We’ve seen a lot of Daedalic’s upcoming stealth adventure game gameplay. We’ve been waiting for further information about The Lord of the Rings: Gollum since it was delayed to 2022 at the start of 2021. Fortunately, developer Daedalic Entertainment is finally gearing up to deliver this game into the hands of J.R.R. Tolkien enthusiasts after a lengthy period of little information. To that end, we recently visited a hands-on preview session for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, where we were shown a glimpse at the gameplay and the kinds of pranks the venomous Hobbit will get up to.
First and foremost, let us discuss The Lord of the Rings: Gollum’s plot and location. This game will take place between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will feature Gollum desperately searching and scouring Middle-Earth for his prize, which was stolen from him by Bilbo Baggins in the tunnels beneath the Misty Mountains. This plot is an original production that is not linked to the Peter Jackson movies or any other The Lord of the Rings games out there, but rather Daedalic’s own take on the fantasy brand, and so presents Gollum as he is sculpted in the source material.
In this title, the creature known as Gollum is an agile climber who moves like a predator. He has the same physical type and appearance that Jackson did, and he looks emaciated, boney, and filthy, with bulging eyes that disguise the split-personality of the Hobbit Smeagol he once was, as well as the cruel being Gollum he is today. As a result, during gameplay, players will hear Gollum talking to himself as his two egos compete for control over the activities he conducts. This has an impact on the gameplay at times, as you’ll have to decide whether to listen to Smeagol or Gollum during crucial intervals that affect how the world and the beings who inhabit it see you. During the preview session, we saw one of the early prototypes of this system, which required deciding whether to release or devour a beetle.
In terms of overall gameplay, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a stealth adventure game with relatively no violence. For the most part, you’ll have to navigate straight stages with minimal exploration, figuring out the best method to hop, shimmy, and climb your way past the environmental problems thrown at you. We were given two main examples of this, the first in Mordor, where Gollum is racing back to his den to avoid the rising harsh sun and the setting illuminating moon, and the second in a later level, where Gollum was attempting to escape after being captured by Aragorn and taken to the Elves’ home in Mirkwood.
Both levels include similar trappings in the form of vines and other climbable surfaces, as well as ledges to leap over and then shimmy across, all in the endeavor to reach a place that would be hard to reach by walking. These environmental puzzles appear quite hard and will require some research before you delve into them, as Gollum cannot simply hang from a ledge eternally while you plan your next move, as he has a stamina bar that must be considered when performing certain traversal actions. There is a Gollum Sense feature that appears to be able to identify specific pathways and assist you on your trip, however, because the levels are quite linear, there does appear to be one answer for each environmental difficulty.
And, as previously said, Gollum isn’t wanting to get his hands dirty and won’t be engaging in combat situations. He can sneak up on unsuspecting beings (for example, Orcs in Mordor) and attack them, although this technique is loud, requires a lot of stamina to perform (it is possible to run out of stamina while this), and can only be initiated on one target at a time. So, not exactly an effective tool for munching through Mordor’s forces.
Gollum does, however, have the power to interact with his surroundings. Throwing rocks, for example, could be used to distract inquisitive eyes or to trigger an environmental kill, which is frequently unique to a certain area on each level. During the first mission, we saw Gollum lure an unwary Orc into the clutches of the colossal spider Shelob.
Following on from this, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will contain a range of recognizable faces, each designed in Daedalic’s own unique fashion, as this is an original production, as previously stated. There will be plenty of figures to encounter, including Shelob, Aragorn, the Elvenking Thranduil, Gandalf the Grey, and even the Nazgûl (Ringwraiths) who ride on the terrible Fellbeast flying mounts. Add to that the fact that this appears to be a game created by J.R.R. Tolkien fans of the highest kind, and you can be assured that there will be plenty of lore and iconic artifacts to locate in-game, as well as notable locales to explore.
While there is much to be excited about, what was seen during the preview session did not completely blow me away. The environment’s design and aesthetics appeared to be hit or miss, with Mirkwood stunning with its verdant colors and stately halls, whilst Mordor appeared to be a large blob of grey rocks lighted up by lavafalls. Combine this with the fact that Gollum himself was not very nice to look at all (graphically, not just in terms of his nasty visage), but the supporting characters did appear to be rather impressive, and it’s difficult not to be conflicted by what is being given up.