The Lord of the Rings has a track record of success with computer adaptations. There is no shortage of wonderful titles set in the Tolkien universe, and even when the authors faced difficulty, we received a mediocre game at best. Unfortunately, the run was broken by The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. Like the main character, the game is ugly and unstable.
The game’s general notion is quite appealing. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a story-driven game with gameplay inspired by classic, old-school Thief-style stealth games – albeit there will be no fighting. We can, however, slip between opposing forces, climb, jump, and even sneak up behind foes and clamp our oblong, bony fingers around their necks. As is customary in such performances, we observe the action from behind the hero’s back. It was a brilliant idea to concentrate the artists’ attention on Gollum’s history and psyche – a morally problematic character who has long been the subject of heated debates and conjectures. The plot is set before the events of the original trilogy. When we first encounter the protagonist, he is imprisoned in an elf jail and is being interrogated by none other than the wizard Gandalf. Up to a certain point, the tale takes place in the past, which we learn about owing to the prisoner’s testimony. This allows us to go into the shadows of Mordor and follow the court intrigues of Sauron’s entourage. Later, the action shifts to the “present,” as we visit the Elven kingdom’s green lands and assist a rebellious elf plot against the clan.
The highly antiquated visual design, on the other hand, quickly draws the eye. Despite being built on the Unreal technology 4 technology, which powered titles like Gears 5 and the Final Fantasy 7 remake, Gollum is clearly more akin to games from the PS3/X360 period – and ones from a considerably lower shelf. It’s ironic that the coldly accepted Redfall was written in this manner until recently, but with the new Lord of the Rings, it sparkles like a jewel. This includes low-quality visuals and physical effects, as well as severely bad character models and a limited amount of animations.The faces are lacking in features and look emotionless. The architecture in both Mordor and the land of the Elves is full of useless things that are solely there to be jumped on or grabbed upon. Worse, the world continuously robs us of our feeling of immersion, forcibly telling us that everything around us is merely a digital mock-up. At each step, we can peek in places we shouldn’t, pass through items, or plunge beneath the map. It was also feasible to gaze at the planet sideways in a few locations, observing that the earth is a flat, thin surface with nothing underneath it.
Arcade sequences, which are included in the game, are executed in a way that I have not seen in a game in decades. For whatever reason, a “grip” edge or grip wall cannot always be captured. Platforms, on the other hand, offer no protection against accidental falls. It’s even more aggravating since you never know where their boundaries are – sometimes you can dangle close to the platform and not fall off, and other times you can hop on it and it suddenly changes the existing laws of physics and decides to toss us off. And, of course, we’re not going to grasp the edge and climb back up.
It’s no better with the stealth system, whose mechanics frequently just pretend that we’re in a real environment. For example, if we throw a stone at the light to draw the opponent’s attention, the one who is close will be notified, not the one who has been assigned to the item. As a result, he is heading somewhere far away and yet hears the impact, whereas close foes would ignore it. And, although I realize that orc soldiers do not sin with their wits, what about elves? When something disrupts the guards’ routine, they begin looking dully at the wall or whirling in place. Many times, interactive objects refused to activate, or an animation fault prevented me from finishing the task. Because of this, I had to reset the entire level several times. However, there are times when making a mistake helps you attain your goal. The funniest one was when I couldn’t go to the top of a specific mountain because Gollum couldn’t grip onto it. However, while descending, it snagged on the texture of the waterfall, triggering the swimming mechanics. So, as I was in the air, everything around me went blue, like if I were underwater. Instead of going back up, I swam there.
Fortunately, I did not encounter any significant liquidity issues on the PS5 console; in performance and quality mode, the game maintained a pretty consistent and high level of FPS. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the game’s general stability, which sent me to the console screen more than 200 times in almost 20 hours of play! The cause, as it found out later, was the “advanced” hair physics, which can be disabled in the settings. The story itself may be intriguing if the strands did not lead to any conclusion and instead served to demonstrate the rules of the universe or the dynamics of relationships. However, the mechanisms that allow us to dispute between the protagonist’s two personalities – the clever Gollum and the affable Sméagol – frustrated me the most. It has little influence on the overall plot and does not depict the hero’s internal conflict any better than a conventional cutscene would.
I’m sorry to say that The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was one of the worst games I’ve ever played. It hurts even more because the notion for fun was great, and you can see that individuals who appreciate and understand Tolkien’s work were involved in the construction of the world and characters. There are several subtle nods to the universe’s most devoted followers. Unfortunately, this is insufficient to produce an excellent or even an average game; there was only enough power to produce a lousy and unsatisfactory one.