The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a travesty of a videogame that disappoints on virtually each single stage. It’s a disgrace as a result of on paper I really assume the idea is sort of sturdy. Gollum is a conflicted character continuously at struggle with himself, the 2 sides of his persona making an attempt to exist in a single physique. The extra harmless Smeagol is the remnant of what he as soon as was earlier than being corrupted by Sauron’s ring, after which there’s Gollum, the wretched monster created by the affect of such a darkish and horrible object. There’s numerous story potential there and Daedelic tries to deliver it into the precise gameplay throughout transient sections the place you’ve gotten to choose after which persuade both Gollum or Smeagol to associate with it. And selecting to give attention to platforming and stealth makes complete sense for the character as a result of whereas his wiry body is deceptively sturdy he’s not a warrior and is just too cowardly to get into fights. However man, it doesn’t come collectively.
Daedalic has a powerful pedigree, simply not in this type of sport. They’ve constructed themselves a repute for glorious point-and-click titles, from the brilliantly bonkers Deponia collection to the charming Night of the Rabbit. Each featured lovely graphics, and memorable characters and was polished to a shine. So when Daedalic introduced The Lord of the Rings: Gollum my eyebrows shot up like two sexy caterpillars – a completely 3D stealth sport with platforming components? And primarily based on arguably probably the most recognized fantasy books of all time? Certainly this small developer was diving into Mount Doom pondering it was only a paddling pool. After enjoying via the entire 8-10 hour marketing campaign, I believe my preliminary ideas had been proper: each inch of this sport felt like a developer fully out of their depth was on the helm, desperately attempting to sew one thing shippable collectively. No surprise it rapidly became the worst-reviewed game of the year.
Gollum can be a tough character to work with. He’s certainly one of Tolkien’s most complicated creations, a damaged creature residing a lifetime of distress just because he got here in touch with one thing evil. And what might Daedalic do with him, actually? Gollum needs to be in place for The Fellowship of the Ring and might’t have his persona modified in any substantial method. The one factor they might do is attempt to flesh Gollum out and make him extra sympathetic, which might impression the films and the books by making you’re feeling one thing deeper for the character if you expertise them. And at first, it looks like that could be the plan. Daedalic offers Gollum a number of probabilities to be considerably good in comparison with his regular self-servicing strategies, to convey himself as greater than only a slimy little bastard who tries to border Samwise Gamgee for consuming all of the meals. Hell, they even have Gollum make a number of associates and hatch a tiny fowl that views him as its dad. However then throughout one part specifically, Daedalic shoots themselves within the foot by having Gollum do one thing horrible, and the more serious factor is that they offer you a “choice” about what to do and so they do it anyway. And so by the tip of the sport, Gollum is strictly what he at all times was: an opportunistic, slimy little hobgoblin that’s obsessed along with his ring and the Hobbit that stole it.
Story-wise, the sport tracks Gollum’s time between the theft of his ring by that nasty Bagginseses and his look in The Fellowship of the Ring. There’s a niche of round 6 years there, and Daedalic says they introduced in consultants on Tolkien’s deep lore to assist craft a narrative that would slot in correctly by way of canon. On this regard, I believe they succeeded: the sport does a fairly good job of becoming into the canon, by which I principally imply it doesn’t break something or go away behind a bunch of bizarre plot holes, offered you’re keen to simply accept Gollum having a pet fowl that doesn’t instantly eat.
However the precise story is fairly boring. The overwhelming majority of it takes place in Barad-dûr, an underground jail that Gollum is tossed into after stupidly attempting to chase a bug and falling down a hill. No, I’m not simply making that up. A lot of the early hours are spent doing totally menial chores like gathering the tags of some useless orcs, with solely a few poorly written storylines to justify any of it. There’s some nonsense along with your frail previous cellmate that goes nowhere, and a few delicate Mordor politics with the Candle Man, a sorcerer that appears to search out Gollum helpful as a spy within the jail, regardless that Gollum does nothing. Once more, the story of the Candle Man goes nowhere.
Gollum’s a surprisingly spritely little bastard with regards to getting round. Not solely does he transfer rapidly, he can even bounce fairly excessive, swing on bars and, clamber up clearly marked partitions. Platforming hits all of the notes you’d anticipate of it actually, requiring little or no in the way in which of thought or talent to traverse the environments. Essentially the most inventive it will get is leaping backwards off a wall, a tough factor to do as a result of the tight areas and the digital camera typically imply you may’t see, so it’s important to depend on the button immediate showing to allow you to when to take the leap. Nor does Daedalic try to mix the platforming components into the remainder of the atmosphere, so a cliff face will simply have random yellow, straight traces sunk into it so Gollum is aware of precisely the place to go. Different video games no less than try to cover these items and make it seem like a part of the world, however I suppose in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, Sauron actually works laborious to maintain well being and security requirements excessive.
It’s principally the Uncharted or Tomb Raider model of platforming, besides it lacks the cinematic aptitude and smoothness that makes these video games pleasurable. Gollum will typically fail to do what’s requested of him, or in some way miss a bounce utterly as a result of, in contrast to the video games I discussed, his animations aren’t canned and thus a sideways leap from handhold to handhold will not be assured to truly work. Besides when it’s canned and he’s pulled to a handhold mid-jump like a magnet has simply been activated. It’s bloody irritating, particularly as a result of the sport’s communication abilities about the place to go and what can or cannot be reached are extremely imprecise. It resulted in dozens of annoying deaths the place Gollum didn’t seize the pole or the place a platforming sequence didn’t work as meant as a result of the builders mashed it collectively and simply assumed it could be fantastic. However even when the lengthy platforming sections do work they’re boring since you’ve finished all of it in dozens and dozens of different video games, and people video games had been faster or smoother or required extra talent or simply had good surroundings to clamber round.
You’ll put these platforming mechanics to the take a look at within the first few hours that are by far probably the most boring. Caught in jail, Gollum’s first duties are to herd some beasts right into a cage, then accumulate some tags from useless Orcs, after which pour some slop into the breeding pits the place the Uruk Hai are being grown. Every of those jobs is damaged up by returning to your cell and hitting a key to fall asleep, a totally pointless design factor as a result of there’s actually nothing else you are able to do anyway, so why make the participant trudge again to the cell and hit a button? That is the form of weak mission designs you may anticipate from The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, and it solely will get a little bit higher as the sport goes on.
The opposite massive focus except for platforming is sneaking round, one thing which Gollum is extremely good at within the supply materials. All of his talents at staying hidden imply little, although, when the stealth segments are so poorly designed. It’s as primary as stealth will be: cover behind stuff, crawl via shadows or flowerbeds to grow to be utterly invisible and throw some rocks to distract the idiotic AI. Gollum has a particular instinct view that lets him observe enemies via partitions, so that you simply await a niche, amble over to the subsequent apparent shadow or object and repeat till bored. At the very least it’s higher than the climbing, I suppose.
Gollum even often will get to homicide an orc. I like that Daedalic stored this uncommon, and if you do strangle an orc it takes ages as a result of poor little Gollum has to place all of his weight and energy into choking the a lot bigger beast. It helps maintain killing a tense expertise, somewhat than a commonplace act. It’s form of complicated, nonetheless, that Gollum can’t strangle an Orc if it’s carrying a helmet.
Often, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum tries to get a little bit adventurous by throwing in random stuff, a few of which doesn’t make sense and most of which is poorly executed. Ordering companions round, for instance, is a tedious and mind-numbing course of due to how slowly they transfer and due to how simplistic the puzzles are. However there’s a selected instance I need to use as a result of it’s so bizarre and an ideal technique of describing how clumsily the entire sport has been put collectively. I used to be caught for a couple of minutes throughout a platforming part attempting to determine the place I used to be meant to be going. I attempted a number of experimental leaps to different platforms and fell to my demise. On the third try, I unintentionally brushed a beam and it fell over, forming a bridge. The explanation this stands out as odd is as a result of the sport hadn’t used a mechanic like this within the earlier 4 hours, and it by no means used it once more, nor did it present any form of indication that knocking over the beam was a risk. It’s simply this unusual, singular use of an thought like somebody put it in after which forgot about it.
There’s even a type of God-forsaken chase sequences from the early 2000s. You recognize the one, the place it’s important to outrun a pursuer by charging instantly on the digital camera and leaping/dodging obstacles that come up the display in direction of you? Sure, I child you not, within the yr 2023 Daedalic thought this was a good suggestion. It wasn’t. It’s horrible. Daedalic vaguely makes an attempt to fight the inherently shitty design of this by having a bizarre inexperienced path that tells you the place to maneuver and when to leap, however all that did was make me query what it was and why it was there? Did some useful Orc come alongside and drop inexperienced dots in case some crack-head creep got here scuttling alongside?
There are actually dozens of different oddities like this that I might listing, all of which level to a sport that feels prefer it was taken aside and rebuilt time and again and once more. There are unusual scene transitions, baffling environments that don’t make any sense and heaps of particulars lacking, the type that you just don’t even take into consideration till they aren’t there. Like, why isn’t there a sound for when an Orc smacks you within the head when it catches you?
I really assume that utilizing Gollum’s cut up persona as a mechanic is a cool thought. However these moments are nothing however an phantasm of alternative, designed in such a method as to make you’re feeling like you’ve gotten affect over the story if you really don’t. Gollum and Smeagol’s arguments do nothing, and one of the best instance of this comes later within the sport. I received’t spoil something so suffice to say that you just’re given a alternative: get up an evil creature and let it do one thing horrible with the intention to sneak via, or go away it sleeping. I sided with Smeagol and simply satisfied Gollum to associate with it. So what did the sport do? Properly, it ignored my enter, and as a substitute the scene immediately reduce to Gollum saying “Over there! Run!” and the large monster waking anyway. Not solely was there by no means any alternative, then, however the builders didn’t even embrace a correct rationalization or transition if you happen to sided with Smeagol. What was the purpose? Why did it get up anyway?
No quantity of tweaking and fiddling with the restricted settings might get Gollum to run easily. I stored operating into body drops, typically at inconvenient occasions like a chase sequence. It’s not prefer it’s a demanding sport, both: the varied map sections are all fairly small, there’s minimal AI and the graphics are low high quality throughout the board. Even individuals with top-of-the-line machines are struggling to get it operating effectively, and Daedalic themselves have acknowledged the efficiency woes.
Going again to the graphics, that is an unpleasant sport, and never in the way in which that Gollum is meant to be ugly. The facial animations are the worst offenders, simply rating amongst a number of the worst I’ve seen previously few years. They’re stiff in motion and sometimes in the reduction of to a personality’s default look with none form of transition, one thing that was most noticeable when the Candle Man was speaking, though Gollum does it too. Character fashions look horrible, with Gollum himself trying far worse than his personal counterparts within the films or one thing like Center-Earth: Shadow of Battle. Sure, he’s speculated to be gaunt and ugly, however this model of Gollum seems like somebody hit a crack addict within the face with a shovel after which known as it a day. The environments are drab and missing intimately, too, and a number of the closely armoured Orcs seem like Shrek when was carrying the knight’s armour within the first film.
To place it merely, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum seems like one thing out of the late PS3 and Xbox 360 period. You may accuse me of being hyperbolic, however I believe you could possibly simply identify dozens of video games from that period that look artistically and technically higher than Gollum, and that don’t use as many freaking loading screens regardless of having small environments. In truth, the unique Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor launched 8 years in the past on PS3 and Xbox 360 and appears significantly higher. Let’s not overlook that the really useful specs for Gollum name for an RTX 4090. What sort of fucking Pipe Weed was Daedalic smoking?
I can’t end this evaluate till I point out Daedalic’s abysmal use of DLC, both. As a part of the particular Treasured Version or as separate purchases you may get an in-game lore compendium and idea artwork. Each of those are issues most triple-A titles embrace without spending a dime, but Daedalic sought to cost for them, an particularly egregious error contemplating how poorly the compendium is written. Or you may select to purchase “iconic” emotes for Gollum for £1.99, including nothing to the sport besides a number of crappy animations. However the worst factor is a chunk of £1.99 DLC which provides extra “authenticity” to the sport by offering a Sindarin voiceover for the Elven characters. I shit you not.
This was not a great way for Daedalic to kick off its use of the Lord of the Rings license and definitely doesn’t encourage confidence in their next Lord of the Rings project. Though I do assume the premise for the sport was good, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a slog to get via. The boring missions, bland environments, flat gameplay, poor graphics and common story mix to make this, at greatest, a totally mediocre expertise. However as soon as you are taking the a number of points into consideration and the truth that Daedalic needed £60 for it, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum turns into like its namesake: a pitiful wretch corrupted by the attract of the One Ring.