Gollum is a pitiful creature. Not entirely evil, but certainly not good, his fate is brutally linked to that of the Ring, and his devotion carries him from Mordor to the mountain caves and back again. Perhaps the most interesting character in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. Many will immediately associate him with Andy Serkis’ scene-stealing mo-cap performance in Peter Jackson’s trilogy. But it’s time for the creature to take another shot.
The Lord of the Rings is told from Frodo’s point of view, and Gollum has that characteristic. But how would you feel if you lived in his mind and knew what was going on between Gollum, a personality that manifests from deep inside when he is near Smeagol, the poor primal hobbit who stumbled upon Sauron’s treasure years ago? of the ring? Lord of the Rings: If Gollum ever had anything to overdo it would be fucking boring.
Gollum (the game) feels that time is running out. The graphics are outdated and I don’t mind a more stylized approach to making ‘realistic’ orcs in exchange for more interesting mechanics, but facial animations are distorted, textures are flat, and physics are unrealistic. Gollum’s legs hang stiffly as he clings to the crossbeam, his hair regularly passes through his forehead, and sometimes not just his mouth moves, but his entire lower face, and audio arrives seconds later.
The flaws don’t stop there. I was told to turn off Gollum Hair Simulation in order for the game to run properly on PS5. You have to restart the entire chapter to progress, and jumping off the top of a ladder often collided with the ceiling, causing Gollum to fall to his death. The latter is more of a flaw than a design flaw. If the player needs to jump from a high place, make sure the character can actually jump from the point where the prompt is displayed.
You’d forgive all of this, at least if you had a strong Tolkien-based story to guide you, right? I hate to be the protagonist of bad news, but Gollum’s story is based on a line or two of rubbish from The Lord of the Rings. There is no narrative tension, and the first half of the game simply revolves around ‘Escape from Mordor’. We already know that Gollum did, and it doesn’t scale in any meaningful way. I was hopeful at first because there is a nice frame introduced as Gandalf interrogates Gollum, but nothing came of it. It goes from escaping the gray walls and red lava of excessive Mordor to escaping the (more visually interesting) prison in the halls of Thranduil.
The game is both aesthetically and mechanically dull. Stealth missions are as old as character animations, doing many escort missions and hiding a lot in the shadows. Throwing rocks to distract guards wasn’t innovative or exciting 10 years ago. Platformers are just as outdated. Climbing up walls with specific patterns, jumping from one section to another, swinging on conveniently placed beams, you know the drill. It was only difficult when sections didn’t work as expected, and the problem was exacerbated by the fact that when you start you’re shown a long panning shot of the exact path you need to take through the level. There are no alternative routes and few exciting events.
Gollum’s decision is the most interesting part of the game, but it’s only due to a lack of quality elsewhere rather than its own unique merits. There is a basic split between Smeagol and Gollum choices. Share a meager portion of maggot bread or keep it yourself. Scream at an ally for helping an escape attempt or frame a nasty orc prisoner. you get the picture. I tried to play Sméagol as much as possible, only venturing into Gollum’s realm when absolutely necessary to save the lives of allies and the like. But it was always easy to convince the other half of Golum’s brain if he said he was going to kill the House Elf, using dialogue options reminiscent of the Harry Potter Sorting Hat quiz that goes into Slytherin. Sticking to one character overall seemed to have little impact on future decisions, but if this game is fun in any way, I’ll be playing it again to see what other results emerge. I won’t do it because I don’t.
Not so much for hardcore LotR fans. It sounds like fun to see the inner workings of Mordor, but in reality it’s tedious as most of the items are screwed together for gameplay. Want to see Orcs strife and Sauron’s high-ranking officials battle for power? No, I’m driving a herd of angry cows because I need a minigame. One moment that feels made for fans, climbing the oft-remembered War Machine Grond leans too far in the other direction to become shallow fan service. I’m sure Sindarin is all top notch. I’m not a linguist, I’m a transmitter. But the best part for Tolkien fans is the glossary, accessible from the main menu, which contextualizes much of the game as you play. But Melian’s girdle is not a physical object.
Gollum isn’t a good game, but it has its moments. In the early stages, when the Nazgul closed around me, I felt a real panic, but then I realized that this was the scene of Gollum’s capture and there was no way to escape. While many of the exciting set pieces, involving beasts and such, were relegated to cutscenes, this one captured the fear Gollum was feeling. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing I’ve noticed in the entire game. Gollum’s characterization is poor, and you’ll end the game with exactly the same sentiments you had about Tolkien’s poor creature when you first started out. There are many more advantages. The character designs are also wonderful interpretations of Tolkien’s descriptions and inspired by the creepy folk horror vibes of Mirkwood Elves, but too little to save this boring game.
Score: 1.5/5. A copy of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was provided by the publisher.
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