Games are supposed to be fun, right? It doesn’t matter if they have a great story, outstanding gameplay, or state-of-the-art graphics, they’re supposed to give the players pleasure. So it stands to reason that LOTR: Gollum falls into one of these categories, right? Well, somehow this game does NONE of these things. So why would anyone play this game?
I’ve been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works since I was old enough to read. So when I heard about a solo Gollum game, I was naturally excited, to say the least. After all, every LOTR fan has dreamed of exploring Middle-earth on their own. Honestly, I’d have preferred to explore the world as Aragorn or any other member of the Fellowship, but I could see how Gollum’s point of view would be interesting.
The game was first announced in 2019 and was delayed 3 times before release. ”that’s perfectly fine, they just want to make sure the game is perfect on release day,” I thought to myself. But I was wrong (oh man, was I wrong).
So what is the gameplay like?
In the game, you step into the bare feet of Gollum and during dialogue, you can choose to act as Smeagol or the corrupted Gollum – an idea I really like. I enjoy games where I can choose the development of my character, but here the game prevents me from interacting with anything while a conversation is going on, and that happens A LOT.
There’s a lot of climbing during the game – it kind of reminded me of the good ol’ Uncharted days, if Nate had been a tiny trash Goblin with a split personality and a personal hygiene problem. Stealth is also an important part of the game, as you spend much of the game hiding from the repetitive and monotonous guards of Barad-dur.
In most levels of the game, there are 3 stages:
- The work phases – you complete various menial tasks that often feel like they have no purpose, but just give you something to do. The character also moves very slowly. Although his sprinting speed is quite high, it depletes immediately, and it takes ages to recharge.
- The jump’n’run stages – are a bit more fun. I enjoyed the design of the map sections you had to parkour around, but the weird feeling when Gollum moves makes you feel like you’re playing on your PS2 again.
- The stealth stages – Remember playing a stealth archer back in Skyrim where you just crouched, and the guards’ first thought before they gave up was, ”Hm… Must have been the wind”? It gets worse. The guards have VERY limited patrol routes, can’t see more than a meter in front of them, and suffer from instant memory loss, forgetting about Gollum seconds after seeing him.
As Gollum, your only options are stealth, hide in tall grass, or throw rocks, which is understandable as Gollum was never really a fighter. You do have the option to strangle enemies, but that only applies to orcs (every other humanoid race apparently has their throat made of titanium alloy).
However, I did enjoy the sound design. The voice actor did his job really well, delivering a performance that any LOTR fan who loves Andy Serkis’ Gollum would expect. The ambient sounds also come through well, making you feel like you’re actually walking in a dark and dank cave.
Even the great work of the sound department can’t redeem the game from its many sins. It still feels pointless because it doesn’t answer the big question – why would anyone want to play an entire game as Gollum? If you’ve played any other third-person action game in the last few years, you’ve experienced everything AND MORE that Gollum has to offer. If you really want to play a game in the LOTR universe, do yourself a favor and buy Shadow of Mordor for half the price and spend the rest on a couple of pints at the Green Dragon Inn.