Tales of the Shire is Stardew Valley but with happy little hobbits

Lord of the Rings games tend to be full of conflict, whether you're a band of dwarves delving deep into Moria and fighting off orcs, or Gollum sneaking through Mordor and trying not to become dinner for its denizens. Tales of the Shire: A Lord of the Rings Game eschews all the grim stuff, though, instead offering players the chance to enjoy the chill life of a hobbit in the village of Bywater. 

New Zealand special effects company Wētā Workshop—which was responsible for sets, costumes and beasties in the Lord of the Rings trilogy—teased the game last year, but the trailer above is our first proper look at its hobbit-themed life sim. 

Cosy, wholesome vibes are very much the deal here. You'll make a hobbit "with an array of customisations", says Wētā, and then just do what hobbits (with the exception of the Baggins clan) do: decorate your hobbit hole, fish, forage, garden and bake pies. You'll be able to ingratiate yourself with your fellow hobbits, too, and "build relationships with the Bywater locals by helping them to build a garden, sharing one of the many daily hobbit meals, and more". 

Your overarching goal will be to help Bywater achieve "official village status" by throwing a big party: the Bywater Festival. Maybe you'll be visited by a certain tall wizard, too. Otherwise, it looks like you'll just be enjoying a low-pressure holiday in a picturesque setting, which looks lovely and inviting no matter what the season. 

Speaking of seasons, the passage of time will have an impact on your activities, letting you harvest seasonal crops and flowers, and introducing weather that "affects daily routines". Wētā also teases some "seasonal surprises". Beyond the village itself, you'll be able to search for secret glades and lost treasures—probably not magical weapons, though. As you work towards gussying up the village for the big festival, you'll net yourself rewards, and you'll also be able to get your hands on upgrades for your home, clothes and skills by trading with your fellow hobbits. 

It'll be interesting to see how Wētā fleshes out the life of Middle-earth's diminutive inhabitants. Middle-earth Enterprises has given the developer the "broadest creative license to interpret the underlying lore of the books", so it has some flexibility in regards to how it presents them. 

While we get to spend a bit of time in the Shire in the books, films and games, it exists mainly for contrast—an idyllic prologue to set the stakes before we go off on an orc-filled adventure. But I've always wanted to linger. Maybe have a smoke under a big tree. Steal a pie from a window sill. Thus, I find myself pretty eager to put down my enchanted sword and have a cosy little holiday instead. 

There's no hard release date yet, but you can expect to take a trip to Bywater in the second half of 2024.

Fraser Brown
Online Editor

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.