Lord of the Rings is a franchise that has marvelled fantasy fans and non-fantasy fans alike for generations. What started off as a story about a Hobbit leaving his home on an adventure has turned into an immense fantasy epic with extensive lore and history, and has transcended into multiple mediums, from movies to recently tv shows and of course video games. That being said it seems that the franchise has been going into a downward spiral as of late, starting with Amazon’s divisive Rings of Power series, with supposedly more on the horizon. Unfortunately, Daedalic Entertainment decided to tarnish this pantheon even further with the release of Lord of the Rings: Gollum. A game that was met with countless delays, and had gamers scratching their heads over why the game was even being made, leading to a lot of cynicism. Though the game finally came out, so did it quash these negative feelings or were they very warranted?
In Lord of the Rings: Gollum, big surprise, you play as Gollum, the fan favourite schemer always on the hunt for his precious ring. The game takes place sixty-six years after Bilbo Baggins stole the One Ring from him. A majority of the story is a recounting from Gollum to Gandalf after being captured by the Elves of Mirkwood. After stumbling into Mount Doom whilst he was chasing a bird, Gollum runs into a band of Orcs and eventually gets captured by Nazgul while trying to escape. He’s thrown into one of the slave pits, being forced to do strenuous and menial work for the Orcs. Now, by using those around him and by being ever so patient, he must find a way to escape these pits and return to his hunt for his beloved ring. This story is not very good, there are a lot of long periods where the story doesn’t progress and at times when it does it comes with little to no build up. I understand that it’s just a story about Gollum so it’s not going to be anything epic, but I expected better than this.
I’m just going to say it, this game looks hideous. The environments and backgrounds look fine, the one real downside is that they don’t stand out compared to other games, but the character models look downright awful. I’m sure we’ve all seen how Gollum looks by now, he does not look menacing in the slightest and looks more like a rendition of the character you would find in a children’s picture book. What makes it worse is that he’s one of the better character models. At best the characters have little to no details and at worse it looks like their face is melting. The best I can really say about the voice acting is that, like the environments, is just fine for the most part, a number of the less significant characters don’t sound very different from one another and they definitely aren’t trying their best, but they aren’t offensively bad. I also have to give a bit of credit to Andres Williams for doing a pretty good Gandalf impression. The one exception to this however is Wayne Forester as Gollum. I think it’s safe to say that after Andy Serkis’ phenomenal portrayal of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films, the voice he used for Gollum has pretty much become his definitive sound, hence why all renditions of the character have used at least a similar sounding voice (with the best in my opinion being Liam O’Brein in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor). Forester on the other hand doesn’t even attempt to mimic said voice, he sounds incredibly whiny and not menacing in the slightest, even I can do a better Gollum impression than him (which isn’t saying much as my impression of him is pretty spot on). The music isn’t really much to comment on, it’s all basically soft tracks that feel like they could fit in any fantasy setting, in fact a few sound like they would fit Harry Potter more than they would Lord of the Rings, ultimately very bland and forgettable.
Lord of the Rings: Gollum is essentially a stealth platformer, the levels consist of platform challenges for you to get through that are at times integrated with stealth sections where you have to stay out of sight of nasty Orcs as well as other creatures. Honestly the worst part of the game is how it controls. On the ground movement feels too loose, making it hard to gauge how far you can move or even which direction you’re moving in. I often find myself falling off the edge or getting trapped just because I’m fighting against the controls. The jumping isn’t much better as it’s too floaty, often causing me to overshoot how far I’m jumping, meaning that I, of course, fall to my death. Honestly, most of the game overs I got were because of how poorly it controls. On top of that there are a few aspects of the controls that just don’t make sense or are just infuriating. For starters, if you’re hanging from a ledge and want to jump backwards, you would normally just hold the control stick in the opposite direction of where you’re facing, instead this game has a dedicated button to jump behind you, which is just unnecessary. You also have a sprint button, mostly for platforming purposes, which has a stamina metre, the issue with that is that you run out of stamina after sprinting for only half a second and it takes ages for it to recharge to the point why I question the point of even having a sprint mechanic.
Platforming is what you’ll mainly be doing throughout the game. You’ll find yourself shimmying along the edge of cliffs, climbing up and down walls and swinging on bars amongst other things. As you can guess, the controls make these sections much more difficult than they should be, especially when you’re walking on very narrow platforms. One big issue is that the game really doesn’t do a good job differentiating what gaps in the cliffs can be climbed upon and what part can’t, sometimes it’s pretty obvious though other times it blends in with the environment too much, meaning that I either spend ages not figuring out where I’m meant to go or take unnecessary damage. There are a couple of sections where you’re shimmying across a cliff and your legs end up dangling, causing your stamina to slowly deplete. This is likely meant to add tension, but the only reason you’d run out of stamina is if you stop moving for a significant amount of time, as long as you keep moving you’re going to be fine, making these sections lack the tension they’re meant to have. I also mentioned a couple of sections where you have to swing on bars to get to a ledge. You’ll also lose stamina during these sections, though it makes more sense here as you do have to swing a certain distance to do a decent jump. Though that’s the only good thing I can really say about this mechanic as it is otherwise terrible. It barely works half the time as if you stop swinging it takes forever for it to start going again, and you can’t move along the bar, meaning that if you’re not in a very good position to jump, you either have to drop off and start again or just die.
The other consistency with this game are the many stealth sections. First of all I have to at least praise the devs for not trying to incorporate combat into this game as Gollum is absolutely not a combative character (hey I have to give them credit for something). These stealth sections will often give you a multitude of areas to hide in, from patches of tall grass to under desks and tables, to just simple shadows. If you get spotted by an enemy they will either start shooting at you with crossbows or will simply start chasing you, leading to an immediate game over if you’re caught. It is simultaneously easy to avoid detection and difficult to avoid detection. For starters, if you’re hiding in any kind of shadowy alcove or even just walking behind an enemy, no matter how close to them you are, you won’t be detected thus making it insanely easy to hide if you’re close to one. However, it is also very easy for a guard to spot you if you’re not hiding and the enemy going from seeing you to chasing you happens very quickly. The best I can really say about these sections is that they’re very boring and will require a lot of trial and error, hell it feels like I just get lucky half the time, but at least it’s not as broken as the platform sections are.
There’s not really much to say about the puzzles, there are very few of them and they’re not very good. Some of them just involve you trying to figure out where to go next, though others include an npc that you have to guide and simply tell them to pull a lever or something like that. As I said, the puzzles aren’t very good, there’s very little instruction on how to solve them and you never feel any kind of satisfaction for completing them. Granted it might be because I’ve been playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom a lot recently, but these just aren’t worth mentioning.
Arguing with Yourself
Probably the most unique part of the game are the moments where you have to get Gollum and Smeagol to agree with one another on a decision you make. It happens very infrequently but a couple of times in the game you’ll be given a decision that will correlate well with one of your two personalities and conflict with one another, and then have to convince the other into their line of thinking. You’ll be given a number of choices on how you would like to present your argument and you’ll have a number of chances to do so. It’s an interesting idea that I feel like could have been done well, but sadly it’s ruined by one flaw, it’s too easy. The best argument to pick is painfully obvious to the point where I was consistently winning the argument on the first chance. It’s a shame because I really like the idea, if only it were executed better.
Bugs and Glitches
This should come as no surprise, but this is probably one of the buggiest games I’ve ever played. And it’s not any of the fun ones like graphical deformities or character models getting mangled, unfortunately they’re more annoying and confusing than anything else. There are some minor ones, for instance a character who’s beard starts floating every time he speaks, and a couple of annoying ones like how Gollum at times gets stuck on seemingly nothing and is unable to move for a few seconds. There have been a number of crashes that, of course, come out of nowhere. Then there are some more unusual ones, for example there were a number of times where NPCs and enemies didn’t even spawn where they were meant to, which led to some funny moments like the camera being pointed at nothing during cutscenes or making stealth sections easier, though they’re are also some incredibly annoying instances where an NPCs presence is needed for you to move further into the level, causing a softlock that requires a full level restart. The one that confused me the most is where the game respawns me at the wrong checkpoint, it might just be me being an idiot, but I swear there were a couple of times where I ended up dying and respawned at the checkpoint ahead of my last one. I’ve never encountered that happening in any other game, but it’s the one time I was actually happy while playing it (coz it meant that I finished the game faster). Those are the ones that happened to me but after watching a few Youtube videos on the game, I question if this game was even tested at all. I found some bizarre glitches and bugs that I never even saw in some of the most broken games in existence, and that includes travesties like Ride to Hell: Retribution and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Easily the weirdest one I’ve seen is in a video by Tears of Grace, where a wheel that you’re meant to run on top of started spinning sideways, I swear I’m not kidding.
The thing that I question the most of all is why this game was even made. Lord of the Rings and the world it takes place in is magnificently vast with multiple encyclopaedias worth of lore and characters, and the one they decided to make a game about is this dishevelled cretin. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gollum, he’s my favourite character in the series, but even I wouldn’t want a game based on him. Want my advice, stay as far away from this game as you possibly can, there is absolutely nothing redeemable about this game outside of the environment not looking that bad. It’s bland and boring at best and is broken and miserable at worst. To put it simply, we hates it, we hates it, like we hates the filthy cheating Bagginses.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
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