It’s still kind of mind-blowing to think that out of all the Lord of the Rings games we’ve seen over the years, the next major one we’re getting is fully dedicated to Gollum. Daedalic Entertainment has been working to bring together the pieces of this warped hobbit’s adventure and it’s on its way to being one of the more interesting games of 2022. Recently, I got to sit down to a hands-off preview of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum and came away feeling ever more curious about Daedalic's take on the duality of this unlikely protagonist.
All to protect the Precious
Anyone who knows Gollum or Lord of the Rings knows this misbegotten creature has some screws loose. Being centuries old thanks to the power of the One Ring will do that to a mind, but Gollum nevertheless strives to protect his "precious" against any and all threats, whether it be running away or dispatching them with his cunning intellect and brutal instincts.
Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a stealth adventure game. Gollum isn’t exactly a knight with a sword or a powerful wizard. He’s a spindly, emaciated hobbit, and while he’s quite capable of using his agility to get around, he’s no good in an upfront fight. During my recent look at the game, Daedalic showed off various elements including the stealth nature of the game, the action platforming mechanics, and even how Gollum’s split personality plays into the affair.
In one section, I got to see Gollum sneak through the peaks and crags of Mount Doom, wandering through orc camps. A big emphasis is on moving carefully around patrols of enemies and never biting off more than little Gollum can chew. A singular unaware orc can be beaten to death with a stone, but make too much noise and you might draw trouble. Thankfully, you might also be able to draw that trouble towards other bigger trouble. I also got to see a section in which Gollum lured orcs ever closer to Shelob, the great spider, leading to quite a messy end for those caught in the monster’s web. To that end, picking and choosing your moments of when to move, when to fight, and when to run feels like it’s going to be paramount to Gollum’s survival.
Of course, Gollum is a little spider-like himself, able to climb and leap from place to place with relative ease, so of course platforming plays a role in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. During another section shown, Gollum has to escape the kingdom of elves, lest he meet Gandalf and Elrond’s terrifying scrutiny. To this end, I got to see the little fiend move throughout various ramparts, rafters, support beams, chandeliers, and more vertical terrain to try to make his way through the kingdom and away from elven guards. All-in-all, there was a lot of LOTR: Gollum’s gameplay that made me think of a third-person Thief game as much as it made me think of a Lord of the Rings game, which is perfect for that character.
Arguments with me and myself
Gollum is a twisted fellow whose personality has cracked into two parts. One is savage, brutal, angry, and does everything it takes to survive. The other is meek, timid, frightened, and even exhibits signs of Gollum’s lost innocence. Throughout Lord of the Rings: Gollum, players will be faced with choices that pit these two sides against each other and during this preview session, I got to see it in action.
Not only will you choose to side between Gollum’s vicious and meek sides, but you will also navigate arguments in Gollum's head as to why to choose what course of action to take. In the example I was shown, Gollum discovers a beetle and his vicious side, being paranoid as it is, thinks the beetle is a spy. Meanwhile, the meek side, longing for company, wishes to spare the beetle and even befriend it. So goes the battle of wits inside Gollum’s psyche in which his meek side must prove that the little beetle is no spy. Of course, these mental duels will have an effect on the actions Gollum takes throughout the game and some of them will have far more dire consequences than the fate of a beetle. It’s up to the player to decide if Gollum acts on his vicious instincts or fragile humanity.
The strangest of adventures awaits
Gollum may not be the focal point one would expect out of a Lord of the Rings game or story, but he is still an interesting character as one of the longtime wielders of the One Ring and Daedalic’s adaptation of everything about him into this stealth action-platformer is looking solid so far. Will we be able to redeem the nasty little snot in the end? Somehow I doubt it, but The Lord of the Rings: Gollum still looks like it will present one of the more interesting tales never heard within the canon of Middle-earth. With the game coming later this year, we can’t wait to see the twists and turns of this strange, yet compelling quest.
This preview is based on a hands-off build demonstrated by the developers. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is set to launch on September 1, 2022 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. A Nintendo Switch version is also planned for later in 2022.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a tug of war between innocence & instinct
Releasing in September 2022