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Lord of the Rings: Gollum: Not Precious – PS5 Review

Let’s rewind back to 2002 when Activision unleashed Spider-Man on the PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox. If you were an avid action-adventure gamer who dabbled in games like Spider-Man during that era, chances are you vividly remember the lacklustre jumping physics and platform mechanics that were considered acceptable at the time. Jumps often fell short of expectations, platforms failed to interact properly, and plummeting into an untimely doom became a frustratingly regular occurrence. Unfortunately, it’s disconcerting to see that Lord of the Rings: Gollum evokes memories of these infuriating aspects, as this modern Triple-A game disappointingly incorporates these outdated mechanics, ultimately falling short of its potential.

Originally slated for release in 2021 but delayed multiple times in an effort to “provide the ultimate gaming experience,” this game’s outcome has left me feeling disillusioned. It gives off the impression of a doomed project right from the start as if the developers reluctantly pushed out an incomplete and unrefined game, possibly to spare management or investors from further distress.

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In-game Screenshot

“It’s quite disappointing to discover that these decisions don’t significantly impact the storyline.”

Lord of the Rings: Gollum takes a linear approach, guiding players through levels and a story mode narrated by Gandalf and Gollum. The game revolves around assisting Gandalf in unravelling the footsteps of Gollum and understanding the imminent danger that Bilbo, Frodo, and The Shire face. As Gollum, players delve into the inner struggle between Smeagol and Gollum, making decisions that shape the course of Gollum’s life.

It was captivating to witness the narrative of Gollum, particularly the events bridging The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. Although I was disappointed by the scarcity of exciting events in the story, I still found myself engrossed in completing the walkthrough. I did wish for a broader timeline of events within the gameplay, as it could have led to a more eventful narrative. Instead, the focus mainly revolved around daily tasks and the endeavour to escape Mordor from Gollum’s prison cell. However, without a passion for the Lord of the Rings or Middle-Earth lore, some players might struggle to fully enjoy this storyline.

One of the highlights, or the only key highlight, of the game, is the ongoing internal monologue between Gollum and Smeagol as they navigate each objective. It offered an intimate glimpse into Gollum’s thought process, showcasing a mixture of emotions ranging from fear and hatred to remorse. This transcended into the unique gameplay feature of a decision-making process between Gollum and Smeagol. However, it’s quite disappointing to discover that these decisions don’t significantly impact the storyline.

Nonetheless, Gollum’s mischievous personality and cunning, and calculated planning stood out as key elements for those who are devoted fans of Tolkien’s works. The voice acting truly impressed me, capturing the essence and speech patterns of Gollum in a manner close to what was portrayed in the movies.

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In-game Screenshot

“Lord of the Rings: Gollum rarely pushed me into high-stress scenarios.”

When delving into the gameplay of Lord of the Rings: Gollum, it becomes evident that the game prioritizes simplicity. The game actively avoids complex mechanics, focusing instead on running, jumping, and climbing, resulting in a very basic gaming experience. I found this pleasantly surprising as it facilitated smooth navigation and made certain sections of the game enjoyable. The initial chapter, in particular, stood out for its easy-to-follow progression.

In terms of the required skill set, Gollum needs to master a few abilities to progress in the game. Fortunately, these abilities are not overly challenging to understand or utilise, which adds a fun and uncomplicated aspect to the gameplay.

These abilities encompass actions like throwing stones, hiding in bushes or shadows, and sneaking past enemies. While Gollum doesn’t employ traditional weapons, he can stealthily eliminate unsuspecting Orc enemies, provided they are not wearing helmets. This variation from many stealth-focused games, which often demand strategic planning and create tense situations, offers a refreshing change. In contrast, this game rarely pushed me into high-stress scenarios that necessitated intricate coordination of activities.

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In-game Screenshot

“The enemies in the game seemed to have low AI, as I could crawl directly behind them without raising alarms.”

My enthusiasm for Lord of the Rings: Gollum diminished when contending with the game’s platforming mechanics. They proved to be a significant letdown. I frequently encountered instances of overshooting jumps, missing platforms entirely, or even slipping off the ones I managed to land on.

Even performing basic tasks like jumping between objects, which should be straightforward, occasionally presented challenges unless specifically designed as part of the game. For example, attempting to leap between thin planks felt akin to throwing a bar of soap onto a windowsill and hoping it would remain in place. The smooth, intuitive movement patterns that most Triple-A games strive for were noticeably absent in this experience.

When discussing bugs and glitches, it’s important to mention that my personal experience with gameplay issues was relatively limited. I encountered occasional minor glitches, such as instances where I could see through walls or the camera getting stuck in inconvenient positions. One frustrating moment involved Gollum persistently auto-jumping back to a hanging point I had just left when I needed to drop off a platform.

The enemies in the game seemed to have low AI, as I could crawl directly behind them without raising alarms. Even if I was detected, climbing to a spot out of their direct line of sight was usually enough to escape. This resulted in minimal strategic thinking required to solve many puzzles, which was a departure from the challenging puzzle-solving experiences I typically enjoy.

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In-game Screenshot

Lord of the Rings: Gollum Features Zero Consequences

In terms of saving progress, Lord of the Rings: Gollum provides regular auto-save checkpoints, reducing potential frustration from losing progress. However, this also minimises the consequences of dying, reducing the need for careful play and attention to detail.

For gamers seeking a serious, high-stakes experience, this might result in an underwhelming gameplay dynamic. It removed a layer of urgency and danger, thereby diluting the intensity typically associated with a high-risk, high-reward gaming experience.

I often found myself progressing through the gameplay with a somewhat detached attitude, knowing there was little at stake. For me, this detracted from the overall immersion and sense of accomplishment usually derived from a carefully executed strategy.

In-game Screenshot

Gollum Doesn’t Look Right

The graphics in Lord of the Rings: Gollum is low-res, lacking the quality expected from a modern game. The dimensions of Gollum’s head, coupled with the detail and shadows on his face, seem undistinguished. Spotting some essential platforms proves difficult due to the lack of detail in the surroundings, straining both eyes and mind in seeking the right path. Interestingly, some of the game’s environment graphics are well-developed, leaving me questioning the balance of development efforts.

One additional critique on graphics involves the cutscenes. For instance, a poorly detailed scene features a key Orc character speaking, allowing you to see through his mouth and into the background. It’s a significant letdown for a game of this calibre.

The game’s music, while good at invoking emotion, fails to consistently align with the game events. Intense moments might lack music entirely, while dramatic scores accompany regular gameplay. This inconsistency detracts from the overall gaming experience, leaving it feeling somewhat incomplete.

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In-game Screenshot

“If you’re a diehard fan of Middle-Earth lore, it’s possible you may find aspects of the game enjoyable.”

The game currently retails for AU$100, and given the array of issues encountered and the general low-quality experience it provides, it’s challenging to justify this cost. While there are facets of Lord of the Rings: Gollum that has the potential to be enjoyable, especially for those who are Tolkien purists and might relish the narrative alone, many problems need addressing. Therefore, my recommendation at this point is to hold off on purchasing the game until there are patches addressing the concerns or until the price sees a significant reduction.

Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a game with untapped potential. Yet, it’s clear that many core issues need resolving before it becomes a more enjoyable experience. On too many occasions, I found myself grappling with frustration due to the game’s problematic elements. The subpar graphics, the problematic game mechanics, and the lack of depth in the story make it difficult to recommend this game, especially given the Triple-A status.

That said, if you’re a diehard fan of Middle-Earth lore or have a particular fondness for Gollum, it’s possible you may find aspects of the game enjoyable. There may be elements of the story that resonate with you or small gems hidden amidst the problems.

*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PlayStation 4, code was provided by the Publisher.

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Lord of the Rings: Gollum Review
Lord of the Rings: Gollum disappointingly incorporates outdated mechanics and falls short of its potential. The game's linear approach guides players through levels, with decisions that don't significantly impact the storyline. The gameplay prioritises simplicity with basic mechanics and uncomplicated abilities. However, the platforming mechanics prove to be a significant letdown, and the low-quality graphics and inconsistent music further detract from the overall experience.
Internal Monologue
Voice Acting
Weak Storyline
Poor Mechanics
Bad Graphics

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Final Score