The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, developed by Daedalic Entertainment, presents itself as an ambitious action-adventure game set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. It promises an untold story focusing on the enigmatic character of Gollum, exploring his perilous journey and the inner conflict between his two personalities, Smeagol and Gollum. Thanks in part to Andy Serkis’ work in the film trilogy, fans were eagerly looking forward to this one ever since it was announced. Unfortunately, the game falls short of its potential, delivering a broken and uninspiring experience that fails to capture the essence of the beloved franchise.
One of the most glaring issues with The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is its repetitive gameplay design. Throughout its roughly 10-hour campaign, players are subjected to a monotonous rotation of stealth, platforming, and fetch quest levels that offer little variety – failing to build on the mechanics that are introduced early on. Each chapter, lasting about an hour, feels like a rehash of previous sections, leaving players with a sense of déjà vu. Furthermore, the level design lacks clarity, often leading to confusion and backtracking. While the game doesn’t become maze-like, it fails to guide players down a cohesive and engaging path.
Even though its release date was pushed back, the technical state of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a major disappointment. We encountered a myriad of bugs that impeded our progress and undermined the overall experience. From game-breaking glitches to frequent crashes and inconsistent performance, the game feels unfinished and unpolished. Even when it manages to run smoothly, the graphics appear muddy and outdated, reminiscent of the PS3/Xbox 360 era. Despite offering different graphical modes, the game fails to capitalize on the power of today’s hardware, leaving players longing for a more visually impressive and immersive experience.
The gameplay experience itself is also plagued by technical problems. Movement feels loose and unresponsive at times, and certain actions have awkward animations. The stealth sections lack challenge due to weak enemy AI, and the command mechanics for controlling companions feel arbitrary. The controls overall lack polish and fluidity, making it difficult to fully trust the systems at hand. Despite the presence of checkpoints to mitigate frustrations, the game suffers from issues like floating on objects and awkward crawling through small spaces. There’s a lot of polish missing here.
In a universe as rich and captivating as J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum fails to fully tap into the depth and potential of its source material. The story is quite interesting to those engaged with the source material, but feels inconsequential to the wider audience. References to iconic characters and locations are great for those heavily invested in Lord of the Rings, but even they will wish for more substantial connections to the events and themes that shaped Middle-earth. While the game attempts to incorporate the split personality of Gollum through intermittent choices, these decisions ultimately result in similar outcomes, failing to provide a truly impactful and immersive narrative experience, and offering limited replay value in the process.
It’s a shame that Gollum doesn’t make the most of vast potential of the Lord of the Rings universe. Rather than immersing players in a world brimming with fantastical settings, intricate lore, and memorable characters – the kind that can fill 12 hours of cinema screen time – the game feels a bit detached and uninspired. Fans will appreciate subtle nods here and there, but many will feel the missed opportunities to explore rich interactions, consequential choices, and iconic locations.
Take the character of Gollum, for instance. Known for his inner struggle and complex personality, the exploration of his character feels shallow and underdeveloped. The voice acting for Gollum/Sméagol is quite good, channeling the performance of the films, but other characters don’t come to life quite as well and there is a lack of emotional connection and growth, leaving players feeling detached from their journey. Players are left yearning for a deeper understanding of Gollum’s motivations and a more profound connection to his plight, but ultimately they’re better off reading the books again to learn more. While this could be a decent game with more time in the oven to fix the technical issues present, the bigger issue is that the heart and soul of the game doesn’t connect with players.