The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a travesty of a videogame that disappoints on virtually each single stage. It’s a disgrace as a result of on paper I really assume the idea is sort of robust. Gollum is a conflicted character consistently at warfare with himself, the 2 sides of his persona making an attempt to exist in a single physique. The extra harmless Smeagol is the remnant of what he as soon as was earlier than being corrupted by Sauron’s ring, after which there’s Gollum, the wretched monster created by the affect of such a darkish and horrible object. There’s loads of story potential there and Daedelic tries to carry it into the precise gameplay throughout transient sections the place you’ve to select after which persuade both Gollum or Smeagol to associate with it. And selecting to give attention to platforming and stealth makes complete sense for the character as a result of whereas his wiry body is deceptively robust he’s not a warrior and is simply too cowardly to get into fights. However man, it doesn’t come collectively.
Daedalic has a robust pedigree, simply not in this sort of sport. They’ve constructed themselves a status for wonderful point-and-click titles, from the brilliantly bonkers Deponia sequence to the charming Night time of the Rabbit. Every one featured stunning graphics, and memorable characters and was polished to a shine. So when Daedalic introduced The Lord of the Rings: Gollum my eyebrows shot up like two attractive caterpillars – a totally 3D stealth sport with platforming components? And primarily based on arguably essentially the most recognized fantasy books of all time? Absolutely this small developer was diving into Mount Doom pondering it was only a paddling pool. After enjoying by the entire 8-10 hour marketing campaign, I feel my preliminary ideas have been proper: each inch of this sport felt like a developer completely out of their depth was on the helm, desperately attempting to sew one thing shippable collectively. No marvel it shortly grew to become the worst-reviewed sport of the 12 months.
Gollum can be a difficult character to work with. He’s considered one of Tolkien’s most complicated creations, a damaged creature residing a lifetime of distress just because he got here involved with one thing evil. And what may Daedalic do with him, actually? Gollum must be in place for The Fellowship of the Ring and may’t have his persona modified in any substantial method. The one factor they may do is attempt to flesh Gollum out and make him extra sympathetic, which may impression the films and the books by making you’re feeling one thing deeper for the character if you expertise them. And at first, it looks as if that could be the plan. Daedalic provides Gollum just a few probabilities to be considerably good in comparison with his common self-servicing strategies, to convey himself as greater than only a slimy little bastard who tries to border Samwise Gamgee for consuming all of the meals. Hell, they even have Gollum make just a few mates and hatch a tiny chicken that views him as its dad. However then throughout one part specifically, Daedalic shoots themselves within the foot by having Gollum do one thing horrible, and the more severe factor is that they provide you a “alternative” about what to do and so they do it anyway. And so by the tip of the sport, Gollum is precisely what he all the time was: an opportunistic, slimy little hobgoblin that’s obsessed along with his ring and the Hobbit that stole it.
Story-wise, the sport tracks Gollum’s time between the theft of his ring by that nasty Bagginseses and his look in The Fellowship of the Ring. There’s a niche of round 6 years there, and Daedalic says they introduced in specialists on Tolkien’s deep lore to assist craft a narrative that would slot in correctly by way of canon. On this regard, I feel they succeeded: the sport does a fairly good job of becoming into the canon, by which I largely imply it doesn’t spoil something or depart behind a bunch of bizarre plot holes, supplied you’re keen to simply accept Gollum having a pet chicken that doesn’t instantly eat.
However the precise story is fairly boring. The overwhelming majority of it takes place in Barad-dûr, an underground jail that Gollum is tossed into after stupidly attempting to chase a bug and falling down a hill. No, I’m not simply making that up. A lot of the early hours are spent doing totally menial chores like amassing the tags of some useless orcs, with solely a few poorly written storylines to justify any of it. There’s some nonsense along with your frail outdated cellmate that goes nowhere, and a few delicate Mordor politics with the Candle Man, a sorcerer that appears to seek out Gollum helpful as a spy within the jail, though Gollum does nothing. Once more, the story of the Candle Man goes nowhere.
Gollum’s a surprisingly spritely little bastard in the case of getting round. Not solely does he transfer shortly, he also can leap fairly excessive, swing on bars and, clamber up clearly marked partitions. Platforming hits all of the notes you’d count on of it actually, requiring little or no in the best way of thought or talent to traverse the environments. Essentially the most artistic it will get is leaping backwards off a wall, a difficult factor to do as a result of the tight areas and the digital camera usually imply you possibly can’t see, so it’s a must to depend on the button immediate showing to allow you to when to take the leap. Nor does Daedalic try to mix the platforming components into the remainder of the surroundings, so a cliff face will simply have random yellow, straight traces sunk into it so Gollum is aware of precisely the place to go. Different video games at the very least try to cover these items and make it seem like a part of the world, however I suppose in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, Sauron actually works onerous to maintain well being and security requirements excessive.
It’s principally the Uncharted or Tomb Raider type of platforming, besides it lacks the cinematic aptitude and smoothness that makes these video games gratifying. Gollum will generally fail to do what’s requested of him, or someway miss a leap utterly as a result of, in contrast to the video games I discussed, his animations aren’t canned and thus a sideways leap from handhold to handhold will not be assured to truly work. Besides when it’s canned and he’s pulled to a handhold mid-jump like a magnet has simply been activated. It’s bloody irritating, particularly as a result of the sport’s communication expertise about the place to go and what can or cannot be reached are extremely obscure. It resulted in dozens of annoying deaths the place Gollum didn’t seize the pole or the place a platforming sequence didn’t work as meant as a result of the builders mashed it collectively and simply assumed it might be effective. However even when the lengthy platforming sections do work they’re boring since you’ve achieved all of it in dozens and dozens of different video games, and people video games have been faster or smoother or required extra talent or simply had good surroundings to clamber round.
You’ll put these platforming mechanics to the take a look at within the first few hours that are by far essentially the most boring. Caught in jail, Gollum’s first duties are to herd some beasts right into a cage, then acquire some tags from useless Orcs, after which pour some slop into the breeding pits the place the Uruk Hai are being grown. Every of those jobs is damaged up by returning to your cell and hitting a key to fall asleep, a very pointless design factor as a result of there’s actually nothing else you are able to do anyway, so why make the participant trudge again to the cell and hit a button? That is the sort of weak mission designs you possibly can count on from The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, and it solely will get somewhat higher as the sport goes on.
The opposite huge focus apart from platforming is sneaking round, one thing which Gollum is extremely good at within the supply materials. All of his skills at staying hidden imply little, although, when the stealth segments are so poorly designed. It’s as fundamental as stealth will be: conceal behind stuff, crawl by shadows or flowerbeds to develop into utterly invisible and throw some rocks to distract the idiotic AI. Gollum has a particular instinct view that lets him observe enemies by partitions, so that you simply look ahead to a niche, amble over to the subsequent apparent shadow or object and repeat till bored. Not less than it’s higher than the climbing, I suppose.
Gollum even sometimes will get to homicide an orc. I like that Daedalic saved this uncommon, and if you do strangle an orc it takes ages as a result of poor little Gollum has to place all of his weight and energy into choking the a lot bigger beast. It helps hold killing a tense expertise, somewhat than a commonplace act. It’s sort of complicated, nonetheless, that Gollum can’t strangle an Orc if it’s carrying a helmet.
Sometimes, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum tries to get somewhat adventurous by throwing in random stuff, a few of which doesn’t make sense and most of which is poorly executed. Ordering companions round, for instance, is a tedious and mind-numbing course of due to how slowly they transfer and due to how simplistic the puzzles are. However there’s a particular instance I need to use as a result of it’s so bizarre and an ideal technique of describing how clumsily the entire sport has been put collectively. I used to be caught for a couple of minutes throughout a platforming part attempting to determine the place I used to be meant to be going. I attempted just a few experimental leaps to different platforms and fell to my loss of life. On the third try, I unintentionally brushed a beam and it fell over, forming a bridge. The rationale this stands out as odd is as a result of the sport hadn’t used a mechanic like this within the earlier 4 hours, and it by no means used it once more, nor did it present any kind of indication that knocking over the beam was a chance. It’s simply this unusual, singular use of an concept like somebody put it in after which forgot about it.
There’s even a kind of God-forsaken chase sequences from the early 2000s. You recognize the one, the place it’s a must to outrun a pursuer by charging straight on the digital camera and leaping/dodging obstacles that come up the display screen in direction of you? Sure, I child you not, within the 12 months 2023 Daedalic thought this was a good suggestion. It wasn’t. It’s horrible. Daedalic vaguely makes an attempt to fight the inherently shitty design of this by having a bizarre inexperienced path that tells you the place to maneuver and when to leap, however all that did was make me query what it was and why it was there? Did some useful Orc come alongside and drop inexperienced dots in case some crack-head creep got here scuttling alongside?
There are actually dozens of different oddities like this that I may checklist, all of which level to a sport that feels prefer it was taken aside and rebuilt time and again and once more. There are unusual scene transitions, baffling environments that don’t make any sense and heaps of particulars lacking, the type that you simply don’t even take into consideration till they aren’t there. Like, why isn’t there a sound for when an Orc smacks you within the head when it catches you?
I really assume that utilizing Gollum’s break up persona as a mechanic is a cool concept. However these moments are nothing however an phantasm of alternative, designed in such a method as to make you’re feeling like you’ve affect over the story if you really don’t. Gollum and Smeagol’s arguments do nothing, and the perfect instance of this comes later within the sport. I gained’t spoil something so suffice to say that you simply’re given a alternative: get up an evil creature and let it do one thing horrible with the intention to sneak by, or depart it sleeping. I sided with Smeagol and simply satisfied Gollum to associate with it. So what did the sport do? Properly, it ignored my enter, and as an alternative the scene immediately reduce to Gollum saying “Over there! Run!” and the large monster waking anyway. Not solely was there by no means any alternative, then, however the builders didn’t even embody a correct clarification or transition in case you sided with Smeagol. What was the purpose? Why did it get up anyway?
No quantity of tweaking and playing with the restricted settings may get Gollum to run easily. I saved working into body drops, generally at inconvenient occasions like a chase sequence. It’s not prefer it’s a demanding sport, both: the assorted map sections are all fairly small, there’s minimal AI and the graphics are low high quality throughout the board. Even folks with top-of-the-line machines are struggling to get it working nicely, and Daedalic themselves have acknowledged the efficiency woes.
Going again to the graphics, that is an unsightly sport, and never in the best way that Gollum is meant to be ugly. The facial animations are the worst offenders, simply rating amongst a few of the worst I’ve seen up to now few years. They’re stiff in motion and sometimes in the reduction of to a personality’s default look with none kind of transition, one thing that was most noticeable when the Candle Man was speaking, though Gollum does it too. Character fashions look horrible, with Gollum himself trying far worse than his personal counterparts within the films or one thing like Center-Earth: Shadow of Battle. Sure, he’s purported to be gaunt and ugly, however this model of Gollum appears to be like like somebody hit a crack addict within the face with a shovel after which known as it a day. The environments are drab and missing intimately, too, and a few of the closely armoured Orcs seem like Shrek when was carrying the knight’s armour within the first film.
To place it merely, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum appears to be like like one thing out of the late PS3 and Xbox 360 period. You would possibly accuse me of being hyperbolic, however I feel you might simply identify dozens of video games from that period that look artistically and technically higher than Gollum, and that don’t use as many freaking loading screens regardless of having small environments. The truth is, the unique Center-Earth: Shadow of Mordor launched 8 years in the past on PS3 and Xbox 360 and appears significantly higher. Let’s not neglect that the really useful specs for Gollum name for an RTX 4090. What sort of fucking Pipe Weed was Daedalic smoking?
I can’t end this evaluate till I point out Daedalic’s abysmal use of DLC, both. As a part of the particular Treasured Version or as separate purchases you may get an in-game lore compendium and idea artwork. Each of those are issues most triple-A titles embody without spending a dime, but Daedalic sought to cost for them, an particularly egregious error contemplating how poorly the compendium is written. Or you possibly can select to purchase “iconic” emotes for Gollum for £1.99, including nothing to the sport besides just a few crappy animations. However the worst factor is a chunk of £1.99 DLC which provides extra “authenticity” to the sport by offering a Sindarin voiceover for the Elven characters. I shit you not.
This was not a great way for Daedalic to kick off its use of the Lord of the Rings license and definitely doesn’t encourage confidence of their subsequent Lord of the Rings mission. Though I do assume the premise for the sport was good, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a slog to get by. The boring missions, bland environments, flat gameplay, poor graphics and common story mix to make this, at greatest, a very mediocre expertise. However as soon as you’re taking the a number of points into consideration and the truth that Daedalic needed £60 for it, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum turns into like its namesake: a pitiful wretch corrupted by the attract of the One Ring.