The Lord of the Rings: Gollum invites you to follow the misadventures of Sméagol, the miserable creature eaten away by the One Ring. The scenario has something to please fans, especially since it tells a story never told by Tolkien. Only, a good plot is not enough to make a good game and in this case, this LOTR Gollum does not have much else to offer.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was originally announced in 2019. As its name suggests, the title invites you to take control of Sméagol / Gollum, a key character in the saga. On paper, the idea is interesting, especially for fans of Tolkien, especially since the Daedalic Entertainment studio opted for an original scenario. Indeed, the title aims to tell a whole history ignored by the British author and his son, namely the adventures of the hero during the 60 years which separate the end of The Hobbit and the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring.
At the beginning of the adventure, Gollum is no longer in possession of the Precious. He therefore broods in the grayness of Mordor, determined to find the trace of that damned Bilbo Baggins. Only, no luck since our anti-hero is captured by the Nazguls (note: the famous spectral servants of Sauron) before being thrown into a jail in the depths of the Dark Tower.
Without going into the spoiler, we then discover the terrible years of Gollum’s captivity, before his escape and his journey to the Shire. Note that this adventure will be an opportunity for fans of meet some familiar faceslike Gandalf, the Mouth of Sauron or even Thranduil, the lord of the Black Forest (and incidentally father of Legolas).
Here then in a few words is the story of this Lord of the Rings: Gollum. If the scenario seems attractive to any self-respecting fan of the saga, what about controller in hand? As much to say it right away, the game smells like spoiled fish, much to Gollum’s annoyance.
A technical shipwreck worthy of the PS3
Gameplay trailers released in recent months let bode the worst for the technical aspect of the title. Unfortunately, we notice from the first minutes of the adventure that the three consecutive postponements were not enough to raise the bar.
Let’s not be afraid of words, the title of Daedalic Entertainment is painful to see on PS5. If the 60 FPS is held in Performance mode, it is at the price of disastrous graphic quality. The environments are poor, the textures runny and fuzzy, the effects of light and shadows completely missed and without relief, while facial animations are ten years behindif not more.
And this is valid for Gollum as well as for all the other characters. Andy Serkis can be reassured, his motion capture performance in Peter Jackson’s films remains unmatched. We must also mention many bugs during the cutscenes (totally blurred characters, levitating objects, etc.).
The artistic direction, gloomy overall, offers some flashes. What sometimes forget these huge technical defects. We will nevertheless note some work on the gesture of the cursed hobbitquite well transcribed.
Also read: Nvidia – DLSS coming to nearly 200 games, including “Lord of the Rings Gollum”
Staggeringly poor gameplay
As you will have understood, Gollum is far from being a graphic slap, whether on PS5 or PS4. Nevertheless, one could say that the developers have made sure to compensate for its technical weaknesses with good gameplay ideas. Well no. Unfortunately, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum presents itself as yet another adventure/infiltration game as you could find in spades on the PS3 / Xbox 360 generation.
Most of the gameplay consists of doing climbing on walls covered with lianas, boards marked with a big X in white chalk clearly visible, gilded cornices and posts hung here and there.
In addition to offering no controller feeling in the hands (the DualSense capabilities are never exploited), these platforming phases can quickly turn into a nervous breakdownthe fault of collision bugs and absolutely atrocious key combinations.
Some advanced moves require press three or four buttons at the same time. For example, I happened to getting stuck in a small pebble while sprinting and to be fatally overtaken by the orcs. Failure of the mission and return to the last checkpoint… Infuriating.
Don’t rely on infiltration
The gameplay loop then splits between infiltration and environmental puzzles. When Gollum can’t play Yamakasi, the creature must move in the shadows to avoid patrolling orcs and elves. Fortunately, you will have many tools at your disposal to vary the approaches.
Of course it’s false.. Apart from pebbles that can be thrown at certain elements of the scenery to distract the guards for a few moments, Gollum has nothing else to offer. We can try to strangle opponents who don’t have a helmet, but it will be necessary to ask an RTT as the procedure is endless. Add to that an AI with erratic behaviorwith guards who spot you from 5 km away or completely blind, and you will quickly understand that it is better to run like mad to reach the end of the level.
The puzzles and the dialogues raise the level a bit
The puzzles, which without being stunningly original, have the merit to bring variety to the whole. If they consist for the most part in analyzing the close environment to find the solution, they mainly introduce kinematics with branching dialogues.
As you may know, Gollum is not alone in his head. The developers had the right idea exploit the character’s dual personality. On several occasions, the player will have to take a position for Sméagol or Gollum.
You will then have to convince your alter-ego by choosing the right arguments from among different proposals. Your choices will alter (a little) the rest of the story and may seal the fate of certain secondary characters. It is undoubtedly a of the few strong points of the game.
And if the staging of cutscenes is distressingly sad (simple shot-reverse shots), you have to take your hat off to the excellent quality of the dubbing. In VO at least, the VF not being available on the test version provided by the publisher. The voice actor behind Gollum delivers a great performanceand the same goes for the other main and supporting characters, including the orcs.
A game aimed at hardcore fans, and again
After this bleak overview, we can hardly recommend this Lord of the Rings: Gollum to anyone. Unconditional fans of Tolkien’s universe will perhaps be inclined to let themselves be seduced to discover this original story… Before becoming discouraged by the avalanche of flaws described above.
Especially since the game, available from this Thursday, May 25, 2023 on PC, PS5 / PS4, Xbox Series and One and Nintendo Switch, has the luxury of being sold at €59.99 ! Proposed at 30 or 40 €, the pill would go better, but there, one is tempted to cry foul.
Above all, it is hard to see how Gollum will be able to do well at the end of May 2023. If we put ourselves in the place of a player who has €60 to spend, why invest them in Gollum? The Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom has just arrived, while Diablo IV is due to land on June 6, followed closely by Street Fighter 6 and Final Fantasy XVI. Eventually, a 4th release postponement for Gollum would not have been too much and would perhaps have allowed him to leave in a better state… A word of advice, forget this Lord of the Rings: Gollum.