Daedelic Entertainment yesterday announced that its The Lord of the Rings: Gollum game will be released on September 1 on PC and consoles.
The developers descibe the game as a story-driven action adventure that allows the player to take on a perilous journey as Gollum, chasing the only thing that is precious to him.
In order to survive the dangers on his journey through Middle-earth, Gollum has to sneak, climb and use all his cunning. He also has to deal with his more human side – Sméagol. It’s up to the players if they want Gollum to have the upper hand when it comes to making important decisions or let Sméagol take over. Gollum also encounters well-known characters from the books as well as a few new faces.
Beta version showcase: questions raised, questions answered
Reviewers also recently got a first look at the game through an event that — if not exactly hands-on — did provide the opportunity to watch a pair of devs playing through the early levels and pose a bunch of questions.
Overall the mood seems cautiously positive, acknowledging that the visuals are still a work in progress, wondering how well a stealth-focused game will hold up across 25 hours of gameplay, and intrigued about the potential of the internal moral choices mechanic. And the Lore-obsessed may find some reassurance in the knowledge that game licensor Middle-earth Enterprises seems to have put a tighter leash on out-of-canon inventions.
Gamespot’s Lord of the Rings expert Lucy James also provides a comprhensive yet easily digestible run-down of what the devs decided to profile. If you don’t actually know a lot about the game, this is a great overview.
Last week, I got a sneak peek at the Gollum game at a virtual event by Daedalic Entertainment. While the gameplay footage was still in a rough beta stage, we were given a sense for the stealth platformer techniques, saw some new images, spoke with the developers, and – most exciting – we were able to learn and ask questions about the LORE behind the game.
The Gamer’s Ben Sledge has a great write-up of impressions of the two devs putting the game through its paces.
It’s hard to tell how good the stealth aspects of a game are unless you’re actually playing it, but it all seemed to work well. Combat is discouraged – you’re a scrawny little thing, after all – but your “Deus Ex inspired” parkour can get you out of a scrape if some Orcs (or worse) spot you. The most interesting part was seeing how the Gollum-versus-Smeagol internal debates worked out. We only saw a low stakes option, as the pitiful creature decided whether to kill a beetle or not, but Haberstroh assured me that future decisions would be more impactful and actually affect the story and gameplay.
Sledge also put a few lore questions to Daedelic’s Tolkien expert, Damiri Knapheide about how and where they are filling in gaps in Tolkien’s work to tell their story.
The Girdle of Melian is not what I expected to hear come up in conversation, but apparently it will play a “big part” in the Mirkwood sections of the game. For those who haven’t read The Silmarillion, Melian’s Girdle is not a physical item, it’s a magical enchantment that surrounded Thingol’s kingdom of Doriath, preventing anyone from entering against the king’s will. In Daedalic’s Middle-earth, Thranduil brought this enchantment with him to the Greenwood, and it protects the forest, or at least his kingdom, to this day.
Personally, I agree it’s a bit of a stretch. If anyone in the Third Age is benefitting from Melian’s instruction, the text implies that it’s Galadriel.
Nerd of the Rings
Dig video-based reviews? Keen on knowing how well the game all fits into the Legendarium? Nerd of the Rings is the review for you.
NME is probably the most cautious regarding the long-term draw of the stealth mechanic for players.
Gollum is better off crawling through handy tufts of long grass and throwing rocks to distract patrols and get them out of his path. This lends a great portrayal of Gollum as a sneaky, slimy backstabber; but even during the preview it feels a bit repetitive. There’s not too much variation on the tried-and-true stealth formula used by action games and as a result, there’s no guarantee that Gollum’s skulking won’t get stale by the end of the game’s roughly 25-hour runtime.
That being said, there is one interesting caveat: as displayed in The Lord Of The Rings, Gollum is a character in turmoil. Formerly a Hobbit by the name of Sméagol, years of hardship (and ownership of the one ring) birthed an alternate personality called Gollum. Throughout the game, you’re tasked with shaping the character through a series of moral decisions. This starts off humorous – Gollum convinces poor Sméagol to eat a beetle, claiming self defence. Later on, Daedalic Entertainment says players can expect bigger choices, such as choosing whether to betray allies or stay true to them.
Daedelic also posted a reply to common questions that they’ve received from fans over on Steam. We’ve reproduced their responses to the key ones below.
Q. When and how does the story of the game fit into the story of the books?
A. The story of the game largely takes place in parallel to the early chapters of The Lord of the Rings, from Gollum’s time in Mordor, his capture by Sauron and his interrogation by Gandalf. During this time, although very little is known about Gollum’s adventures, there was enough to give us an excellent outline and timeframe for the setting.
Q. Why did you choose Gollum as the main character?
A. We picked Gollum because he’s one of the most fascinating characters from the work of Professor Tolkien. A twisted Hobbit with two personalities, hundreds of years old; and with a rich knowledge of Middle-earth. Despite his looks he’s also an agile creature that can climb, leap and grapple his way past dangers or into advantageous spots. This makes for an epic adventure through exciting never-seen-before parts of Middle-earth, and leads the player to interesting moral choices, and varied gameplay, alternating platforming and stealth.
Q. Why doesn’t he look like Peter Jackson’s Gollum?
A. While all of us enjoy the previous adaptations of the stories Tolkien created, we wanted to create our own unique interpretation of the world and its characters. As such, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is original while being true to the literary source material.
Q. Who is the voice actor behind Gollum
A. Gollum is voiced by Wayne Forester.
Q. Is the game related to other The Lord of the Rings games or is it a standalone title?
A. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is not related to other adaptations of The Lord of the Rings.
The game picks up the story as it’s told in the books. The Daedalic team wrote the untold story of Gollum and therefore the players will encounter both new created characters and meet iconic characters!
Q. What type of game is it?
A. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is an epic Action-Adventure game with stealth and platform elements.
Q. Will the game be available in physical copies as well?
A. You will be able to purchase a physical copy of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. Please visit your local or preferred retailer to know it’s availability.