REVIEW – Published by Daedalic Entertainment and Nacon, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is an action-adventure game focusing on one of the most mysterious and controversial figures in the popular fantasy universe. The game is based on the books by author J.R.R. Tolkien, and does not follow the film’s visual style. The game takes place eight years before Gollum appears in The Lord of the Rings and gives us a glimpse into the hidden corners of Middle-earth from his perspective. Is Gollum worth following in the world of The Lord of the Rings, or should we leave him alone in his cave?
Controlled from a third-person view, Gollum’s movement and combat is made exciting by stealth-based gameplay. You must use Gollum’s abilities such as climbing, jumping, running and hiding to avoid or defeat enemies and solve various puzzles and tasks. Gollum’s dual personality, caused by the power of the Ring, also plays an important role: tension often develops between Gollum and Smeagol, affecting the gameplay and the story. Other familiar characters such as the fairy king Thranduil or Gandalf, the well-known wizard , are also present.
A dark side
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is set in Middle-earth, a fantasy world created by J.R.R. Tolkien. The game takes place in the time between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as the evil dark lord Sauron grows in power and spreads his dominion. The game’s protagonist is Gollum, a Hobbit once known as Smeagol, who has been changed and distorted by the Ring. The Ring is a magical jewel that carries the personality of Sauron, and which all seek to possess.
The story of Gollum follows the journey of the title character, a little gnome, eight years before he appears in the plot of The Lord of the Rings. Gollum’s goal is to retrieve the Ring that was taken from him by a hobbit named Bilbo in The Hobbit. But to do so, he must travel to Mordor, the realm of Sauron, where the Ring is guarded. On his journey, he will visit various locations, such as the forest of Mirkwood, Mount Ungol in Cirith, and the tower of Barad-dűr. He also meets other characters who help or hinder him: Thranduil the fairy king, Gandalf the grey mage, Shelob the giant spider or the orcs.
The dual personality of Gollum plays an important role in the plot: there is often tension between Gollum and Smeagol, and this influences our decisions and the story. Many times we have to choose which side to listen to: the evil Gollum or the innocent Sméagol. This affects not only the dialogue and the mood, but also the outcome.
All this sounds very good on paper, but the truth is that the story is pretty much unremarkable, and Gollum himself is very much a bunch of boring, noname characters who do the usual “go here, go there, pick this up, do that” tasks to our poor orc captive hero, who is, well, hard to feel sorry for in light of his knowledge of the Lord of the Rings storyline. The result of all this was that I found it hard to identify with the misadventures of our gnome friend (which I controlled during the game), so I often found myself bored with the guides and the story itself.
One of the greatest strengths of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is that it offers a new perspective on Middle-earth. Gollum is not a hero or a warrior, but a twisted creature with only one goal: to get the Ring. Not only do we get to visit familiar locations such as Mordor and Mirkwood, but also places that have not been explored before, such as Haradwaith and Khand. The story is also interesting and exciting, as we learn not only about Gollum’s past and character, but also about what happens in Middle-earth before Sauron comes to power.
The game’s visuals are stunning and richly detailed, faithfully reflecting the fantasy world Tolkien envisioned. The light and shadow effects, textures, and animations are all of a high quality, and faithfully recreate the atmosphere of the various locations. The music and sounds also match the atmosphere of the game: the music is epic and dramatic, and the sounds are varied and authentic. You can also hear the distinctive voice of Gollum, dubbed into English by Liam O’Brien.
However, the game does not run equally well on all platforms. PCs with the right video cards and PS5 have ray tracing, which makes the graphics even more beautiful and realistic, but it’s a big performance drag.
When Frodo’s eyes start to water…
Sadly, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is far from a perfect game. While the idea itself seems exciting, the gameplay can often feel dull and monotonous. The constant sneaking is not something that is mind-blowingly engaging or challenging in the long run: enemy behaviour is predictable and silly, and hiding is too easy. The combat isn’t very enjoyable either: Gollum isn’t really suited to combat, so you’re left to avoid enemies or take them out quickly. The puzzles aren’t too complicated or interesting either: most of the time you just need to find an object or flick a switch, and apart from the struggle with the clumsy camera, it’s all pretty easy to solve.
What’s particularly annoying is that the game often lags and slows down a lot, especially in larger areas or when there are multiple enemies. And the Steam Deck version runs particularly poorly, reaching only 25-30 fps even on low settings, which is very frustrating and makes the experience unenjoyable. Steam Deck, by the way, I noticed that when Gollum appears on the screen, the frame-rate drops by 15 fps or so, so it seems the graphics engine doesn’t like our gnome-like hero either.
On PC and consoles, this title performs better, but it’s not quite up to next-gen standards. Even on a better PC, the game seems to struggle with even the smallest tasks, such as sprinting, and there was frequent lag and frame rate drops, which broke a bit of the LotR magic we were hoping for. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum also had constant performance issues on these platforms, stuck like my grandmother’s noodle on PC throughput, and even the simplest tasks like sprinting or jumping had the Xbox 360/PS3 era pop-in. And during the walkthroughs, character animations were often poorly timed and clumsy and felt dated for a game made with Unreal Engine.
“Precious”?! Not really…
I was very much looking forward to The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, and unfortunately, it was a disappointment. The Middle-earth, presented from a new perspective, is sufficiently exciting (true, Talion is impossible to beat from the two “Shadow of” games) for Tolkien fans, the graphics are reasonably well-done (though one should not expect miracles) and reasonably detailed, and the music is epic and dramatic. However, the gameplay itself can often feel dull and monotonous: the stealth is not very exciting or challenging, the combat not very enjoyable, the puzzles not very difficult or interesting. The technical side of the game is not flawless either: there are often slowdowns and stuttering, especially in larger areas or when there are more enemies.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a title that we recommend only if you really love the character of Gollum or are curious to know what happens to him eight years before he appears in the plot of The Lord of the Rings. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a more exciting and better-optimized action-adventure game set in Middle-earth, then you should go for one of our top 10 Lord of the Rings games from yesterday, because this one, unfortunately, didn’t make the cut…”
+ Presents Middle-earth from a new point of view
+ Relatively beautiful and detailed graphics
+ Gollam is a good-natured character
– Boring and monotonous gameplay
– Bad optimization
– Terrible Steam Deck performance
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment and Nacon
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Release: May 25, 2023 (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S), later in 2023 (Nintendo Switch)
The Lord of the Rings: Gollam
Gameplay - 3.6
Graphics - 7.2
Story - 4.8
Music/Audio - 6.1
Ambience - 5.2
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a title that we recommend only if you really love the character of Gollum or are curious to know what happens to him eight years before he appears in the plot of The Lord of the Rings. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a more exciting and better-optimized action-adventure game set in Middle-earth, then you should go for one of our top 10 Lord of the Rings games from yesterday, because this one, unfortunately, didn't make the cut..."
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