The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (PlayStation 5) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 16.06.2023

Review for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum on PlayStation 5

Oh, The Lord of the Rings. A much-lauded franchise with a vast scope and awesome lore. From Tolkien's own writing to Peter Jackson's trilogy of movies, fans of Middle-Earth have eaten well over the years. In 2023, however, Daedalic and Nacon emerged from a dark cave with their newest offering, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. In pre-release content, the game looked decent, with a more stylistic design and some interesting sounding moral choices. Things looked poised to be interesting at the very least, but boy, oh boy, did they manage to fool us all.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum's story is set in the time before The Lord of the Rings, but about 60 years after The Hobbit. This was the time described in The Fellowship of the Ring when Gollum is tortured at the hands of Mordor's inhabitants for information about the ring, screaming "Shire. Baggins." hauntingly into the night. However, instead of the narrative weaving into this wider world, the game is focused mostly on Gollum being a slave in Mordor.

Most of the incidental characters lack interesting Tolkienian naming convention in favour of things like "Thin Old Man", which is somewhat disappointing. Gollum himself is odd. As a focus for a game, the concept is fine, but the way this has been pulled off is not great, with a somewhat binary choice system and voice acting that misses almost all of the time.

Screenshot for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum on PlayStation 5

Most of Gollum also takes place in caves, meaning the palette can be quite drab. The developers have tried to mitigate this with splashes of bright lava or a bit of foliage, but ultimately, it's still murky. There are a couple of other locations that do fare better with some colour and interesting designs, but they come late into the adventure and unfortunately do little to fix the visual language.

Gollum's character designs, bar a couple like Gandalf, are very ugly. Gollum himself looks very unusual. It's not terrible in every aspect, but this might be one of the worst depictions of him. The animation work is not great either, with jumping having basically no wind-up, characters walking like they have wooden legs, and a general lack of blending. With a stylised game, animations are often more important than fidelity.

Screenshot for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum on PlayStation 5

Ray tracing is available, and when it's present it looks quite good. However, there are a lack of ray traced features on PlayStation 5, pretty much just adding to water reflections, and the impact that has on performance means it is not worth activating the mode. Performance mode is the best one to play, as it offers the most stable experience and verges on being fully playable.

Gameplay and level design could be worse, but it is not great. Unfortunately, the design of Gollum evokes the feeling of budget PS2 titles. Gollum's moveset is fine, with running, jumping, and hiding as expected - most of which works, but it's not particularly well catered for by the levels.

While Gollum is in Mordor, most of the levels are small, isolated events, such as corralling monsters into cages or bird breeding, which feel a bit odd, but do offer some variety even if not testing the player's abilities. The game just cannot seem to create compelling challenges to complete. Often, while partaking in stealth or climbing, glitches and oddities in the design sometimes result in sluggish controls, Gollum falling through the wall, and checkpoints that drop you right back into a game over.

Screenshot for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum on PlayStation 5

Where Gollum is quite pleasing is in its music. The soundtrack has a good range and some great tracks that genuinely offer a bit of atmosphere. It and a couple of areas in the game offer glimpses into what Gollum might have been. It is hard to imagine a world where the game excelled, but it could have been at least good and a bit of fun.

Ultimately, this just is not it, and no amount of polish can pull it back. Couple this with DLC that offers emotes in a single-player title, and important The Lord of the Rings things like Elves speaking Elvish, and it becomes a very unfriendly package that can only disappoint and at worst, offend.

Screenshot for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum on PlayStation 5

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

Unfortunately for Gollum, it is not a good game, nor is the story fun or interesting. It is far from a sparkling gold ring, but just as lacking in good. Players who see potential in the game and try diving in can only really be disappointed by the product on show here. If it had at least been finished, polished, and had an interface overhaul, it might just have slipped into being an average title. Do not buy this game and avoid the extra DLC at all costs.

Developer

Daedalic

Publisher

Nacon

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 01.09.2022   North America release date 01.09.2022   Japan release date 01.09.2022   Australian release date 01.09.2022   

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