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The Lord of the Rings: Gollum Review

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum Review

The idea of a videogame where you get to play an addict arrested by an authority and left to rot in a prison, who suffers from a split personality that interferes with his decision-making and welfare sounds like a serious narrative-driven experience. However, in the case of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, developed and published by Daedalic Entertainment (and produced by Nacon), it’s not serious at all and the narrative stalls as soon as the action starts. To clarify, The Lord of the Rings (and other novels based in the same universe) are a collection of stories written by J.R.R. Tolkien, whose works have shaped the genre of fantasy. The books were later adapted into films by many directors, the most famous of which being Peter Jackson’s trilogy.

The game begins with Gollum — nearly a century later — locked in a room somewhere in elf territory, answering questions inquired by the old wizard, Gandalf, as Gollum explains how he found himself so far away from home. While it’s always good to see Gandalf, his character design looks a lot younger than his depictions in the books and films. The developer must have decided that the old, gray-haired look was too generic and gave him a middle-aged face and brunette hair.

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Playing Gollum with keyboard controls is sticky to say the least, with my first half an hour of learning the controls to be best described as Polygon’s footage of the Cuphead tutorial. Switching to controller did help alleviate the issue and the thought that I also play like a “game journalist”; even so, changing over again later on drastically affected playability negatively. For some reason, trying to do basic actions on the keyboard (like a far jump) resulted in the opposite reaction I wanted. More importantly, the game’s more active parts require platforming, and getting from A to B on keyboard is a gamble whether you jump or run on all fours off the ledge.

Regarding the platforming and climbing in the game, as Gollum is agile and is known for his climbing ability, the mechanic itself — besides the voice actor for Gollum’s performance — is the only well-developed thing in the game. Unfortunately, there are times when the environment gets in the way of tricky leaps, like the climbing wall being too close to the cave ceiling that should have been found during the testing phase. Another thing that should have been found is the Orc guard’s AI. If you get caught while hanging on a ledge, they stand around your general area and do nothing about it. Orcs that would enjoy stepping on your fingers will wait for you to climb back down, climb up to get caught, or fall to your death from fatigue.

The environments in Gollum look okay, though, only when viewed far away or walking from checkpoint to checkpoint; as you come a little closer, you see the putty smeared over the cracks. The graphics and textures are disappointing for a contemporary game, especially when it’s running on high and epic quality, so (from what I saw) it seems that the developers decided to fill up maps with huge monuments.

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In the prison section of the game, the majority of the maps have large structures in the centre with everything else around it. For example, a structure in development hangs on large iron chains with a large dragon’s head (even though Gollum calls it a wolf’s head; it has fire coming out of its mouth) that can be seen anywhere on the map. It looks interesting as a ‘tower’ to climb on, but I still don’t know what the structure is meant to be, and neither does the game, as no one brings it up. Additionally, these weren’t my only questions for the game.

Why is there only one Orc slave in the game when in the source material, they are more numerous and expendable than red shirts from Star Trek? How are the dark forces preparing for war but don’t seem to be making any progress between two chapters that span a few years? Why do the Orcs’ model textures look like the Uruks from the Xbox 360 port of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor? Furthermore, why does their heavy armour look like leftovers from the bad sci-fi videogame rendition of Der Ring Des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) by Cryo Interactive back in the late 90s?

Within Gollum, the titular character is forced to make decisions that don’t exactly affect the world in general, instead developing scenarios like a choose your own adventure. Some are for dialogue choice to say either nice or nasty responses, while others are more important, wanting you to convince the opposing alter-ego that you’re doing the right or wrong thing. While I thought it was going to be cool to debate, it was routinely easy to do; convince the narcissist (Gollum) that it will benefit him and convince the pacifist (Smeagol) that Gollum is a victim that needs to be helped.

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The nail in the coffin for me, though — and the reason why the game has an abysmal review score — was being locked out of completing the game due to a recurring glitch at the end of chapter four. In the mission, a character was meant to walk from one side of the room to another but instead stayed staring at a table as well as a checkpoint that wouldn’t appear. After restarting, the same glitch occurred. Not wanting to start from scratch, I quit the game completely.

In a fantasy world, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum would have been a well-made early seventh-generation console video game or a classic sixth-generation game, possibly a sequel to The Hobbit (2003). I wouldn’t be lenient to any videogame that should be dropped in the fires of ‘Mt. Worst Game of the Year,’ even if it’s already been thrown in. 

3.00/10 3

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (Reviewed on Windows)

The game is unenjoyable, but it works.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a poorly designed, bug-ridden, untested game that’s only redeeming quality doesn’t matter in the whole picture.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Bennett Perry

Bennett Perry

Staff Writer