There was a time when popular franchises used to receive the worst video game adaptations, as publishers and developers thought the illustrious name and fanfare alone would sell the titles. This seemed to evolve in recent times, as gaming has become an industry as big and important as film and television – however, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum tries to singlehandedly undo all the reparation done to change this perception. This isn’t a good game – at all.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum acts as prequel, taking place before the first Lord of the Rings book. Like the name implies, it is all about Gollum and the events that lead to him searching for his “precious,” while also uncovering more details about this tragic character’s history.
From a storyline perspective, it’s clear a lot of research went into nailing down the finer aspects of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. No one can fault the video game’s direction here, as the story respects the source material and paints in the blank spaces. Tolkien fans are also likely to be riveted by the overall narrative and how it has weaved together a cohesive and engaging story that features several notable figures from the lore.
In addition, since this game is about the duality of the character, the choices a player makes either as Sméagol or Gollum impact outcomes. This adds an instant replay value, as there will be players who will want to see how events play out if they make different decisions the next time around.
The locations of the game borrow some influence from Peter Jackson’s film universe. They are vast and sprawling, with each corner and peak having its own story begging to be told. It’s easy to get lost in the fantastical nature of it all, as coupled with the music, it feels Tolkien in quality.
However, the character designs aren’t treated with the same consistency and care. While many fans aren’t too impressed by Gollum’s bowl-cut hairstyle, that’s the least of the issues here. There are models and designs that are rough around the edges and don’t give off next-gen vibes. What’s even worse is there are cut scenes where the characters speak to each other and their lips don’t move, then they do. This is something gamers would expect from a PlayStation 1 game – not a title in 2023.
They cursed us
The patchy graphics could be excused if the gameplay made up for it. Unfortunately, the gameplay mechanics are frustrating and janky – compounded further by jumpy camera angles that have a mind of their own and make it almost impossible to navigate. In The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, it’s supposed to be about stealth, where combat is largely discouraged if Gollum can sneak in the shadows and keep a low profile. Yet, it’s a chore to get the character to jump in the right direction or even sneak into a hole. The camera goes berserk at random moments, even when the player tries to control the direction, while jumping over objects holds a 50/50 chance of Gollum hanging in the air like Gandalf just tried to exorcise his demons.
Make no mistake about it – this game will need multiple patches to fix the major gameplay issues. It’s particularly aggravating considering the constant delays in release, when it’s clear the game isn’t complete in its current build either.
As it stands, all this game has going for it is its story. It’s likely that Tolkien enthusiasts may buy The Lord of the Rings: Gollum for this reason alone and defend its other shortcomings. However, there’s no getting around the fact this title is a massive disappointment. Don’t be surprised if it becomes a meme and considered the Morbius of video games in the near future.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a major disappointment.