Gollum has a huge model and makes very little of it



The Lord of the Rings: Gollum in GamePro preview.

Unlike larger open-world adventures such as Middle-earth: Shadow of War, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum tells a smaller adventure in the world of Tolkien’s saga. In stealth we slip into the role of the greasy Gollum and sneak and climb through the world of Middle-earth.

But where a lot of love for raw material can be found in the setting and designs, the gameplay offered is still rather poor. We were able to get an idea of ​​the game in a roughly 22 minute presentation including a chat with the developers and we’re a little concerned.

Lots of love for tradition

The game begins in the mountains of Cirith Ungol near Mordor, several years before the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien fans can be reassured here: Unlike Middle-earth: Shadow of War, which didn’t take the book’s tradition seriously, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is much closer to the original.

Here you quickly notice that there are some Tolkien fans among the developers. In addition to characters such as Gandalf, Thranduil or Nazgl, there are also well-known places in the game such as the dark tower Barad-dr, which we see from the inside for the first time in the game.

With his monotonous surroundings, Mordor doesn't look quite as attractive.  Especially at the beginning of the game, we often stare at bare rocks.






With his monotonous surroundings, Mordor doesn’t look quite as attractive. Especially at the beginning of the game, we often stare at bare rocks.

Accordingly, the appearance of the game looks different from what movie fans are used to, because the development team from Daedalic created their own designs based on the books. Of course, as in the movies, Mordor consists of rocky landscapes with sharp edges and the halls of the elves consist of high lacy walls.

Arachnophobia Warning: If you have a severe fear of spiders, you should be careful in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, as there are several scenes of large spiders in the game.

And ‘Hero’ Gollum is the emaciated character we know – his eyes are larger than they are in the movies, but that doesn’t necessarily make him any more lovable. Instead, it looks annoying when his eyes roll wildly in his head, and this is also due to the somewhat unnatural facial animation. Although the presented material is still an experimental game, the game is graphically reminiscent of the last generation of consoles.

Of course, the barren stone landscapes through which Gollum creeps and climbs at the start of the game doesn’t help either. The story tells of his journey to Mordor and the search for the Ring after losing to Bilbo. Later on, the game also takes us to other well-known places such as Mirkwood and the Mines of Moria.

Here you can get an impression of the game in the CGI trailer:

Trailer shows ripped Gollum characters in LotR stealth game






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Trailer shows ripped Gollum characters in LotR stealth game

Core of the game: Stealth and climb

Since Gollum is too weak to face most opponents in head-to-head confrontation, we have to get past the orcs and invisible mates. This works in two ways. On the other hand, the former hobbit is an excellent climber, so we can climb along rock walls in linear areas and jump over the rift. In addition to slow climbing lanes where we simply have to find the right path, there should also be faster sections where we have to avoid enemies.

There’s also an endurance bar on tough climbs where Gollum just swings freely hanging from his arms. Here we have to be careful to get past the clip before it becomes empty or else we will fall off. Actually an interesting idea to add some excitement to the rather slow climb – but at least in the presentation we didn’t see anywhere where we had to assess whether or not we had enough stamina for a tough pass.

It remains to be seen if we should use our brains a bit more in the end game. By the way, we cannot improve our maximum stamina, because Gollum’s abilities remain unchanged during the course of the game.

In order not to be detected, we can hide in the grass.  If we use Gollum's sense, hiding places will appear in light green and enemies in red.






In order not to be detected, we can hide in the grass. If we use Gollum’s sense, hiding places will appear in light green and enemies in red.

If we can’t climb over our enemies’ heads, we can sneak past them. For this we hide in the tall grass and use the “gollum view”. This allows us to cover the environment in high contrast colors, similar to the eagle eye from the Assassin’s Creed games. While highlighting enemies, hiding places, and the path to our next target is useful, the stark contrast here is a bit annoying, especially since the game largely ignores UI elements.

Smeagol or Gollum? It’s our choice

However, we are not completely defenseless. If Gollum can infiltrate unsuspecting enemies, he can also strangle them. However, this isn’t as fast as we’re used to from stealth finishing touches in some other games, but it does take several seconds. So we have to be especially careful here to avoid detection.

In order to distract opponents long enough, we can also collect stones, which we then throw at lamps to turn off their light. There should also be some boss fights as the game progresses, but exactly what it’s going to look like — and most importantly: who we’re up against — hasn’t been revealed by Daedalek yet.

After all, if we wanted to, we should be able to avoid getting killed almost completely. This may also be related to the game’s morale mechanics. At several points, we have the opportunity to decide which of the two Gollums we want to prioritize: the somewhat fearsome but cute Sméagol or the cold-blooded Gollum.

Visually, the moral choices will look different in the final game, but that's pretty much how we can visualize the choices in Gollum and Sméagol's logic.






Visually, the moral choices will look different in the final game, but that’s pretty much how we can visualize the choices in Gollum and Sméagol’s logic.

In these moments we talk to ourselves and let the “good” or “bad” side argue. The presentation was all about deciding whether to eat an insect or just look at it, but we’ll probably have to make more difficult choices in the game.

How we play Gollum is meant to influence the fate of other characters and their reactions to us – and Sméagol’s choices aren’t always the right choice, and like Gollum, they can work against us.

The whole thing sounds fun, but it doesn’t change anything about the end of the story. There are supposed to be two different endings, but they end in the same epilogue. They have to, we already know how Gollum’s story continues in The Lord of the Rings. It remains to be seen if the decisions in the game are still worthwhile.

big worry

So, while the game’s individual mechanics seem mostly consistent, the concern remains: Could The Lord of the Rings: Gollum offer enough variety to keep you entertained during the target ten hours of gameplay?

After all, Gollum has a clear selection of skills from the very beginning, which also do not develop over time. While this makes sense in the context of the story – this is a relatively short period in a previous hobbit’s life – it becomes tiring or boring after only a few hours at worst.

In addition to the somewhat dreary Mordor, we also explore the halls of elves in Mirkwood.  At least visually we get some variety.






In addition to the somewhat dreary Mordor, we also explore the halls of elves in Mirkwood. At least visually we get some variety.

The morale mechanic, which can actually be an interesting point to interact with the story, also suffers from the fact that we already know where Gollum will ultimately end up regardless of our decisions. And frankly, Gollum may not necessarily be a truly sympathetic hero even for many Tolkien fans, at best, the tragic character makes you feel sorry. Here, at most, the fate of other characters we meet on our journey may be influenced in an interesting way by our decisions.

We’ll know by September 1, 2022 at the latest if these concerns will materialize or if the game will be more fun than expected. Then The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will be released for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S Xbox One and PC. A Nintendo Switch version will be released later this year.

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