lord of the rings gollum review
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Review: The Lord of the Rings Gollum’s as Miserable as a Trip to Mordor

In bygone days, video games based on TV shows and popular movies were usually hit or miss. The Harry Potter entries likely wouldn’t hold up to the test of time, nor would the ones for The Chronicles of Narnia. They’re mostly there to piggyback off the success of the property they’re based on, after all. Though Daedalic Entertainment likely did not make The Lord of the Rings: Gollum in order to fit that particular niche, it certainly feels like it. With its poor appearance, uninspired gameplay, and lack of a meaningful plot, playing through The Lord of the Rings: Gollum feels as treacherous and miserable as the journey to Mordor. At least there was a point to Frodo’s journey.

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If you know anything about The Lord of the Rings, then you basically already know the plot of Gollum. Chronologically, it takes place after the events of The Hobbit, when Bilbo takes the One Ring from our titular protagonist. After Aragorn captures him, Gollum recounts to Gandalf his escape from Barad-dûr. He works as a slave, all while struggling to maintain mental balance between his Smeagol persona and his Gollum one. That’s essentially the plot. Gollum does eventually break out and make his way to Mirkwood, which is where Aragorn finds him. But the main meat of the game places the wretched creature in Barad-dûr.

Stories with a foregone conclusion are not bad in and of themselves. Anyone who knows anything about Fate/stay Night went into Fate/Zero knowing exactly how it was going to end. But we still enjoyed watching it, because the journey was fun and it introduced new concepts, characters, and dynamics. We all know that Gollum escapes. That’s not really the interesting part of his journey. So what about this segment of his life is so important, either to Gollum’s character development or the overarching lore of Middle Earth, that we should care about it? It’s the lack of an answer to this question that can makes The Lord of the Rings: Gollum feel meaningless.

Perhaps if the game focused more on the struggle between Smeagol and Gollum, it would feel like it had a point. For example, we could have learned that Smeagol was more dominant until something in Gollum made his evil side take control until he meets Frodo. We do get some of this in the “Convince Gollum” mechanic. However, the implementation of this feels so lazy. First off, the font prioritizes readability, so much so that it is jarring to see in a high fantasy game. Secondly, it’s such a static screen. Different camera angles or animations might have made it feel more engaging. Finally, the choices also don’t affect much of anything, whether it was the story or Gollum’s actions himself. This is a shame, because it renders these choices pointless and downgrades the complexity of Gollum’s character.

The Lord of the Rings Gollum choices

Screenshot by Siliconera

The entire game is also so difficult to look at, from a lighting and graphical point of view. It’s too dark to see much of anything… not that there was anything too interesting to see. I also didn’t like using Gollum’s sharp senses, because the screen looked like it was from an alpha build. The textures didn’t always load immediately either. That’s not fantastic, because it was impossible to tell which walls were ones Gollum could interact with while moving about. I have a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, which worked fine for other recent games like Resident Evil 4. So Gollum looking like a PS3-era title was likely not an issue on my end. Aside from Gollum’s facial model making him look like a frog, his hair also stood out. Something about the texture really reflected the light, which made it look awkward in certain scenes.

The Lord of the Rings Gollum sneak

Screenshot by Siliconera

Finally, the main meat of the game—parkour action was hardly satisfying. You sneak around Barad-dûr, climbing about and ambushing soldiers. Gollum looks like a wet paper bag and has the endurance of one, so getting caught almost certainly means death. You could only perform basic actions (I guess since Gollum isn’t that athletic) that felt bad due to Gollum’s slippery physics and large size. The dark environments and poor textures I mentioned earlier also meant that I died due to dumb reasons like not seeing ledges or not realizing Gollum couldn’t scale a particular wall. There were also a lot of objects that I know for a fact he could grab that he simply wouldn’t, which lead to some frustrating deaths. Parkour can be fun in games! But not when it’s the same three actions over and over again for ten hours.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum does not feel like a game with a 2023 release date. It pains me to say, especially since Daedalic Entertainment released an apology in regards to the final state of the game, but it feels like it needed a complete restructure of its basic premise. Instead of making parkouring around the stages the main point, it should have hard-focused on stealth-killing and even implemented a morality system. Choices that actually matter would make the Smeagol versus Gollum sections more interesting. It’s a game that seems like it’s for hardcore The Lord of the Rings fans, considering its playable character and the lack of recent releases for the franchise, but even diehard fans couldn’t enjoy this unexpected journey.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is readily available on the PS4, PS5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. It will also come out for the Nintendo Switch sometime in 2023.

The Lord of Rings: Gollum

Play as Gollum on his quest to retrieve his Precious. You will need to climb the mountains of Mordor, sneak around Mirkwood and make difficult choices. Who will gain the upper hand: the cunning Gollum or the innocent Smeagol? PC version reviewed.

An ill-conceived parkour game with aged graphics and gameplay, but with an undeniable thread of lost potential underneath that makes me wish the development team had spent more time in the planning stage.

PC version reviewed.

Food for Thought:
  • It eats up a whopping 40+ GB on my computer. Where is that coming from? None of my other games that play or look better need that much space.
  • Yeah, Gollum's character model is really funny but after staring at it for so long, I forgot what he's actually supposed to look like. Welp, I guess it's time to rewatch the extended LOTR trilogy yet again.
  • Smeagol whimpers a lot in this game. I had to mute my audio because I couldn't stop thinking "he whimpers" when I heard him climb.

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Stephanie Liu
Stephanie is a senior writer who has been writing for games journalism and translating since 2020. After graduating with a BA in English and a Certificate in Creative Writing, she spent a few years teaching English and history before fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a writer. In terms of games, she loves RPGs, action-adventure, and visual novels. Aside from writing for Siliconera and Crunchyroll, she translates light novels, manga, and video games.