Preview: Tales of the Shire Lets You Live Out a Homely Hobbit Life Set Before Lord of the Rings 1

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are grand fantasy adventures laced with intense action, dramatic moments, and complex characters. When it comes to video game adaptations, most try to capture the feel of the films, or riff on the war at the centre of Tolkien's works. But what if we did away with all of that, and just pottered about in a comfy Hobbit village instead? Tales of the Shire is just that — a relaxed life sim that takes place between the two main stories.

We played this upcoming title at Summer Game Fest Play Days, albeit briefly. Set in Bywater, you enter the village as a new arrival and quickly meet your first resident, who helps you through the tutorials. Essentially, this is a life sim game in a similar camp to the likes of Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, but there's a real emphasis here on keeping things simple and stress-free.

To that point, the game runs on its own in-game day/night cycle and seasons, and it's been balanced in order to ensure the player never feels rushed or pressured to get everything done each day. Developer Weta Workshop — the New Zealand team that helped bring Middle-earth to life in Peter Jackson's movies — is aiming for an idyllic, relaxing game with low-pressure objectives, and that vibe certainly comes across.

Almost immediately, we're introduced to cooking, which it turns out is a major aspect of Tales of the Shire. We suppose it's to be expected with how food-oriented Hobbits are. Indeed, preparing meals for other villagers is how to increase friendships with them; serve up the types of food they each like and cook them well, and you'll quickly grow closer to the hairy-footed fellows. Of course, making more complex dishes will require better ingredients, and expanding your kitchen and methods of cooking will be part of the progression.

Next, we got a brief glimpse at character customisation, which looks pretty robust. You can choose lots of options for your Hobbit's clothing, various physical attributes (including how hairy their feet are), and even their personality, which will inform how they move around. A jolly avatar will have a more jovial walk than a grumpy one, for example. You'll also give them a suitably Hobbity name. There are lots of built-in, officially approved forenames and surnames to cycle through, or you can opt to enter one yourself; we enjoyed all the silly-sounding monikers, so stuck with one of those.

Bywater itself features locations and characters that fans will be familiar with, such as the Green Dragon Inn and Farmer Cotton. The layout of the settlement has been produced as accurately as possible to its description in the books, and it's pleasingly higgledy-piggledy in much the same way you'll recall from the filmic interpretation of the Shire.

We next take a stroll through Bywater and sample its fishing minigame, which isn't particularly complicated but is a little more involved than in some other games of this ilk. It's one activity among many; you'll also spend your time gardening, foraging, and taking on quests for other characters. You'll be able to join clubs for these various pastimes, leveling up your skills, getting better equipment, and so on. This makes up much of the game's progression, alongside improving relationships with the other characters and completing quests within the title's four acts.

Our time with Tales of the Shire was short, but its charming presentation and relaxed gameplay promises a very chilled out experience. We're curious to see how the game holds up over the course of a full playthrough, because it seems relatively simplistic, even if that is by design. Whatever the case, fans of Tolkien's work, or those who want to lose themselves in a cosy world, will surely find a lot to like here.

Tales of the Shire hits PS5 later in 2024. Are you excited for this sleepy life sim? Cook up second breakfast in the comments section below.