I keep in mind when The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was introduced all the way in which again in 2019. When the primary “cinematic” trailer dropped on the 2021 Recreation Awards, everybody else was skeptical. Cringing. Mocking. However me? “Wow, a Gollum-centric sport? There are such a lot of prospects! This shall be jam-packed with all types of lore and allow us to discover a Center-earth from the attitude of one of many franchise’s finest characters!”
Initially, I assumed it will be a full-blooded narrative journey within the vein of Telltale’s The Strolling Useless or Don’t Nod’s Life is Unusual, each of which chart someplace in my prime 30 video games of all time (however don’t ask me about particular placements in the mean time). However an motion/stealth sport? Okay! That would work, I suppose! I imply, it isn’t as if Gollum can wield a sword with any stage of experience — or win any sort of truthful one-on-one engagement with most of LotR’s finest and brightest.
No, Gollum is a bastard. One which’s tragic and sympathetic, positive, however a bastard all the identical. All of us keep in mind how he bought the One Ring, and it positive wasn’t one thing he acquired over a pleasant dialog. With a personality that’s closely rooted in trickery, manipulation, and counting on his capacity to catch unsuspecting enemies off-guard, Daedalic Leisure had an intriguing problem forward of it. Many video games attempt to incorporate stealth and find yourself making a janky, floaty catastrophe of a remaining product. However certainly, with such a beloved IP that already has a shoddy observe document on the subject of making a compelling online game, there’s no manner this could fail!
I’ll begin by saying that Gollum’s vocal vary is surprisingly good! It’s no Andy Serkis, after all, however when Gollum is struggling between himself and Sméagol, you possibly can hear that ache and indecision. That inside battle is well the very best a part of the sport, and it’s not even shut. At numerous factors, gamers should resolve which “half” is within the driver’s seat on the subject of essential decisions, which is an attention-grabbing mechanic — albeit one which’s dealt with within the worst attainable manner.
To set the stage, I’ll use the sport’s first use of this: Gollum comes throughout an harmless bug that’s minding its personal enterprise. Sméagol stops to admire the creature, however Gollum is paranoid. Gollum is being adopted. Gollum thinks the bug is an agent of Sauron. So, what’s it going to be? Do you let Gollum crush the insect underneath his frenzied heel, or do you enable Sméagol to benefit from the uncommon second of respite? I, after all, wished nothing however the very best for ol’ Sméagol (although by the character of the story being a prequel to the occasions of LotR, I knew it was for naught — however I may dream), in order that’s what I selected.
The sport determined to then reduce to a battle of wits between Sméagol and Gollum the place I needed to speak Gollum down from his erratic impulses. Conceptually, I love this as a mechanic. It completely enhances Gollum’s fraught, dual-sided nature and ought to have made for a tense back-and-forth the place you’re primarily bringing a breadstick to a swordfight in opposition to a madman. Nevertheless, this premise is instantly drowned by its insipid, lifeless presentation.
Whereas these arguments unfold inside his head, Gollum is positioned in opposition to a static, grey background, wanting useless on the participant as you verbally spar with him — with dialogue choices hovering together with the display screen. This pulled me all the way in which out of the expertise and viciously jogged my memory that, sure, I used to be enjoying a online game with fabricated characters. It’s exhausting to take these morality entanglements significantly, and worse, it showcases Gollum himself as an unflattering, creepy puppet.
Gollum is hideous. Positive, that’s true to the character, however once I say “hideous,” I imply he appears much less like Gollum and extra like a malnourished chimney sweep. In reality, this criticism goes effectively past Gollum himself and extends to… effectively, all the things. A number of the textures on sure objects and backgrounds are flat and lack the right element, beards appear to be Lego attachments you could possibly simply snatch off, and characters can’t transfer with out the occasional shake and jitter. Considered one of Gollum’s greatest enemies is the transitioning between cutscenes and gameplay as a result of characters would usually blink into existence and vibrate for a break up second earlier than talking. I’m usually not a graphics snob, however at instances, you’d be forgiven for strolling in on somebody enjoying this and pondering they dusted off their PlayStation 2.
I tried to play this on High quality mode, I actually did. Nevertheless, Gollum began doing a nervous, stuttered two-step with each try at ahead movement, and after a minute of praying the problem would resolve itself, I gave up and left it on Efficiency mode the place it no less than made extra of an effort to run correctly. Oh, however you can particularly modify the feel of what’s left of Gollum’s hair, so… yeah, the builders considered all the things! (You’re lacking roughly nothing with High quality mode, belief me.)
Whereas we’re as regards to issues not fairly working as they need to, let’s speak in regards to the precise moment-to-moment gameplay! So, Gollum’s a spry fella, it seems — in a position to carry out lengthy jumps, dash up and alongside partitions, and shimmy throughout ledges. Within the opening hour or so, whereas studying the controls and lay of the land, I used to be truly having enjoyable in case you can imagine it. Gollum moved the place I wished him to, he was bantering with himself, and I used to be so prepared to inform everybody that this might be 2023’s sleeper hit. However then, the sport continued previous the tutorial and launched extra advanced “platforming.”
Gollum has a stamina meter, by the way in which, that it’s a must to watch carefully or danger plummeting to your dying! Now, this wouldn’t have bothered me had been it not for the truth that when you’re required to get slightly fancy and exact together with your jumps, Gollum listens to you about 70 % of the time. In any other case, he apparently loves falling to his doom. You’re anticipated to maneuver with a way of urgency as a result of, , stamina, however generally, you want a second to delicately place Gollum so he’ll truly make the leap. I needed to maintain my breath throughout some prolonged platforming/tailing sections for worry of restarting and dropping a strong couple of minutes of progress.
Did you neglect this was a stealth sport? You thought tailing missions had been passé? Nicely, they’re right here — and what’s extra, generally in addition they go terribly mistaken by no fault of the participant! Throughout my very first tailing enterprise, through which I needed to comply with two orcs, all the things was going alright! We ended up in a cave, the place I used to be then tasked with sneaking behind one of many orcs and taking him out. I did that, after which, I needed to choose up a stone so I may flip a lantern off and plunge the cave into darkness — Gollum’s biggest ally. Nicely, once I set myself to stroll over to the stone, the sport froze. Then kicked me out to the PS5’s residence menu. It crashed.
So, I steeled myself and bought again into it. In any case, exterior of a few of these outrageous platforming/climbing sections, no less than the checkpoint system was decently beneficiant! This time, I snuck behind the primary orc once more. I bought into place, and… the button immediate by no means appeared! I waited and waited… nothing. For sure, the orc circled, and earlier than he may correctly break my day, guess what? The sport crashed once more!
All through the rest of my time with the sport, the sport would crash once more, and once more, and once more, and once more. At random! Typically, it will occur throughout a cutscene! Typically, it will occur throughout a crucial second! However principally, it will simply occur. When it was all stated and completed, it felt like I’d developed a rageful, illiberal Gollum equal that by no means wished to see one other crash, glitch, or misguided climbing ordeal in a online game ever once more. It’s been fairly a while since I performed one thing as flagrantly damaged as this. Is it oddly poetic contemplating the character? Sure. However I’m afraid I can’t give Daedalic Leisure the good thing about having supplied essentially the most meta — albeit depressing — gaming expertise of current years.
It’s such a disgrace as a result of with extra care and polish, this may’ve been 2023’s sleeper hit of the yr. With out spoiling something, the story itself no less than explores Gollum as a personality in a manner no different Lord of the Rings providing has to this point. You’ll encounter folks each new and acquainted to the Tolkien mythos, and admittedly, there are some cool moments and encounters in isolation. It’s a pity it’s all surrounded by a really horrible sport. Dreadful graphics, fixed bugs, and glitches, laughable voice appearing from a lot of the different characters, uneven animations, limitless crashes, and a misguided morality system that in the end quantities to little greater than a rotten cherry atop a cake composed of rocks and dung.
Gollum is well my favourite LotR character, and if anybody from the franchise deserves a standalone sport, it’s him. He’s suffered, struggled, and for a time, wielded a ghastly quantity of energy he couldn’t come near with the ability to fathom to any significant extent. In that manner, I suppose Daedalic Leisure and Gollum have a lot in frequent; a developer was given a One Ring alternative to benefit from a beloved IP and character — and wasted the possibility to be highly effective past its wildest desires. I’m sorry, candy Sméagol. Seems like your Valuable has, as soon as once more, been tragically stolen away.
This evaluate relies on the PlayStation 5 model of the sport. A replica was supplied by Nacon.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum has the ghost of excellent concepts sprinkled all through, however they’re woefully hindered by dated graphics; stiff, wonky controls; limitless bugs, glitches, and crashes; and in-game gimmicks that fail to reside as much as their lofty ambitions. King Theoden sums it up finest: “You haven’t any energy right here.”