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The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is very linear but packed with lore

We've seen a bunch of gameplay of Daedalic's upcoming stealth adventure game.

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Ever since The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was delayed to 2022 right at the start of 2021, we've been waiting for more news on this stealth adventure game. Fortunately, after quite a lengthy stint of little information, developer Daedalic Entertainment is finally gearing up to get this game into the hands of J.R.R. Tolkien fans. To this end, we've recently attended a hands-off preview session for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, where we've been shown a look at the gameplay and the sorts of antics the vicious Hobbit will be getting up to.

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First and foremost, let's talk about the story and setting of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. This game will take place between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will see Gollum frantically hunting and scouring Middle-Earth for his precious, which was taken from him by Bilbo Baggins in the caves beneath the Misty Mountains. Designed as a standalone title, this story is an original production and is not tied to the Peter Jackson movies or any other The Lord of the Rings games out there, and is instead Daedalic's own take on the fantasy brand, and therefore shows Gollum in a way as he is sculpted in the source material.

The creature known as Gollum in this title is an agile climber and moves like a predator. He has the familiar body shape and appearance as the way Jackson adapted him as well, and looks scrawny, boney and vile, with bulging eyes that hide the split-personality of the Hobbit Smeagol he once was, and also the cruel being Gollum he is today. As this is the case, during gameplay, players will hear Gollum talking to himself, as his two personalities battle one another and look to lead the actions that he takes. This directly affects the gameplay at times, as you'll have to choose whether to listen to the Smeagol or Gollum side during important intervals that affect how the world and the beings that live in it perceive you. In the preview session, we were shown one of the first iterations of this system, and it involved a choice to release a beetle or rather eat it.

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

As for the general gameplay, due to The Lord of the Rings: Gollum being a stealth adventure game, there's very little combat. For the most part, you'll have to navigate linear levels with minimal exploration, studying the best way to leap, shimmy, and climb your way past the environmental puzzles that are set before you. We were given two main examples of this, in the form of the opening level in Mordor, where Gollum is racing to return back to his den to avoid the rising harsh sun and the setting illuminating moon, and also in the form of a later level wherein Gollum was attempting to escape after being captured by Aragorn and taken to the Elves' home in Mirkwood.

Both levels feature similar trappings in the form of vines and various other climbable surfaces, and ledges to leap up and then shimmy across, all in the effort of reaching a destination that would be impossible to simply walk to. These environmental puzzles seem relatively complex and will require a bit of studying before you dive into them, as Gollum cannot just indefinitely hang from a ledge while you plan your next move, as he has a stamina bar that needs to be taken into account when making certain traversal moves. There is a Gollum Sense ability that seems to be able to highlight specific routes and to help you on your way, but for the most part, as the levels are rather linear, there does seem to be one solution for each environmental challenge.

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

And as mentioned a moment ago, being a stealth game, Gollum isn't looking to get his hands dirty and won't be getting into combat encounters. He can sneak up being unsuspecting beings (Orcs when in Mordor for example) and attack them, but this move makes a lot of noise, uses a lot of stamina to complete (it is possible to run out of stamina during this), and can only be initiated on one target at a time. So, not exactly a very effective tool for chewing through the armies of Mordor.

What Gollum does have instead is the ability to interact with the environment a bit. For example, this could be throwing rocks to distract prying eyes, or perhaps to initiate an environmental kill often unique to a specific area in each level. We were shown a moment where Gollum leads an unsuspecting Orc into the grasps of the gigantic spider Shelob during the first mission.

Following up to this point, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will feature a variety of recognisable faces, each styled in Daedalic's own way, because as mentioned earlier, this is an original production. Be it Shelob, Aragorn, the Elvenking Thranduil, Gandalf the Grey, and even the Nazgûl (Ringwraiths) who ride upon the fearsome Fellbeast flying mounts, there'll be plenty of figures to meet. Add to this the fact that this really does seem to be a game that has been crafted by J.R.R. Tolkien fans of the highest order, and you can take solace in the fact that there will be plenty of lore and iconic items to find in-game and of course notable places to visit.

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

But while there is a lot to be excited about, what has been shown during the preview session didn't really blow me away at all. The appearance and visuals of the environment seemed to be pretty hit or miss, with Mirkwood impressing with its verdant colours and regal halls, whereas Mordor looked like a big blob of grey rocks lit up by lavafalls. Match this up with the fact that Gollum himself was not very pretty to look at all (graphics wise, not just when talking about his vile appearance), but the supporting characters did seem to look rather impressive, so it's hard not to feel conflicted by what is being served up.

And this extends to the actual gameplay, because a linear game, with very little progression (there are no upgrades and Gollum has all of his abilities right from the start) that is framed around simply completing environmental challenges seems like it could become quite tiresome and dreary rather fast. Hopefully the original story will be able to offset this, as this brand has so much depth that can and should be explored in an original sense like this. Either way, we'll no doubt have more answers as to the state of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum in a short while, as Daedalic has announced that the game will officially be launching on September 1 this year on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation consoles.

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