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Tales of the Shire is very serious about second breakfast

A hobbit chops food in Tales of the Shire.
Private Division
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This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

There have been plenty of Lord of the Rings video games created over the past two decades. Many of those focus on epic fantasy action, retelling the story of the original trilogy or at least playing around in its surrounding events (with mixed results). While that makes for a fun literary fantasy come to life, the franchise has always left a market untapped. Fighting is fun, but what about players who simply want to live out a quiet hobbit life?

Tales of the Shire: A The Lord of the Rings Game is set to deliver that fantasy. Rather than focusing on bloody battles against orcs, it’s a cozy life sim that lets players enjoy a leisurely life in a hobbit hole. It’s a dream come true in its own right. I got to see a bit of how that works at Summer Game Fest, where I tried out a sunny, 30-minute demo. While it didn’t give me a full sense of its life simulator elements, I at least learned one important thing: Tales of the Shire is as serious about cooking as its hobbits are.

The demo I played was exclusively built around its cooking systems, which was a bit of an odd choice for a first playable slice. When I jumped in, I got a brief introduction to my hobbit hero and their cozy home, which looked like it was plucked right out of one of the movies. What I come to learn is that I’m an inhabitant of a small hobbit town that’s yet to be fully recognized as part of Hobbiton. I’ll need to help build up the town to get it there. I didn’t get to poke around too long, though; I had cooking to do.

A hobbit visits a shop in Tales of the Shire.
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I was thrown into my kitchen and given a little tutorial on meals. Tales of the Shire goes the minigame route here, asking me to mash buttons to cut ingredients or scoop them into bowls with my joystick. The complexity comes when I need to craft dishes with specific flavors. At the bottom right of my screen, I see a square grid with four quadrants. That lets me know what my meal’s flavor is as I cook, and I want to land in a specific spot to get an extra tasty meal. Ingredients shape the flavor, as does how finely I chop ingredients. It’s a creative minigame that has me carefully planning my resources and chops to make a perfect meal.

I’d get to put that into practice in the next quest. A local asks me to create three different dishes for her restaurant, each with a different flavor. After each request, I hike back up to my hobbit hole, create the requested meal, and deliver it back. It’s not the most exciting slice of gameplay for a first demo, but it at least shows me that Tales of the Shire understands how important food is to hobbit culture.

I can see a bit more of that philosophy in the few other systems I see as I walk between objectives. Rather than using a mini-map with a waypoint to guide me, birds in the world guide me to my selected map marker. That emphasizes hobbits’ relationship with nature, which is a cute touch. I’m hoping to see more decisions like that in the full game.

A hobbit waters flowers in Tales of the Shire.
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Though I mostly cooked, I did get a chance to stroll around the town and take in its pleasant natural landscapes. It’s a picaresque, natural world filled with hobbits milling around, even if its soft art style leaves some finer details to the imagination. The paths I walked did seem a little more restrictive than I expected; I was mostly constrained to pathways rather than given free reign to roam around. I expect most of players’ time will be spent at specific buildings or points of interest rather than playing in a full sandbox.

You can expect a whole lot more than what I’ve described here from the main game, though. My front yard was filled with dozens of planters filled with vegetables, teasing a full farming system. You’ll be able to decorate your hobbit hole too by buying items from town. Currency can be earned by fishing and selling your haul. And of course, there’s a central story that intersects with the more known world of Lord of the Rings and its characters (I heard rumblings of a Baggins arriving at the village when I spoke to the townspeople). I don’t expect it to be as fully featured as something like Stardew Valley, but there should hopefully be enough to do for those who just want to live their hobbit dreams.

Tales of the Shire: A The Lord of the Rings Game launches later this year for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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