a priority in the LOTR Return to Moria. Moria is a place filled with preconceived notions from fans, and they want to stay faithful to that concept. They aimed for a feeling that danger could lurk around every corner, achieved through minimalist sound design, distant ominous sounds, and the subtle suggestion that something may be approaching or reacting to the player’s actions. Music and sound would punctuate these moments to emphasize high drama, such as the drums in the deep during a horde attack. While they plan to enhance and expand this aspect over time, the core direction is to maintain a minimalistic approach.

LOTR: Return to Moria Music and Sound

What’s the estimated time it might take to complete the story in LOTR Return to Moria? Additionally, do you have any insights on the approximate size of the map?

The estimated time needed to finish LOTR Return to Moria varies greatly depending on the style and choices of the player. About six hours of gameplay are available in the main plot content, however, players may spend up to 20–30 hours in the test part. Some players finished about one-third to half of the game’s whole plot and geographical region during the closed beta in less than 24 hours, while others took more than 100.

It’s predicted to take 40 to 50 hours to finish the main plot in a focused playing that ignores all other activities. Some players may finish it sooner, but most players will likely need 60 to 80 hours. This variance results from the open-ended nature of the genre, which allows for a great deal of player agency, base construction, and exploration—all of which have the potential to greatly increase playtime. As such, it is anticipated that the average median playtime will be around sixty hours.

The game’s gameplay loop offers a harmonious combination of comfortable base management and thrilling exploration. While at your base, you’ll immerse yourself in activities such as decorating, cooking, and brewing, fostering a warm and welcoming atmosphere. During your adventures, time management, resource gathering, and overcoming diverse challenges become crucial. The level of personalization for your base, spanning aesthetics and functionality, is nearly limitless. If your goal is to revive even a small portion of Moria’s former splendor, the potential for imaginative and intricate base construction is extensive, especially given the vast exploration opportunities within the expansive environment.

LOTR Return to Moria Q&A – Gameplay

In the development of the Dwarven language, which language or languages served as the basis for its creation?

Dumont explained that they collaborated with Professor David Sallow, known for his work on several Tolkien languages, especially for the movies. However, for the LOTR Return to Moria, they needed to craft something entirely original. It’s intriguing because Professor Tolkien’s writings on the Dwarven language, Kuzdal, are limited. They only had a few lines, like “Baruk Khazâd,” to work with. Sallow’s approach was rooted in what Tolkien had discussed regarding the language’s direction and its basis, particularly in Semitic languages. This Semitic influence continued to shape the development of the Dwarven language for the game.

LOTR: Return to Moria Dwarven Language

In November, the community was asked about their opinions regarding character information and item persistence across different save games. Will it be possible to bring your inventory into a friend’s game?

One major focus for the team has been making it possible for players to take a character they have developed in the game and move them, along with all of their stuff, to a friend’s realm, according to Michael Downing, the creative director of LOTR Return to Moria. All of your items will be packed away, along with the ability to craft and keep access to unlocked recipes. A buddy may easily use your high-level equipment to help you, even if some things, like recipes, are unique to your world and server.

What customization options will be available to players when they’re creating their characters for transfer to other saves or when starting a new game? Can players make further changes to their characters later on? What types of customization can they anticipate? And about being able to change things before going to other games, will that be possible?

According to Bradley Fulton, the art director of Lord of the Rings Return to Moria, when creating characters, they tried to give players as many options as possible for their dwarfs. They spent a great deal of time and energy creating a variety of facial traits that represent the numerous personalities and backgrounds that dwarfs may have from around Middle-earth. They also took time to create a variety of haircuts, accessories, and beard looks. Dwarves are renowned for their skill, therefore it was intended that they would exhibit a wide range of influences from around Middle-earth with jewelry, braids, and other cultural characteristics.

LOTR: Return to Moria Multiplayer Mode

By combining all these elements, they achieved an impressive number of potential character combinations. Consequently, players should have no trouble creating a dwarf character that resonates with their personal preferences, right down to details like scars and tattoos. Dumont added that you can change things before going to other games, you’ll always be able to pull any dwarf you’ve got up, make any edits that you want, and then go in between.

When players dive into LOTR Return to Moria, some community members have been wondering about the system for upgrading and progressing in terms of weapons, armor, character stats, and so on. Are there levels or tiers, and what can players expect regarding these aspects?

According to Downing, John-Paul, Farah, and Bradley have done a fantastic job creating a range of armor and weapons that are indicative of many cultural times and areas inside the dwarven realm, which may be unlocked to reveal more powerful equipment. These varied sets are progressively unlocked by players as they go in LOTR Return to Moria, and they may then upgrade them or reach greater power levels. The goal of Moria’s character stat system has always been to allow players to carefully customize their power.

This allows for a dynamic where a friend who’s just starting can join your game, and you can equip them with the items you’ve crafted, enabling them to partake in your adventures. While stats are indeed present, they are entirely influenced by the armor worn and the weapons carried by the character. Dumont explained the challenge of creating an armor progression in the game, noting that the traditional material-based advancement common in survival games didn’t fit the dwarven context in the Fourth Age. Instead, they devised a unique progression system where dwarves start with Fourth Age equipment and craft Third Age items simultaneously.

Exploring Khazad-Dum provided the opportunity to discover ancient secrets, with Third Age gear being good, Second Age gear better, and First Age gear the best. This approach integrated lore discovery, environmental exploration, and item unlocking into a cohesive progression system. Farrha added that in one of the books, there’s a line where one of the dwarves, possibly Gloin, mentions that they had lost much of their knowledge when they departed Khazad-Dum. Therefore, the idea that dwarves in the game can rediscover this lost knowledge, uncovering ancient crafting secrets and redeveloping them, is quite fascinating. That’s certainly how they view it.

Related Content: Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria Interview at Gamescom

What does the combat system entail, and how does the difficulty level evolve as players progress through the game? Additionally, could you elaborate on the distinctions in difficulty that players might encounter between solo and multiplayer modes?

Jeanie Hyatt, the lead gameplay engineer of LOTR Return to Moria, emphasized that player progression in LOTR Return to Moria hinges on crafting and equipment. As players advance, they encounter more potent weapons and armor, alongside tougher and diverse enemy types. Initial encounters in new areas are notably challenging until players gather resources to craft specialized gear for these foes. Additionally, adversaries may possess unique abilities like poison, necessitating specific item crafting for defense. The combat system offers depth for players to skillfully engage but places great importance on crafted equipment. Equipping the right gear ultimately results in a substantial power increase.

LOTR: Return to Moria Different Modes

Downing also mentioned that in multiplayer mode, LOTR Return to Moria becomes progressively more challenging as you introduce more players. However, having more people can make certain challenges easier to overcome. If you’re struggling with a particular area, bringing your friends along can provide valuable assistance. On the flip side, gathering the necessary resources for everyone’s equipment becomes more demanding. While obtaining the materials for a single set of armor might not have been too challenging, acquiring enough for eight sets becomes considerably more difficult.

Hyatt also mentioned that having friends around allows you to specialize in roles depending on what weapons they choose to use. For instance, one person may concentrate on a robust shield while another employs a heavy hammer. The way you approach and interact with foes may be greatly affected by this specialty because each weapon has unique characteristics regarding damage per second (DPS), weight, and speed. As such, the way your crew is assembled and the gear they select will change the gameplay dynamically.

Will there be mods available in the game?

Due to our limited team size, we were unable to offer comprehensive software support; yet, we are also not taking any preventative action.

When players use a seed to generate a map at the start of the game, can you explain how that seed influences the world map? Is it possible to alter the map’s size or specific areas using a particular seed or through in-game options that affect world generation?

Downing explained that the way seeds function in our Procedural Generation system is designed to create a consistent world with fixed locations that are identical across all players’ games. However, how these locations are interconnected can vary significantly. The seeds primarily influence the pathways between these spaces, the contents of those paths, resource distribution, and resource accessibility.

LOTR: Return to Moria Lore and Map size

Regarding fine-tuning options like making the game easier or more challenging, adjusting resource availability, and other factors, the development team is enthusiastic about exploring these possibilities. However, due to being a smaller team, these features won’t be extensively supported at launch. Nonetheless, it’s an area they are keen to delve into in the future. Dumont added that introducing New Game Plus options, which could include making the game easier or harder, is on the roadmap for the next year.

Is something like a photo mode planned?

Hyatt acknowledged that it’s a feature they’ve contemplated and have on the roadmap of LOTR Return to Moria. They recognize that it has been suggested by the community, and it’s something they, as well as the players, desire. Specifically, they aim to implement a photo mode and the ability to toggle off or scale the user interface (UI), considering these as quality-of-life improvements they intend to prioritize.

Will there be an option in the future to name the weapons or armor we make or custom change its attributes to make it fit more to their play style?

Sadly, there won’t be a feature for naming armor and weaponry at launch. On the other hand, as you go through LOTR Return to Moria, you can acquire rare gems that allow you to modify your weapons. You may engrave each gem’s corresponding rune on your weapon to give it unique stat benefits and abilities. on slow down opponents during combat, for instance, you may equip a Frost Rune on a Halberd that has a 360-degree attack. These kinds of combinations are rather common, and to increase the number of possibilities, we want to add additional runes and effects in later releases.

LOTR: Return to Moria Armor

It was also suggested by Downing and Dumont that you would be able to customize your character’s armor by altering its color and design. We intend to increase the number of customization choices in the future. Runes can now only be used on weapons, but we want to add features that allow you to customize your armor to fit your playstyle.

LOTR Return to Moria Q&A – Developing the Game

What were your sources of inspiration and references for designing Moria and portraying the Dwarves within the game? Were there any surprising references that, although not traditionally Dwarven, integrated well with the game’s style and could be surprising for community members to learn about?

Players will come across the Elven Quarter early on in the game, which could come as a surprise considering Khazad-Dum’s past. But this inclusion is predicated on the historical partnership that existed at that time between Dwarves and Elves. It prepares the player for future exploration of yet-to-be-discovered game areas. The Elven Quarter offers a chance to investigate the aesthetics of Elves in this rendition of Middle-Earth, presenting a distinct elf community. The artifacts and furnishings discovered in the remains of Khazad-Dum bear witness to the merging of the styles that resulted from the cohabitation of Dwarves and Elves in this area.

LOTR: Return to Moria Bridge of Khazad-Dum

When LOTR Return to Moria was first being developed, did any of you have a specific aspect of dwarven knowledge, history, or design that you used as a starting point for your responsibilities in crafting the game, considering how much lore and world-building there is in Middle-earth?

The designers of LOTR Return to Moria began by imagining what the dwarves in Khazad-Dum might look like. They wanted to create a look that was both timeless and indicative of dwarven fashions to come. They combined components from Celtic and Norse influences to create a distinctive look, drawing inspiration from ancient human societies. The team’s goal in terms of plot and mythology was to adhere faithfully to Professor Tolkien’s writings by frequently citing the foundational works and delving into the complex background of Middle-earth’s past. New ideas and insights were frequently generated throughout the book club meetings that were held during production.

These sessions also inspired composers of music. When thinking about Dwarven lore, the main enemies—goblins and orcs—were the main emphasis, and the goal was to make them deadly opponents. The team’s dedication to being “lore forward” led to the decision not to include a Balrog in the LOTR Return to Moria, as it felt like Gandalf’s story, and introducing another would diminish the impact. We also wanted to balance the game by promoting social and cozy elements, such as sharing meals and drinks and singing inspired by “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.” Rather, they intended to narrate a fresh tale of the dwarves taking back Moria as their home, hinting at the Balrog’s existence throughout the game.

What was the team’s experience like working on LOTR Return to Moria?

The development team expressed how much they loved working on LOTR Return to Moria and how much they respected J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Since they were all admirers of Tolkien, they all considered the encounter to be a dream come true. It was fun working together on the project, and they often got into discussions about orcs and other game mechanics for hours on end.

Because of how well-loved the material is, the crew realized that they had an obligation to be faithful to Tolkien. Nonetheless, they seized the chance to develop a variety of patterns and styles by embracing the lively and whimsical quality of dwarfs as the primary protagonists. Because of the team’s values-driven and collaborative approach, different team members were able to contribute creatively, resulting in LOTR Return to Moria’s many unique features and concepts. This made the development process joyful and gratifying.

What was your biggest challenge during the development process?

LOTR Return to Moria design presented several difficulties, such as including interactive elements and accurately representing the damage conditions of various structure types. It was a constant struggle for the team to make sure these elements fit inside memory and coordinated with the overall design. They take pride in the solutions they came up with to deal with these problems, though.


We have learned more about the difficulties, the enthusiasm, and the creative process that went into creating this thrilling Middle-earth experience thanks to this Q&A session with the brilliant creators behind LOTR Return to Moria. The crew is incredibly dedicated, as seen by everything from their painstaking attention to dwarven lore to their excitement in bringing Tolkien’s world to life.

We can recognize the attention to detail and skill that will make LOTR Return to Moria a memorable experience for both explorers and fans as we anxiously anticipate its release. Excitement is further heightened by the prospect of an ongoing post-story sandbox experience. Thus, comrades in the journey, be ready to explore the depths of Khazad-Dum, learn its mysteries, and lose yourself in a realm where dwarven history and Middle-earth traditions await your discovery.

We hope you enjoyed our Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria Q&A session with the game developers. There is plenty of information still left untouched, but we do hope as time passes by, it’ll be disclosed by the devs. If you wish to see the full thoughts on LOTR Return to Moria Q&A, Click Here! If you found this article helpful, let us know in our community’s discord. Check out more guides for LOTR Return To Moria on our homepage!


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