The Lord of the Rings: Gollum Review

Home » Game Reviews » Failing to Capture the Magic of Mordor, No Precious Here – The Lord of the Rings: Gollum Review

The Lord of The Rings: Gollum is a spin-off game starring the character Gollum that is true to Tolkien lore, but has very rough gameplay. You don’t need to read the novels, watch the movies or have played the other games to understand or enjoy the plot of this game. I knew about Gollum long before I actually watched the movies or read the books simply because of how ubiquitous Gollum was and how often he was parodied in other media, somewhat similar to how you’d always see parodies of Darth Vader from Star Wars and you’d recognize him even if you’ve never seen Star Wars itself.

The plot of this game is mostly simple and doesn’t involve a grand plot though I still won’t reveal spoilers past the first few hours. The plot focuses mostly on Gollum trying to survive. He’s being questioned by Gandalf and has to tell him what he went through when he was imprisoned by Sauron. The nice thing about this story is that it is extremely true to the lore of the books and the developers did hire Tolkien consultants. This story takes place in the earlier parts of the book, so if you want to read the books and watch the movies after playing this you can do so without getting spoiled.

I found this to be a surprisingly fun game when it worked. But for the most part, it’s extremely rough around the edges and the game should’ve had more polish. It’s a stealth platformer, and even plays like an old-school one at that. There are story sections where you talk to NPCs and explore safely, but there are other sections where you’re required to sneak through areas that have roaming enemies, depending on what is occurring in the plot.

Gollum will often have to crawl, climb, swim, and jump through areas. This game is not open world and is instead a more straightforward experience. Although the game is linear, some areas are more open than others and may offer multiple routes to get to the destination. There’s a Gollum sense that can shows a suggested route to the story destination that is useful if you’re not able to find a good stealth route or if you’re just plain lost.

The levels themselves don’t look half bad. The real problems start with the controls. Controlling Gollum across areas just doesn’t feel right, and he feels very floaty when moving or jumping with him. Often the controls would be very sensitive and finnicky, and a slight movement would throw Gollum across the map, overshooting where I wanted to go drastically.

Often I would miss jumps while platforming but it would work perfectly the second time, leaving me scratching my head. It plays in a very janky way, and sometimes you’ll get to one platforming section that’ll take you a while to complete because the game doesn’t want to behave itself. The horizontal wall run was a very awkward move to use. I know that you need to sprint sideways towards a marked wall to wallrun (you can’t jump into it), but even doing exactly as the game told me it was extremely finnicky and wouldn’t work many times.

The Lord of the Rings Gollum Screenshot 1
The environments are well-crafted and are very true to Tolkien lore. (Image Credit: Daedalic Entertainment & Nacon)

The most awkward control section was when Gollum was hanging onto a moving cart and you had to move Gollum around carefully to avoid obstacles such as a low roof or protruding objects and guards on the left and right. You can’t use the jump button to get Gollum from a hanging position on the cart to the top of the cart because the way this part was programmed (it won’t carry his momentum with the cart, it just makes you fall off and instantly die). Rather, you need to motion the analog stick for Gollum to climb up. It felt so odd because usually I’d just jump to get up from a grabbing position but now I couldn’t. It was really frustrating because you had to move Gollum all over the cart within mere seconds because of all the obstacles flying into your path. It’s not a hard game by any means, it’s just that the way it plays makes it more annoying than anything else.

Sometimes the route to go is nonobvious, and often I’d get to the end of a platforming section and find myself scratching my head on where to go and turning the camera in all directions looking for the path to continue. It’s not too bad though, and many platforms you can jump on are thankfully marked with yellow coloring. There are a lot of jumps where you need to do a backwards jump. I found the best strategy was that whenever the backwards jump prompt came up on the screen to just perform the move then, and it worked 99% of the time.

There is no combat for Gollum, and being hit once whether from an enemy being too close to you or from an enemy shooting a projectile at you will generally result in a game over (sometimes you’ll barely survive being shot with a projectile). There are consumable healing items spread throughout levels, but they’re not too useful because most of your deaths will be instant deaths from platforming, or you’ll be instantly killed by an enemy who spotted you. Only extremely rarely when I took fall damage or when an enemy grazed me with their projectile was I able to make use of healing items.

The enemies won’t spot you though unless you’re in their range and you need to take advantage of dark areas to hide. You can stealth kill enemies as long as their not wearing helmets, and if you see many enemies with only helmets it means the game wants you to stealth through that area without killing. You can also throw rocks you find, allowing you to create distractions if an enemy is not moving from where you need to go. One mistake I made was not holding R1 to crawl on the floor, which will ensure the enemy won’t detect you. I had many deaths because I was softly moving the analog stick which would still let enemies hear me.

I found the choices system to be interesting. Gollum has two personalities – Gollum and Sméagol. The former is more mean, and the latter is more nice, but that’s speaking very broadly and they both have some virtuous and some evil decisions. You need to choose one of these personalities’ choices during each major story branch.

I found myself switching between them a lot interestingly because sometimes they’d make the right choice, and sometimes they’d make a bad choice. I liked how nice Sméagol was, but sometimes he’d have bad decisions such as panicking or even killing off a woman’s boyfriend because he believed he was in love with the woman.

To choose which personality to go with, you need to do a mini-debate. It’s on the easier side, and you need to choose the correct statements to convince the other personality. Some games had really difficult debate systems such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but thankfully Gollum is on the easier side with not much complexity or verbosity. I don’t think it was meant to be overly difficult either, as if you weren’t able to choose the choices you want it’d probably make for a very frustrating experience.

At the same time, it wasn’t implemented that well. You will get different outcomes depending on your decision, but sometimes the plot would proceed the same way even with the different choices, only giving you an illusion of choice. There was one scene where you could choose to save or sacrifice someone, and even though I chose to save them they were sacrificed which annoyed me because my decision didn’t matter.

The Lord of the Rings Gollum Screenshot 2
After the dreary prison sections, the world opens up with larger forests to explore. (Image Credit: Daedalic Entertainment & Nacon)

You explore a variety of areas in the game, from jails and caves to forests. One criticism I had with Gollum is that many of the early chapters take place in a prison section. It actually made me annoyed for a while because the gameplay structure was getting repetitive because you would actually play out the routine of each day or every few days of living in prison and at the end of each day you’d go back to your prison cell to sleep.

The environment in the prison was especially dreary though it did feel like it was actually The Lord of the Rings because the orcs were really terrifying. I would encourage you to keep playing past that part because it really is an extended tutorial even though it overstays its welcome. The strange part too is that there were balancing issues. It was much more challenging to do platforming and stealth in the very tight prison walls. Later on you get to explore much wider areas such as forests full of elves, which have much larger areas where it’s especially easier to sneak past enemies. The later chapters became a lot more fun.

The game does have an assortment of enemy types, from orcs to elves and even spiders. There were some cave stealth sections full of spiders that were interesting but very janky, and if you got spotted by a spider you’ll die very quickly or get knocked off the rocks. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this game if you have bad arachnophobia. I didn’t mind the spiders, there was even one part of the game that had a “Crash Bandicoot” (or Jak and Daxter 2) style scene where you had to run away from a giant spider chasing you and Gollum is running towards the camera.

There are other mechanics as well introduced that I felt were severely underused. It felt like they had planned more, but then had to narrow the scope of the gameplay. You can command followers in certain locations, such as commanding them to run to a point or to use an object at a point. It’s only utilized twice in the game, once in a tutorial and another time during an interesting increasing/decreasing the water level puzzle (probably the best puzzle in the game which this game could’ve used more of). Due to the way the plot is handled and probably because the gameplay is stealth, you don’t have a companion often so this mechanic is not used and they definitely could’ve implemented it more.

Another big missed opportunity was with Gollum’s bird. Early on Gollum is able to hatch a bird egg. The game really hypes this moment up, with Gollum training the bird in activities such as shooting a hanging jar to and ordering the bird to retrieve the item which was in an unreachable spot for Gollum. But after that, you never use the bird again except for main story scenes which really disappointed me. I kept thinking you’d be able to use the bird to find and retrieve collectibles but you never do, making me wonder what the point of that tutorial even was.

The Lord of the Rings Gollum Screenshot 3
The bird was a very underutilized mechanic. (Image Credit: Daedalic Entertainment & Nacon)

Aside from that, the story as a whole was disappointing because it was very narrow in scope. There were many awkward time-skips as well between scenes that broke the flow of the story. Sometimes you’d get funny scenes with Gollum saying his trademark “My precious!” and an NPC responding “But we just met, why are you calling me your precious?” as well as one funny scene with Gollum eyeing up a woman’s marriage ring because he’s so obsessed with rings. Aside from Sonic the Hedgehog, Gollum is the character most obsessed with rings.

The Lord of the Rings Gollum Screenshot 5
The artwork and NPCs are interesting to talk to, though the plot is very limited in its scope. (Image Credit: Daedalic Entertainment & Nacon)

The most egregious flaws with this title is the bugs and glitches. I played this game on release day with its day one patch on PC, but it may be possible after that the game gets patched further in the future. I experienced many crashes randomly while playing. Usually on PC you can get unlucky and get one crash once in a while, but I got 7 crashes in total to get to the ending which is a tad too much to be coincidence. I’ll submit my error codes to the game developers to see if they can improve this game further.

What was bad too was the numerous bugs. There was one chapter, an hour long, where no spoken dialogue would play through that level. I thought that that was how the level was supposed to play, but when I got to the chapter’s end the end trigger didn’t activate and I had to look up another content creator’s playthroughs and found that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It was game-breaking, so I restarted the hour long chapter. It was annoying to replay an entire chapter, but what surprised me the most was that I was now getting the in-game dialogue to work and the whole chapter’s narrative was completely different now with that context. This is genuinely scary because I wonder if other game reviewers experienced similar situations.

There were other game-breaking bugs I experienced as well such as interacting with a mirror for a puzzle, but then Gollum was stuck in place in the interaction mode with the menu not even working, and I would have to exit the whole game and restart to get it to work again. I was only able to get past that part by mashing buttons as soon as I interacted with the object to not get locked in place.

It’s unfortunate that all the bugs and glitches, as well as the game being under-polished in general bring down what should’ve been a phenomenal game. I really did like seeing more Tolkien lore and the environments were genuinely aesthetically pleasing to look at. The orcs in the dungeons were scary and matched the tone of what you’d find in any of the books or movies too, while the elves were very stuck-up, making fun of Gollum constantly.

There truly is a lot that this game does get right. The problem is that for every positive you can say about this game, there’s sadly two negatives you can say as well. It’s just the way this was implemented as a game was not handled well. The pacing is awkward at many points, with the prison sections being a slog to get through, whereas the later sections will have weeks, months, and even years’ worth of time-skips between the chapters. It unfortunately does feel like a low or midbudget seventh generation game. If you’re really a fan of Tolkien’s works and are willing to look past a few technical bugs and imperfections to get to see more of Gollum, you’ll have no problem with this title. The developers have since released an apology regarding the game. Hopefully they will be releasing patches soon to fix its technical problems.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

Our Score: Okay


  • The game is true to Tolkien lore with characters such as elves and orcs and settings such as Barad-dur.
  • The platforming, when it works, can be fun at times and there are many collectibles.

  • Controlling Gollum feels very wonky and it’s easy to miss jumps while platforming.
  • Enemy AI is not that good and the game is generally on the easy side.
  • At release, this game has many glitches and bugs. I experienced many crashes playing on PC and even game-breaking bugs and softlocks where I had to restart whole chapters to progress.

Brandon Harris
Reviewed on the PC

Brandon is a passionate gamer and reviewer who respects the artistic and technical prowess that goes into creating interactive experiences. He enjoys playing the guitar, volunteering, and traveling to experience different cultures.

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