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After several delays, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was released on 25 May 2023 across Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. When the game was first revealed in 2020, the planned release date was 2021. However, things didn’t go as planned—and many argue the writing was always on the wall.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

The game has been harshly criticized by many. At the time of writing this post, the Daedalic Entertainment creation only had an aggregate Metascore of 40. Not one of the reviews was positive. Rather, it had lots of negative reviews and a few mixed reviews. One of the most critical was from Press Start Australia which awarded the game an overall score of 30.

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Metacritic score for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum score on Metacritic

“I struggled to think of a positive experience over the thirteen-odd hours I spent playing this game. Gollum is uninspired and dated and The Lord of the Rings fans deserve better than this.”

Press Start Australia

The best review of the game on Metacritic was by GamingTrend (GT). The reviewers at GT appreciated the story and the stealth system introduced to the game but criticized the platforming system and the dialogue for lacking ingenuity.

“Just like Gollum, I’m a bit split. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum features a great story that adds to the lore, along with a terrific stealth system, but it misses the mark in other areas. A finicky and redundant platforming system, mixed with a dialogue system that lacks bite makes for a combination that drags the rest down. Gollum is always so close to The Ring, but ever so far.”


The idea behind The Lord of the Rings: Gollum?

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was described as a story-driven action adventure that takes the gamer through a treacherous journey as Gollum. Like in the movie, you will be chasing the only thing that is precious to him; a ring.

Players will rely on Gollum’s cunning and skillful nature for survival but will also have to deal with his split personality. Although Gollum was a crucial part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s story, many parts of his quests remain untold. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was a deliberate attempt to bring those tales to the fore.

Through the game, the developers want to bring details of the many journeys and pains that Gollum has endured to the limelight; from the time he spent beneath the Dark Tower as a slave to his stay with the Elves of Mirkwood.  

The general idea was to shine a light on this small character that was always in the shadows so that fans of The Lords of the Ring can appreciate him more—and probably know why he acts the way he does. In all honesty, that was a great idea.

Watching The Lords of the Rings while growing up, Gollum was one of the characters that I never really understood. His origin was murky and even more so was his split personality. Although I learned from the movie that the ring corrupted his mind, I had a conviction that there was more to his tale that begged to be explored.

What exactly was wrong with The Lord of the Rings: Gollum?

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum would have been a great leap that helped fans of the movie to have a better understanding of the character. While the story was great, the delivery missed the mark by a mile. This was supposed to be a triple-A game. However, it ended up being a bad initiation into an elite club.

Firstly, the dialogue sounded bland in most instances. For some weird reasons too, it was designed in a way that prevents you from doing anything else once the dialogue is playing—and that often stretches for a nerve-racking length of time.

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Gollum’s split personality presents him either as Sméagol or as Gollum. As Sméagol, he is socially cautious but as Gollum, he becomes vicious and villainous. Players are allowed to choose their path. However, the presentation is oddly lame and often presented in nuances as insignificant as choosing between crushing a beetle or just watching it.

Choosing between crushing an insect in The Lord of the Rings Gollum
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

Nevertheless, it is important to mention that your choices—no matter how uninspiring they may sound—affect Gollum’s personality. Which aspect of his personality dominates will depend on the choices that you make.

A stealth game that needed more to shine

According to the game description, players are required to “use stealth, agility, and cunning to survive” or “climb, leap, and grapple past dangers”. However, poor art directing often made the environment muddy such that players felt stuck and unsure of where to go next. Although Gollum pelt stones or choke helmetless orcs, the game is mostly reduced to creeping around, squandering the chance to include other tricks to expand the game’s stealth options.

“We designed the game, especially around Gollum, what could Gollum do,” enthused Joel Griebel, Senior Game Designer at Daedalic. “We didn’t make a design and put Gollum in it.”

Griebel made the comment during an interview on the making of the level design. In the comment section of the video, a user known as Camad203 said “That’s EXACTLY what the level design is in this game”.

The Lord of the Ring: Gollum comment on level design

The PC version is weighed down by performance bugs

We can’t say for sure if the performance of the game is the same across the different platforms. However, for the PC version that we tested, the biggest challenge was the dizzying loss of frames—which gets worse when you try to pan the camera using the mouse.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

We struggled with panning the camera to get a better view of the environment and sometimes ended up with a violent wobble like the entire world was about to come crashing to the ground. While the rendering of Gollum was solidly done, the rest of the game and art feel like an action-adventure from the 2000s era.

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Even if Daedalic is able to fix the technical challenges with a patch, the words “boring” and “broken” appeared frequently in most of the game’s reviews which suggests a problem that runs deeper than the technical issues.

Have you played The Lord of the Ring: Gollum? How will you rate the game on a 100-point scale? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Anthony Emecheta

Anthony Emecheta has over a decade experience as a freelance writer. Gaming has always been a childhood hobby and he is excited to be collaborating with a gaming company as a content creator. It is like having all the things he loves in one place.