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Tales of the Shire Is the Adaptation We Need

I watched the trailer for Tales of the Shire yesterday, and instantly decided it wasn’t going to be my thing. You know what it is? Exactly the kind of gaming adaptations we need.

Life sims are huge right now. Will any of these games still be rated especially well in a decade? Enjoy before the wave comes crashing down, because man the weight of some of these titles is starting to feel heavy.

And I start this article from pointing that out, because actually Tales of the Shire is a really clever little adaptation that I think deserves being marked.

Gollum was a sign of things that could have come. There could have just been another million and one legally distinct adaptions from the Peter Jackson trilogy. And yet this is a game that fulfils a fantasy that many people didn’t really know they had.

Animal Crossing is all good and well, and you can say the same about Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley too. But Tolkien’s Middle Earth runs deep in the veins. It has been a cultural touchstone for generations. And while the adventure of the novels helps, there are lots of adventures that don’t reach the dizzying heights of success found with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

What makes them so special is the brave little heroes who take centre stage in these stories. They want to eat, drink and be merry. They want to live their best lives. Events happen around them, and they meet their challenges head on. The hobbits are fantastic avatars into this scary world of Black Riders and ancient kings.

Tales of the Shire knows that. And it gives us an unprecedented look into the daily grind of these creatures.

The Shire: There And Back Again (Daily)

Video game adaptations tend not to work – whichever way you want to go with them. Lord of the Rings has been pretty lucky in that it has some decent games under its belt. The Two Towers and Return of the King both have decent followings, and Shadow of Mordor was awesome too. The RTS has a following, as does the Final Fantasy X clone.

But in the year 2024, there’s little reason to just tell another bit of the story. Gollum failed for a multitude of reasons, and I hate to say there was any one that was worse than the others. But even if it had been the best technically delivered game ever, it still had one major problem: nobody actually wanted it. Gollum’s backstory needed no more detail.

Games make this mistake time and time again. One of the reasons Hogwarts was so successful is they made such a big thing about just being able to get out and explore the castle. It wasn’t the Deathly Hallows games, where you fire your way through set pieces like you’re the Terminator.

Tales of the Shire is what developers should be thinking about when they’re delivering content based on existing properties. How do we make something people didn’t even know they wanted? How do we get outside of the obvious? What can we do that isn’t just swords and sourcery?

My one hope now is that the developers understand what they’ve got here, and that they’re rewarded for it. It’ll be very easy to give into temptation and have characters from other properties turn up (SMEAGOL BEFORE THE RING FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY). It would be nice to think they resist that. Let it be its own thing.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott