The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will be released on September 1st. September 1st is the day before Amazon’s upcoming TV series, which is clearly designed to jump on the hype. It’s interesting to say the least; Developer Daedalic Entertainment – recently bought by Nacon; hence their inclusion in Big Ben Week isn’t the biggest, hence it was a surprise when Daedalic announced Gollum three years ago. Now, years later and nearing release, what does the game look like?
Gollum and Smeagol are opposite personalities. Anyone who has read the works of Tolkien or seen The Lord of the Rings will know that. Much like its titular character, based on the book license, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum also seems somewhat contradictory in the playstyles on offer. During my time at Nacon’s Big Ben Week, Daedalic Entertainment showed me two parts of the game, both very different from each other.
The tutorial highlights the stealth aspects that we will find in the game. Gollum is not a fighter; We know that. However, he is tricky. Playing around Cirith Ungol, this is Gollum escaping Mordor after being captured by Sauron, where he reveals that it was a hobbit from the Shire named Baggins who had the one ring. You can’t face an orc directly, so the trick is to be sneaky. You can hide in tall grass, use shadows to your advantage, and throw rocks to deflect or shut down light sources – either to get past the orcs or split them up to jump on an orc’s back and make them fall.
I like stealth games so this caught my attention right away. You can still find me playing older stealth titles like Hitman: Blood Money, Thief 2, and even games that pack too much action into their camouflage like Splinter Cell. You’ll always find me in the shadows, looking for my next victim. Sometimes in games too. So the stealth focus of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum caught my eye, despite being very similar to a variety of games in the Batman and Assassin franchise. Gollum has his own Batsense here called “Gollum Vision”.
After the stealth tutorial, Daedalic revealed the duality aspect of the game and revealed that you will have moments where you will have to choose between Gollum and Smeagol. In the tutorial this is easy; do you smash the ever loving hell out of a bug and kill it (gollum)? Or do you watch the bug and play with the bug (Smeagol)? These choices are meant to become more important and more difficult as the game progresses, affecting the story beats.
This is the first part of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, and possibly one that will put some people off. I don’t, but please. The other part Daedalic showed me is all about platforms. At the court of Thranduil, the elf king of Mirkwood, your task is to reach the top of the cavernous building. With an aesthetic that wouldn’t look out of place in the visual media of The Lord of the Rings we’ve seen before, something stands out here. Even more striking is the upward movement.
There are no enemies here, which is good because the obstacle course is enough – moving from wall to wall, jumping over chasms and hitting moving platforms that will take you even higher to your ultimate goal. Seeing the Daedalic moderator miss a jump and seeing the fall damage in action is easy, with a UI that only appears when you’re low on health or stamina to help with the dive. I couldn’t help but be even more intrigued by The Lord of the Rings: Gollum.
One of the disadvantages of people will always be that this is based on the book license. Characters don’t look exactly like we know them from the big screen. Gandalf will not be Ian McKellen; Gollum/Smeagol won’t sound like Andy Serkis; Aragorn will not be Viggo Mortensen. This can always act as a deterrent, but it is understandable and even reasonable here. Where games like Marvel’s Avengers wanted you to think of the movies, they didn’t want to pay for it. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is all about the books as a source.
As a Lord of the Rings fan, I’m looking forward to it. As a player I hope it will be good. A few things worry me that it’s going to be a very linear progression with few challenges, such as the fact that Gollum doesn’t “level up” or essentially evolve over the course of the game. This is a Tolkien estate matter, and it fits. Gollum is over 500 years old; you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Still, I only saw two levels and in the second I didn’t even see the ending after the fall. I hope that the aspects I’ve enjoyed so far outweigh any concerns because this is a game I’ll be playing upon release.