I was blessed enough to receive a PC and PS5 key to test The Lord of the Rings: Gollum early on behalf of TheOneRing.net. My goal here is to describe my play-through scenarios, what type of system I run the game on, what I liked, what wasn’t for me, and ultimately… how much I actually enjoyed playing the game.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is developed by Daedalic Entertainment and is also published by them as well as Nacon. The game is available or will be available on multiple platforms such as Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC. You will need to make sure your system is compatible and the game has released on it in order to play.
PC experience and PS5 performance experience
I play on a fairly high end gaming PC that was built about two years ago for over $2,000 USD. I also played the game on my PlayStation 5. Right off the bat I do have to tell you folks that while the game ran well for me on PC and I didn’t encounter many bugs or anything game breaking, this was not my experience on PS5. And I prefer gaming on my PS5 as it’s hooked up to a 65-inch OLED television and surround sound speakers.
On my PS5 I was able to play the game over the weekend and all throughout the first chapter of the game I encountered crashes. I would interact with objects and crash. I would try to skip some of the story by holding down circle on the PS5 controller to avoid crashing and I would still crash. It would reset my progress a decent bit and I would have to complete the same objectives multiple times waiting for a time where it actually finishes and I get the credit for it. I was playing the game with the higher graphics setting on and when I switched to performance mode and turned off the Gollum hair animation/physics it fixed the majority of the issues I was having.
During the weekend we did receive an email update letting us know that the Gollum hair setting was the culprit and there would be a day one patch for the game to fix this before players started playing. This was great to hear. The rest of my play time went through Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 to completion. The only other bug I encountered was toward the end of Chapter 1 after a cutscene. Once it was done playing, I no longer had a cave or anything around me and any direction I chose to move Gollum I would fall about 1,000 feet to my death which did give me a chuckle. And it gave me an achievement!
Like an old-school Assassin’s Creed
The game plays like an old-school Assassin’s Creed with much less focus on combat. Gollum would rather knock an enemy over or choke them long enough to get away from them than try to actually fight most foes. You spend most of the game doing parkour, climbing over, crawling under and trying to remain unseen or undetected.
The buttons are easy to learn and I had no problems completing the tasks. There are items to collect on each map so sometimes you will want to play through multiple times if you are being a bit of a completionist. There are times where Gollum has dialogue choices. Sometimes the dialogue choices are in response to an NPC and other times it’s Gollum trying to convince his other half to do something.
I didn’t have time to find out, but I would love to know whether the story changes based on the decisions you make. If it does change parts of the story then I would probably play through each chapter to beat it, then to get all missing collectibles and achievements, and then again to make sure I got to experience the full story.
Present and past
On the story front, you see many characters, both friendly and foe, who you will know immediately. The game flashes back often, at least early on, between current day Gollum who is imprisoned for questioning, and the flashback Gollum who is sharing his side of the story of the events of what has happened to him during this period.
Fans of the books interested in playing the game will have a good idea of where the story intends to go immediately. Newer folks to the fandom might be taken on a nice joy ride where if this is an enjoyable experience for them they may find themselves more interested in picking up Tolkien’s books to see what is says in there, and understand where Daedalic had the freedom to tell their story.
I know some lore purists will have issues with different parts of the story but I am open to adaptations and I honestly do have fun when playing the game when its not crashing.
I am looking forward to the Day 1 patch to continue my playthrough. The crashes were very frustrating and I think most folks can understand that. When the game wasn’t crashing it was genuinely enjoyable for me.
That being said I know most people won’t read the full review. They just want a TL:DR and score, right?
TL:DR: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a fun game to me as a fan of the material that comes from Tolkien. I enjoyed playing the bits that I could play and while I am at work I do think about playing the game different ways when I get home. However, I did encounter one major bug and I experienced a series of major crashes early on related to a setting that I am told would be fixed on Day 1 of release. If that is the case I give the game a 7 out of 10.
When the game is playable I am definitely having fun. When it’s crashing I want to pull my hair out to match Gollum.
I would be buying this on day one regardless because I am a mark for all things Tolkien and Lord of the Rings but my advice to folks who are going to part with their hard-earned cash is wait for more reviews to come out after the day one patch and see if it fixed the issues that myself, and I am sure, others, will tell you about.
When playable: 7/10
If the Day 1 patch doesn’t fix the crashing players might experience: 5/10
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.
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.
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. 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.