Gollum might not be the hero in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but he is an important catalyst in the destruction of the ring. Lord of the Rings: Gollum from Daedelic Entertainment brings the little guy front and center in one of the most promising games of 2023. In the recent preview of the game, I was able to play three different story chapters that focused on different areas of gameplay: exploration, stealth/parkour, puzzles, and even balancing Gollum/Smeagol’s inner conflict. Together, everything added up to be one of the most endearing stories Middle-earth has seen since the early 2000s.
The Environment in Lord of the Rings: Gollum is Astounding
At its core, Lord of the Rings: Gollum plays like an exploration game. The environment of the game is full of details that players may or may not recognize. In fact, the environment was so enthralling that it was hard to progress at one point while knowing that I was missing out on side conversations between orcs. While the game and iconic movies are based on the same source material, there’s a different style to the game – plus, the world looks a little different to Gollum. While Gandalf and Thranduil made appearances, they were simply named Wizard and Elf-King as that’s who Gollum knew them as.
It’s as stunning as it is true to canon. The developers and designers assured us that nothing in the game breaks the canon set from the books. However, there have been things added that fall in line with the canon to flesh out Middle-earth from Gollum’s point of view. There’s also a depth to some characters that don’t get fleshed out in the movies, like the Mouth of Sauron. From the limited time I spent with the character, he seems as manipulative and wickedly terrifying as a villain connected to Sauron should be.
Gollum’s Inner Conflicts Are a Work of Art
Besides the Mouth of Sauron, the only other character I got a good look at is Gollum/Smeagol himself. Daedelic Entertainment didn’t disappoint – part of the gameplay revolves around making decisions about what to say and do, which add and subtract light and dark elements to Gollum/Smeagol. The “dark” side of the creature is Gollum, while the “light” side is Smeagol, similar to how the character struggles with internal battles in the original books and references both parts of himself.
This translated beautifully as a gameplay mechanic. At one point, I had to convince Gollum to go with a Smeagol answer because of the dialogue options I chose. These responses and internal arguments were difficult, and it wasn’t clear which personality would respond in which way. It was more than just good-versus-bad dialogue options; there were elements of self-preservation, curiosity, and paranoia that arched over everything. The balance of the tiny creature (and player responses) is supposed to impact how the story plays out, giving players reasons to play through the game multiple times.
The last real gameplay mechanic that I got to see focused on the stealth and parkour elements of Lord of the Rings: Gollum. It’s hard to say how fluid the parkour felt because of the lag caused by streaming on a remote desktop, along with some development work that still needed to be done. However, the parts that worked shined. It wasn’t too complex to be incredibly difficult, but there were plenty of different tricks Gollum can perform that kept it feeling fresh. The stealth elements also stood out for the same reasons.
Lord of the Rings: Gollum Shows Incredible Promise
Between Rings of Power and the more recent Hobbit movies, there’s an argument that Tolkien’s vision of Middle-earth is being twisted and portrayed wrongly for more and more revenue. However, Lord of the Rings: Gollum does not fit into that category based on the preview. Nothing was compromised despite the intense focus on keeping the story as true as possible, from the dialogue to open-world elements to parkour. Besides the clear polishing that needs to be done on certain parts of the game, it’s looking like a game-of-the-year contender that players can expect sometime in 2023 after delays last year.
TechRaptor previewed Lord of the Rings: Gollum via a streaming service provided by the publisher.