The Lord of the Rings: Gollum comes out on September 1. September 1 is the day before Amazon’s next TV series, clearly designed to pounce on the hype. It’s interesting, to say the least; developers Daedalic Entertainment – recently acquired by Nacon; well, their inclusion in Big Ben week – is not the most important, so it was a surprise when Daedalic announced Gollum three years ago. Now, years later and close to release, what does the game look like?
Gollum and Smeagol are contradictory personalities. Anyone who has read Tolkien’s works or watched The Lord of the Rings knows this. Much like its main character, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, based on the book’s license, also seems somewhat contradictory in the gameplay styles on offer. During my stay at Nacon’s Big Ben week, Daedalic Entertainment showed me two parts of the game, both very different from each other.
The tutorial highlights the stealth aspects that we will find in the game. Gollum is not a fighter; we know that. However, he is cunning. Set around Cirith Ungol, it is Gollum who escapes Mordor after being captured by Sauron, where he reveals that it was a Shire hobbit called Baggins who had the one ring. You can’t face an Orc head-on, so the trick is to be sneaky. You can hide in tall grass, use shadows to your advantage, and throw rocks to distract or stun light sources – either to outrun orcs or separate them to jump onto one’s back and do it to fall.
I love stealth games so this immediately caught my attention. You can still find me playing older stealth-focused titles like Hitman: Blood Money, Thief 2, and even games that put too much action into their stealth, like Splinter Cell. You will always find me in the shadows, prowling for my next victim. Sometimes in games too. So the stealth objective of Lord of the Rings: Gollum caught my eye, even though it’s very similar to a myriad of games in the Batman and Assassin lineup. Gollum has his own Batsense here called “Gollum Vision”.
After the stealth tutorial, Daedalic revealed the duality aspect of the game, showing that you will have times when you have to choose between Gollum and Smeagol. In the tutorial, it’s simple; do you crush hell still in love with a bug and kill it (Gollum)? Or, are you looking at the bug and playing with the bug (Smeagol)? These choices are said to be more important and even more difficult as the game progresses and will impact the rhythms of the story.
This is the first part of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, and perhaps the one that will put some people off. Not me, but here it is. The other part that Daedalic showed me is about the platform. Located in the court of Thranduil, Elven King of Mirkwood, you are tasked with reaching the top of the cavernous building. With an aesthetic that wouldn’t be out of place in the Lord of the Rings visual media we’ve seen before, something is striking here. Even more striking is the movement to get to the top.
There are no enemies here, which is good because the obstacle course is sufficient – moving from wall to wall, jumping through gaps to moving platforms that will take you even further high towards your end goal. See the Daedalic presenter miss a jump and see fall damage in action – pretty simple, with a UI that only shows up when you have low health or stamina, to help with immersion. I couldn’t help but be even more intrigued by The Lord of the Rings: Gollum.
One of the downsides for people will always be that it’s based on the license of the book. The characters won’t look exactly like the ones we know on the big screen. Gandalf will not be Ian McKellen; Gollum/Smeagol won’t look like Andy Serkis; Aragorn will not be Viggo Mortensen. This always has the chance to put people off, but it’s understandable and even reasonable here. Where games like Marvel’s Avengers wanted you to think about movies, they didn’t want to pay for it. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is all about the books as the source material.
As a Lord of the Rings fan, I’m looking forward to this. As a player, I hope it will be good. Some things make me worry that this is a very linear progression with few challenges, like the fact that Gollum doesn’t “level up” or essentially grow as the game progresses. It’s a Tolkien property thing, and it’s appropriate. Gollum is over 500 years old; you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Still, I only saw two levels, and in the second I couldn’t even see the end after the fall. Hopefully the aspects I like so far will shine above all concerns as this is a game I will be playing on release.
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