'The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria' Gamescom Report
The Lord of the Rings worldbuilding is as dense as they come, with Middle Earth having its own intricate histories, complicated languages to master, and involved geopolitics.
Between that core trilogy, The Hobbit and the imposing tome that is The Silmarillion, creator J.R.R. Tolkien really thought it all through. Yet even he left some wiggle room for expansion.
As such, video games have been trying for decades to plug existing gaps in the mythos, and to put their own authorial stamp on this rich saga. Indeed, we’ve had developers fleshing out everything from the backstory of Gollum to the afterlife of Celebrimbor and the various conflicts that occurred on the sidelines while Frodo & Sam were journeying to Mount Doom.
Although these spin-offs have, to varying degrees of success, enriched our knowledge of what happened before and during The War of the Ring, we know comparatively little of its aftermath. You see, the Tolkien estate is notoriously protective of this particular epoch in the universe (known as The Fourth Age), as they don’t want to run the risk of undermining the source material’s original ending.
It’s therefore quite a big deal for Free Range Games to have been entrusted with their own little slice of this time period. With their upcoming release The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria, the team will be exploring what happened to the titular kingdom following Sauron’s defeat and how the dwarves went about reclaiming their homeland under the Misty Mountains.
Either alone or as part of a wider expedition party (in 8-player co-op), you will be able to roam a procedurally generated world, excavate its treasures and face off against a mysterious new threat.
Functioning as a survival game at heart, Return to Moria also has all of the usual fixings that you’d expect from that genre. You’ll need to mine resources in order to craft better gear and build up defences. There are survival meters that you’ll want to bear in mind as you stray further from safety. And, of course, there are terrible monsters lurking in the shadows.
To learn more about what’s in store, we sat down for a special presentation at Gamescom 2023, where we were treated to a live session demo and also had a chance to chat with both Game Director, Jon-Paul Dumont, and Christopher Scholz, CEO of Free Range Games.
Among other things, we spoke about how the title evolved into an “accidental” horror experience over the course of its development, the unique co-op mechanics that have been incorporated, and whether or not a certain Balrog will be making an appearance. Here’s everything we learned.
Bloody Disgusting: A lot of the iconography here, from the creature design of the orcs right through to the architecture of the mines themselves, will look familiar to those who have seen Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy. However, am I right in thinking that your game is based purely on the original Lord of the Rings novels and not any of the other preexisting adaptations?
Jon-Paul: That’s correct. The licensing rights with The Lord of the Rings are very complicated. Those movies certainly have their own distinct style, but that’s owned by New Line Cinema. And we only have access to the books here.
However, because all the various interpretations of Middle Earth that we’ve seen over the years are derived from the exact same source material, there is inevitably going to be some overlap.
I mean, for example, we watched that Amazon show [The Rings of Power], a good deal of which also happened to take place in Khazad-dûm, just like our game. And we quickly realised that it looked almost identical to our concept art. But the thing is, no one stole from anybody else here. It’s just a case of we’ve all been drawing upon the same influences, and so naturally arrived at some of the same places.
Likewise, we also have areas that you might recognise from the [Peter Jackson movie trilogy] — such as the Tomb of Balin — but again, that’s just because we’ve been studying Tolkien’s books. So, you’ll get to go to all of the same areas that The Fellowship visited and, in fact, will even be able to find collectable [mementos] that remind you of their adventures. Once you’ve unlocked the sandbox mode, you’ll be able to retrace their steps chronologically, all the way from the West Gate to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm.
So, to answer your initial question, we are strictly adapting the original books here. However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be fun little details for movie and TV fans to discover, as there is inevitably some crossover with those other adaptations.
Bloody Disgusting: And when it came to fleshing out your version of Moria, how much of the work was already done for you in those books? Were you given a prescriptive outline of what you could and couldn’t do by the Tolkien estate, or was there a lot of blank space that you had to fill?
Jon-Paul: For sure, there was a lot of blank space. Where possible, we’ve tried to stick to Tolkien’s descriptions of Moria itself, but that only got us so far and eventually we had to commit to making some of our own decisions.
One of the biggest challenges was actually figuring out what happened next in the Fourth Age because there’s quite a bit of uncharted territory in that era of the canon. We had to think about things like: “What would the new threat be? Where did all of the orcs go after Mordor fell? How would the dwarves go about retaking Moria?”
And then, once we made those creative decisions, we had to ensure that they felt authentically Lord of the Rings. As if our contributions to the lore could have feasibly been written by Professor Tolkien himself.
Some of that was obviously about returning to his books, but we also went a little deeper with our research. A great deal of what Professor Tolkien wrote was inspired by poems that he had translated from Old English and Norse mythology. You know, the names of all the dwarves come from Elder Edda, for instance.
And so, we went back to [the very same well] and tried to use those stories as inspiration ourselves. The thinking was: “If they were good enough for Tolkien then maybe they will inspire us too.”
We’ve taken [cues] from Beowulf, other Nordic translations, and even weirder places. I mean, there’s one moment in the game — I don’t want to spoil it — where I got really stuck for ideas and I was listening to Led Zeppelin at the time. So many of their tracks were based on Middle Earth and their experiences with Tolkien, and they had this one lyric in a particular song that was exactly what I needed. Robert Plant cleared up my writer’s block!
Bloody Disgusting: Moving onto gameplay now: you’ve got all of the usual survival meters here — monitoring needs such as hunger and sleep levels — but we noticed that players will also have to manage the mines’ lighting. Is that just so that you’ve got clear visibility and can see what’s going on, or is there a horror angle to that?
Jon-Paul: Yeah, there’s a little more to it than just being able to see. If you stay in the darkness for too long in our game, then you put yourself at risk of falling into despair. Your morale will start dropping and before long you will even begin taking damage.
The best way to counteract this and to restore your morale is, of course, by drinking a pint of ale [Return to Moria’s substitute for potions].
Christopher Scholz: As in real life!
Jon-Paul: In terms of the light mechanics, we also have a day-night cycle that you need to keep on top of. Because, just like in the books, the orcs will become way more active after dark.
Bloody Disgusting: But how do you have a day-night cycle when you’re underground? Are there not places where it’s impossible to get natural light?
Jon-Paul: Well, we do have places like The Upper Hauls, which Gandalf describes in the books as having these great windows. That piece of lore gave us an opportunity to have areas where the day-night cycle is a lot more evident, and you can even use it to your advantage by luring trolls into the sunbeams that are pouring through the windows, turning them to stone!
Bloody Disgusting: That’s such a cool detail!
Jon-Paul: But there are also places deeper down where, as you pointed out, the sun can’t be glimpsed at all. The cycle is still in effect while you’re in those areas, but you kind of have to use your own internal clock. We did take a few [artistic liberties] too, by introducing bioluminescence, complicated light-shaft mechanisms and mushrooms that glow in the dark. Just to help you see your environs. We don’t want you to be stumbling around completely blind in pitch-black conditions.
Bloody Disgusting: I guess it’s about striking a balance between making it feel dark and intense, but also not going overboard. Do you want the game to be scary when you’re in the dark?
Jon-Paul: Exactly. We never intended for the game to be overtly scary, but we found that it ended up that way almost by accident.
Sure, when you’re playing in multiplayer the tone is a bit more light-hearted. I mean, you’re jumping around on tables, joking together and taking on enemy hordes in these big epic battles.
When you’re playing alone, however, there really is no one to keep you company in the mines. You could turn a dark corner and suddenly be faced with a bloodthirsty orc that catches you totally off guard. We didn’t build code specifically for those jump scares, but they do happen organically from time to time.
In fact, we’ve learned on the dev team that you should always check that you’ve closed the door to your base. Because if you don’t, the goblins will sneak in while you’re busy tinkering with your armour or whatever and give you a nasty jolt. It might not be Dead Space, but it’s enough to make you yelp out.
We also have a noise system that can be quite panic-inducing. So, the louder you are in combat or mining, the more you inadvertently draw attention to yourself.
In order for that heat to die down, you must return to your base. Should you push your luck or stay out too long, however, then you will end up triggering “the drums in the deep.” At this point the enemy will lock onto your location and start hunting you down, which can be a pretty stressful moment as well.
So, we didn’t intentionally script any horror scenarios or design the experience with that feeling in mind, but it kind of just happened anyway.
Bloody Disgusting: The idea of an accidental horror title is really interesting! You mentioned just then that the game has quite a different tone depending on whether you’re alone or with friends. Could you maybe expand upon that?
Jon-Paul: We always wanted Return to Moria to work for both solo and co-op players. We didn’t set out to design it in a way that meant those two experiences would be so vastly different from each other. Again, it was just sort of another happy accident!
You definitely feel safer when you are part of a larger party. I suppose it can be a little scary if you separate from the group in multiplayer, as there’s no leashing to speak of here, and you can easily get picked off. It’s kind of like Left 4 Dead.
But the real intensity comes in solo play. The spawn system doesn’t check if you’re playing with others and I once had this really frightening experience where I was digging a hole and ended up breaching through to the other side, only to be confronted with 15 orcs all [huddled] around a fire. We’ve got a dynamic kind of horror in that sense.
Bloody Disgusting: On a related note, what kind of cooperative actions are there in this game? How can people work together to alleviate those stresses you’ve mentioned?
Jon-Paul: One good example is that we have two different kinds of cookbooks here. There are rations, which you can quickly bake in the oven and take with you on your adventures, but then we also allow you to prepare [communal] meals over in your base. So, if you have a group of friends, then you can set the table and all enjoy a nice feast together.
Elsewhere, when you are digging for ore, it’s possible that inspiration might strike for your character. If it does, then you will have the option to begin singing while you work, which in turn gives you a stamina buff.
Christopher Scholz: Yeah, that mechanic really shines in multiplayer too, because one of the options you have when creating your character is how you want them to sound. We have 8 different voices to choose from and so, if you have several people mining together, they will automatically harmonize. They might even have call-and-response bits in the lyrics, like you’d get in a sea shanty.
Some of the songs are entirely in the Dwarven language, which is pretty neat to hear as well. In fact, when we presented them to the guys at Middle-earth Enterprises — with actual Opera singers performing for us — they got goosebumps. One of them even started welling up with tears because they found it so beautiful.
On the other hand, you can also sing when you’re drinking with friends. That will obviously be a bit slurred, and the harmonies won’t be working quite so well. For those recordings, we ended up asking the Opera guys to sing a little worse than usual, and to go against their professional instincts [laughs]!
But yeah, there are lots of fun things players can do in co-op.
Bloody Disgusting: Finally, we’ve seen giant rats, cave trolls and orcs in the gameplay today, but there is one notable absence from the bestiary as far as I can tell. It might be a bit of a cheeky question, but I’ve got to ask: Are we going to see a Balrog?
Jon-Paul: No, there’s not a Balrog. We actually had quite a bit of controversy about that internally.
From my point of view, the game being set in The Fourth Age meant that we had to tell a new story. There are plenty of Lord of the Rings games out there, and a good number of them already recount the events of Tolkien’s work, including that iconic encounter with The Balrog. This was our chance to do something different!
We felt that the Balrog was very much Gandalf’s obstacle to overcome, and that Tolkien wouldn’t have [rehashed] the idea. He certainly wouldn’t have done “Son of Balrog” or anything like that [Laughs].
But, yeah, it was a fierce debate within the team. We did go back and forth on whether we should just do the easy fan service thing. In the end, though, we decided to try and create something of our own that would be just as fearsome as a Balrog.
We know that a contingent of fans will be disappointed that there isn’t one here. It’s a double-edged sword when you’re trying to be authentic and I think, ultimately, as an independent team, we could afford to take that risk.
You know, we’re not on a big AAA budget and there’s a reason that we’re priced at $39.99 instead of $70. It allows us to make some bolder decisions like not having a Balrog. I think if we were a $100 million blockbuster there would definitely be an obligation to include it, because you’d have to appeal to as many people as possible to [recoup that investment]. We on the other hand have a little more freedom.
Developed by Free Range Games and Published by North Beach Games, The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria will launch on the 24th of October for Windows PC via the Epic Game Store and on PlayStation 5. It will then later be released on Xbox Series X|S in 2024.
Opinionated, Verbose and Generally Pedantic. Loves Horror in all of its forms.
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At this year’s Gamescom we tried to stack our schedule with as many horror (or horror-adjacent) titles as we possibly could.
Rushing around the expansive halls of the Koelnmesse venue — trying to make each of our back-to-back appointments — we barely had chance to catch our breath across the jam-packed three days we were there. Among other things, we previewed nearly an hour of Alan Wake 2, got the inside scoop on Still Wakes the Deep, had a lengthy hands-on session with Lords of the Fallen, and then went on a perilous expedition into the bowels of Moria.
But that only represents a small fraction of the exciting projects we saw here. In addition to those big tentpoles, we also took a look at the efforts of some plucky solo devs and indie studios who’ve been working away on interesting little titles that you might be sleeping on.
Here are 9 of the best that we think you should be on your radar.
There’s been something of a resurgence lately in old-school survival horror, with scores of indie releases trying to ape the feel of PSOne classics like Silent Hill. Between Puppet Combo’s Murder House and last year’s phenomenal SIGNALIS, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the 1990s never went away.
CONSCRIPT is yet another example of a game that’s hoping to tap into this nostalgic craze. It has all the elements you’d expect to see in one of these throwbacks; from the low-res visuals to the top-down perspective, deliberately stilted combat, and obtuse puzzles.
However, what sets it apart from all the other titles that are cashing in on this voguish trend is its unique period setting. Dropping players into the trench boots of a French infantryman (at the infamous Battle of Verdun), CONSCRIPT renounces the schlocky thrills of Raccoon City or Derceto Manor, in favour of the very real atrocities of WW1.
A much more human enemy substitutes for the usual zombie throngs here, as you futilely try to repel the advancing German forces. On that note, none of the threats that you’ll be facing were concocted in a secret lab by avaricious supervillains, nor is there anything remotely supernatural afoot. It’s just the everyday horrors of war; pure and simple.
Explaining the concept to us at his Gamescom booth, Solo Developer (and history graduate) Jordan Mochi said: “We’ve all played enough survival horror titles that have monsters and ghosts. And I didn’t want to do that in my game, because I felt it would just cheapen the experience. I believe that depicting one the world’s bloodiest conflicts should be scary enough in its own right.”
On that point, we’re inclined to agree. After all, the short demo of CONSCRIPT that we played assured us that Mochi has been able to do justice to his heady subject matter. Indeed, his game envelops you in the hell of trench warfare, and authentically conveys the sense of impending doom that comes with harbouring the terrible knowledge that you may have to go over the front lines at any moment. Published by Team17, you can add CONSCRIPT to your Steam Wishlist now.
Hellboy: Web of Wyrd
Through no fault of its own, this one has a bit of a pall hanging over it, given that it features a posthumous performance from the late Lance Reddick.
For what it’s worth, we think he’s done a great job in the lead role here and brings a suitably cantankerous quality to his portrayal of Anung Un Rama. It’s pitch-perfect voice casting and you could envision him having one day become synonymous with the part (much like how Mark Hamill made the Joker his own) had circumstances been different.
In general, Hellboy: Web of Wyrd is shaping up to be a faithful adaptation of its source material that will no-doubt please fans. Created in partnership with Dark Horse and original creator Mike Mignola, it nails the recognisable art style of those comic books by seamlessly translating it into 3D. With thick heavy lines, bold colours, minimalist detailing and heavy shadows — plus a deliberately lower frame rate in certain places, recalling the Spider-Verse films — it’s a veritable feast for the eyes.
Elsewhere, Mignola’s world-building and lore have been respectfully preserved too, with one notable exception. This version of Big Red has had to quit chomping on cigars, not for the sake of his health, but rather for the game to secure its desired ESRB rating.
That one trivial concession aside, Web of Wyrd delivers practically everything you’d want from a Hellboy brawler. There’s opportunity to interact with your B.P.R.D colleagues, to wield the iconic Samaritan hand cannon, and to unleash the devastating power of the Right Hand of Doom. Throw in some weighty punch-ups against a diverse roster of eldritch creatures and everything falls into place.
Developed by Upstream Arcade and Published by Good Shepard Entertainment, Hellboy: Web of Wyrd will be released on the 4th of October. It will launch on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. You can add it to your Steam Wishlist here.
Forgive Me Father 2
The original Forgive Me Father was one of the better boomer shooters to come out in recent years, distinguished by its Lovecraftian theming and hand-drawn aesthetic.
When it came to the latter, developer Byte Barrel told us that their ambition was for every single frame to look like it could have ripped straight from a comic-book panel, and it was certainly very screenshot-worthy in that respect. Whether you were just standing around admiring the gothic scenery or blasting weird fishmen into tiny giblets with your shotgun, you could pause the action at any given juncture and just marvel at the grotesque artistry of it all.
Capitalising on what worked so well last time, Forgive Me Father’s upcoming sequel is aiming to crank up the splatter to an even more ludicrous degree. While one of the highlights in the first game was how you could shoot a zombie’s head off, only for them to then replace it with a spare noggin that they happened to be lugging around, that’ll seem positively tame compared to some of the outrageous sights you’ll witness in this follow-up.
The preview we saw at Gamescom was a non-stop orgy of blood, guts and eviscerations that reached near-comical levels of excess. After a frenetic shootout, you often couldn’t make out the environments anymore because every square inch of them was now covered in some kind of fleshy viscera.
On the less gloopy side of things, Byte Barrel is also making a few technical improvements to the established formula. Namely, Forgive Me Father 2 will have more interactive levels, an expanded upgrade system, a new hub area, and sprites that can face in up to eight directions instead of just one (meaning that you can now appreciate all that sweet, sweet gore from different angles)!
Brought to you by Fulqrum Publishing, Forgive Me Father 2 can be added to your Steam Wishlist here.
A fellow boomer shooter (and Fulqrum Publishing stablemate), Diluvian Ultra has a lot in common with Forgive Me Father 2. At least on the surface.
Both titles have embraced a retro design philosophy, whereby success is dependent on you constantly moving, unloading ammo with reckless abandon, and generally making a mess of the place. Indeed, taking things slow and playing cautiously in either of these upcoming releases is highly discouraged.
Which makes perfect sense in the case of Diluvian Ultra. After all, you wouldn’t expect a game about an undead, space zealot who’s hell-bent on getting revenge to exercise much in the way of restraint.
If you’re wondering what differentiates this one in such a crowded field, it’s the innovative approach to calculating damage. You see, enemies in Diluvian Ultra effectively have two colour-coded health bars; one measuring the integrity of their armour, and then another (sitting just beneath that) for displaying their life force. In order to whittle down the former, you’ll need to hit opponents with matching yellow projectiles, while the latter is depleted exclusively through the use of red attacks.
Where things get really interesting is that your so-called “lethal damage” fluctuates according to how much of the red bar is exposed on screen. So, if you’ve not worn down the enemy’s shield whatsoever, then your next lethal hit won’t even make a dent in their health pool. On the other hand, if you’ve completely sapped them of all their armour, then you could be primed to deliver a one-hit kill.
It’s an intriguing gimmick that promises to add an extra layer of strategy to combat and to get you thinking on your feet. Be careful though, because the same rules governing how your foes take damage also apply to you. You can add Diluvian Ultra to your Steam Wishlist here.
If you prefer your shooters to be of the slower, more methodical variety, then Ripout ought to be your jam.
A procedurally generated, co-op experience, it tasks you with exploring derelict spaceships that (surprise, surprise) are overrun with killer cyborgs. As with something like Left 4 Dead or last year’s The Anacrusis, there are only a finite number of missions to choose from here, but the scaling-difficulty, randomised objectives and unpredictable enemy spawns should keep you coming back for more.
Yet what most stood out to us was the relatively measured pacing. Taking a leaf out of Alien: Isolation’s book, you could feasibly go several minutes without encountering a solitary bogey in Ripout. Instead, the developers at Pet Project Games are content to let the mounting dread and anticipation do all of the heavy lifting, before then unleashing some unspeakable body-horror abomination just as you’ve let your guard down.
Where a lot of similar games feel like they have one tempo (i.e.: hordes endlessly pouring in without a second’s abate) Ripout has a nice ebb and flow that makes its scares all the more effective once they arrive.
Not to mention, it also featured our standout weapon of Gamescom 2023: the versatile pet-gun. A firearm that’s affixed to what appears to be a baby xenomorph, this can be used as your standard-issue assault rifle, but its true potential comes from that detachable critter.
With the mere press of a button, you can dispatch your pet to either distract opponents or to graft onto them. When it returns, it will then come furnished with their cybernetic enhancements and a new secondary fire for you to try out.
In our demo, we saw the pet fuse with a gelatinous sac that discharged poisonous gas, as well as a powerful laser capable of vaporising monsters to a crisp. Suffice it to say, we can’t wait to see what other tricks it has up its sleeve when the full game releases.
Published by 3D Realms, Ripout will be coming to PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC later this year. You can add it to your Steam Wishlist now.
Rounding off our list of shooters that we sampled at Gamescom, Remedium is more of an arcadey, twin-stick affair.
Although the gameplay is pretty typical in that regard, it was still worth a gander in our opinion thanks to its fascinating setting. Blending together aspects of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, renaissance history and viral outbreak horror; it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in the genre.
The central conceit is that all progress in this world came to an abrupt halt after a dreadful plague began spreading throughout the population, infecting both humans and animals alike. You yourself have contracted this nasty disease — which, in a subversive twist, actually gives you some cool buffs in combat — and thus embark on a quest to find a cure.
Along the way, you’ll be gunning down waves of mutant dogs, birds and even rhinos with your old-timely blunderbuss. Speaking of which, the other distinguishing feature here is that almost every piece of equipment in your arsenal can be augmented with elemental properties, through the era-appropriate science of alchemy.
In practice, this means that you’ll be able to transmute grenades into water bombs, coat your rounds in flammable liquid, or reconfigure your weapon as an electrical conduit. Judging from our brief test drive, it looks like there will be great scope to fiddle around with these options and to create your ideal builds.
Don’t just take our word for it though. You can see what all of the fuss is about right now by signing up to the Remedium playtest on Steam!
Open-world survival crafting indies are a dime a dozen nowadays, and you no longer count on such overused keywords to turn heads. If anything, those labels are more likely to provoke beleaguered eye-rolls than they are to pique anyone’s interest.
Fortunately, Vorax has found a way to spice up these tired proceedings by chucking in giant deformed babies, bloated mutants, and creatures that resemble Belial from the Basket Case movies. Who knew that breathing fresh life into a genre could be so simple?
Developed by IndieGala (who are primarily known for being a digital storefront, but recently have branched out into development), the game has all of the usual trappings of this type of fare. You’ll be gathering resources by day, boarding up windows at dusk, and withstanding infected swarms when night falls. Just like in countless other games.
Yet it still managed to get on our radar due to its insane bestiary, more story-driven approach, and immensely satisfying chainsaw.
If you want to give it a spin for yourself, the very same demo that we played at Gamescom can now be downloaded off Steam.
Gori: Cuddly Carnage
A frenetic candy-coloured bloodbath, Gori: Cuddly Carnage more than lives up to its homophonous title.
The team at Angry Demon Studio (another fantastic name by the way) have delivered a balls-to-the-wall hack & slack, wherein not a millisecond of playtime can elapse without somebody being graphically dismembered.
The attention-grabbing hook is that you control an anthropomorphic, hover-boarding kitty cat who has taken it upon themselves to *checks notes* depose an occupying army of sentient unicorn plushies. Having somehow passed by quality control at the factory, these innocent-looking toys come in many different shapes and sizes, but are united by a common goal. That being to wipe out their human makers.
With mankind having sealed its own fate then, it’s up to you and your A.I. skateboard to defend the planet; one day-glo massacre at a time.
Yes, it’s every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. However, what took us by surprise was just how polished and mechanically refined Gori is.
A game with such a quirky premise could easily coast by on the strength of its zaniness and use it as a crutch, yet that’s not the case at all here. On the contrary, we found the platforming to be incredibly responsive, the combat to be buttery smooth and the vibrant spectacle to be consistently eye-popping.
Published by Wired Productions, Gori: Cuddly Carnage will be heading to PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC and Nintendo Switch in 2023. You can add it to your Steam Wishlist now.
The Time I Have Left
Overflowing with ideas, The Time I Have Left ended up being a real dark horse and quite possibly our star of the entire show at Gamescom 2023.
Structured as a desperate race against the clock, it casts you in the role of a woman (residing in some far-flung, dystopian future) who discovers that she has only 6 hours to live, owing to a fatal illness of indeterminate origin.
Resolved to make the most of these precious last moments, she makes it her goal to escape from the underground facility that’s currently holding her captive before that hourglass runs out. Even if doing so means fighting until her literal dying breath.
Of course, this proves to be easier said than done, given that the mysterious affliction is also causing her to flit back and forth between the real world and some kind of nightmare dimension that’s inhabited by demonic creatures.
Unlike Remedium — which similarly features a protagonist surviving on borrowed time — there is a proper countdown mechanic for every chapter here, forcing you to make tough choices about where you want to explore and what parts of the story you want to meaningfully engage with. Complicating these matters further, if you are ever defeated in the game’s turn-based combat (against bizarre monsters that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Hieronymus Bosch painting), then you’ll skip ahead a few minutes, further increasing that sense of urgency.
There’s a lot going on in The Time I Have Left and we’ve hardly scratched the surface with this description. While we waited for our hands-on session, developer Ground Game Atelier told us all about their lofty aims, including how they wanted to explore the psychological blow of getting a terminal prognosis, and how an individual is supposed to process that and ultimately get their priorities straight.
With that said, if you’re in the market for something that’s not afraid to tackle hefty themes, this one could be quite special. Planned for release in 2024, you can add The Time I Have Left to your Steam Wishlist now.Free Range Games The Lord of the Rings: Return to MoriaGamescom 2023Jon-Paul DumontChristopher ScholzBloody Disgusting: A lot of the iconography here, from the creature design of the orcs right through to the architecture of the mines themselves, will look familiar to those who have seen Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy. However, am I right in thinking that your game is based purely on the original Lord of the Rings novels and not any of the other preexisting adaptations?Jon-Paul:Bloody Disgusting: And when it came to fleshing out your version of Moria, how much of the work was already done for you in those books? Were you given a prescriptive outline of what you could and couldn’t do by the Tolkien estate, or was there a lot of blank space that you had to fill?Jon-Paul:Bloody Disgusting: Moving onto gameplay now: you’ve got all of the usual survival meters here — monitoring needs such as hunger and sleep levels — but we noticed that players will also have to manage the mines’ lighting. Is that just so that you’ve got clear visibility and can see what’s going on, or is there a horror angle to that?Jon-Paul:Christopher Scholz:Jon-Paul:Bloody Disgusting: But how do you have a day-night cycle when you’re underground? Are there not places where it’s impossible to get natural light?Jon-Paul:Bloody Disgusting: That’s such a cool detail!Jon-Paul:Bloody Disgusting: I guess it’s about striking a balance between making it feel dark and intense, but also not going overboard. Do you want the game to be scary when you’re in the dark?Jon-Paul: Bloody Disgusting: The idea of an accidental horror title is really interesting! You mentioned just then that the game has quite a different tone depending on whether you’re alone or with friends. Could you maybe expand upon that?Jon-Paul:Bloody Disgusting: On a related note, what kind of cooperative actions are there in this game? How can people work together to alleviate those stresses you’ve mentioned?Jon-Paul:Christopher Scholz:Bloody Disgusting: Finally, we’ve seen giant rats, cave trolls and orcs in the gameplay today, but there is one notable absence from the bestiary as far as I can tell. It might be a bit of a cheeky question, but I’ve got to ask: Are we going to see a Balrog?Jon-Paul:Developed by Free Range Games and Published by North Beach Games, The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria will launch on the 24th of October for Windows PC via the Epic Game Store and on PlayStation 5. It will then later be released on Xbox Series X|S in 2024.GamescomAlan Wake 2Still Wakes the DeepLords of the Falleninto the bowels of MoriaCONSCRIPTHellboy: Web of WyrdForgive Me Father 2Diluvian UltraRipoutRemediumVoraxGori: Cuddly CarnageThe Time I Have Left