The Lord of the Rings: Gollum review for PS5, Xbox Series X, PC

Platform: PS5
Also On: Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1
Online: No

I guess at this point it’s not surprising when I say that The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a bad game. I was a little curious to find out if it was actually bad, or just mind-numbingly boring, and having played through 8 chapters of the campaign, it’s actually kinda both. When our review code for this one came in it was basically right at launch, around when other reviews started popping up and the general consensus was already pointed in the negative direction. But having requested code, and being curious about the game in general, I felt the urge to give Gollum a fair shake, at least to the point where I just couldn’t muster the willpower to continue with it shortly before the end of the game.

I think that’s actually more than what most people would be willing to give it, considering the first half of the game is easily the worst part of it. The visuals seem to improve once you exit Mordor around the midpoint or so, thanks in part to the elven environments which are at least bright and vibrant, but that’s about the most positive thing I can say about The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. Every other aspect, from the music, voice-over work, animations, character models, level design, stealth mechanics, etc. would have been underwhelming years ago, much less today.

To add to that, the actual concept of the game which covers what happened to Gollum between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring is a story that few felt needed to be told in great detail. Considering early parts of the game pit Gollum against mundane slave tasks in Mordor that then conveniently skip ahead a few years to get us to the point where anything occurs, I’m not entirely sure that the writers behind The Lord of the Rings: Gollum felt too strongly about this particular tale either. Again, the game livens up a bit once you exit Mordor, but getting to that point is pretty exhausting overall, and not something most will be willing to put up with.

Still curious as to what exactly The Lord of the Rings: Gollum even is? Essentially it’s a stealth platformer, wherein you sneak around enemies as Gollum using tall foliage or shadows as cover, hopping clumsily across chasms, and occasionally scaling walls like a busted Nathan Drake. Sound fun yet? Don’t worry, there’s more! Occasionally Gollum will morally wrestle with himself as Smeagol, prompting you to make a choice that doesn’t actually matter when it comes to the outcome of events. You’ll also be asked to help birth a companion bird for Gollum, wherein the process makes a big deal out of which color bird you choose, but then the game randomly decides to change the bird’s color and how other characters refer to your bird color choice whenever it wants, so again, another decision that doesn’t matter. There’s even a host of side characters to talk to throughout that almost feel like you’re going to start on some sort of side quest, but no, it’s just meaningless flavor text about a prisoner that’s thirsty or some other nonsense that’s not worth engaging in.

Stealth, which makes up a major component of the gameplay in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, is pretty rough. Gollum has the equivalent of Detective Vision that you can enable with a button press, highlighting threats and objects you can interact with so you can determine enemy paths. But any modern stealth game convenience like vision cones or the ability to mark enemies around you doesn’t exist here, making a lot of these segments feel like trial and error, as it can often be difficult to figure out whether an enemy actually has a line of sight to you or not.

Also, failing at any point can be pretty frustrating due to a non-sensical checkpointing system that seemingly saves progress at random.  I could progress through a level, die and restart, make it less further on my second attempt, die again, but then magically restart further into my attempt than I did on my initial run. It never made a lick of sense to me how the saving worked, my best guess is that it’s on a timer of some sort, because it never seemed to be triggered by cutscenes, dialogue, or combat/stealth encounters.

Essentially, what I’m telling you is that The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is indeed a bad video game. It’s not fun when it works, it’s even less so when it doesn’t, and the overall concept of the game is one that ultimately makes it feel unnecessary altogether. I don’t know of anyone clamoring for Gollum’s whereabouts to this degree, and if they were, I’d at least hope they were expecting something far more interesting than this. So yes, believe what you’ve heard, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is not worth your money, and certainly is not worth your time.

Grade: D