REVIEW: ‘The Lord of the Rings: Gollum’ Is A Flawed Love Letter To A Complicated Character (PC)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Lord of the Rings Gollum — But Why Tho

Adapting any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work comes with an inherent challenge, and creating a new story within his universe is exponentially more challenging. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum attempts to do just that by giving players a look at one of the franchise’s most fascinating characters in the time between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the RIng. Developed by Daedalic Entertainment GmBh, it is an official adaptation and the first Lord of the Rings universe video game to primarily feature the enigmatic Gollum.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is an action-adventure game that begins with Gollum being captured by the Nazgul and taken to Mordor, one of the legendary locations featured in the game, in the Dark Tower of Barad-dûr. Tortured by the servants of Sauron, Gollum reveals to the Dark Lord that the One Ring is in the hands of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins of the Shire. That much and the singular desire of all to hold the One Ring is already known to fans of The Lord of the Rings, but what has not been explored is what happens to Gollum in between being captured and when he is next seen by the Fellowship in The Lord of the Rings. Things pick up with Gollum as a prisoner in Morder where he is forced to slave away in the dark serving Sauron and his underlings.

Exploring something that has not already been clearly told by Tolkien has its advantages. There is not a well-established story that needs to be held to, it just needs to feel like it fits within the overall narrative. Thankfully, whether in the pits of Mordor or the mysterious forest of Mirkwood, it all feels like a true Middle Earth adventure. There are some new characters and creatures introduced that may not have been created by Tolkien, but by working with Tolkien experts Daedalic Entertainment made sure it all felt like it could have been taken straight out of the pages of The Lord of the Rings.

What I really appreciated most about The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is how obvious it is that Daedalic really understands his character. Gollum is not a villain, not in the true sense of the word anyway. He was corrupted by the power of the One Ring but spent years in the Misty Mountains not causing harm to anyone but himself and the occasional orc who wandered too close. It makes sense that Sauron and his servants would torture Gollum and cause him immense pain, but when we get to see the likes of Gandalf and the elves treat Gollum in a similar manner it really builds sympathy for Gollum.

Gollum — But Why Tho

Gollum’s split personality with Sméagol, his original name before being corrupted, plays an important role in the story. Dialogue and action choices let players choose to go down a more cunning and twisted path as Gollum or be kinder and show bits of good as Smeagol. These choices have massive impacts on the story and the fates of the characters that Gollum interacts with.

The developers also change the way others see Gollum, in the same way, that Frodo in The Lord of the Rings sees him as more than just the eviler Gollum side of things. I love that that split personality and the way others see him are so central to the story. Gollum is such a complicated character and The Lord of the Rings: Gollum does a beautiful job showing that.

Where The Lord of the Rings: Gollum starts to falter is in the gameplay itself. It is an adventure game that primarily involves climbing, sneaking, and the occasional puzzle or two. The problem is that none of these mechanics actually feel very fun to play. Climbing is incredibly basic and can be really hit or miss. There were times when I mistimed a jump, but the game drew me straight to where I needed to be like a magnet. Still, there were others where I dropped down to a climbing hold below me, and it inexplicably dropped me to my death. It made traversal very frustrating throughout my time with the game and I was really disappointed. Gollum is an adept climber but The Lord of the Rings: Gollum never really feels that way.

Sneaking in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is the other most important gameplay mechanic since it is such a vital characteristic of Gollum. Hiding in the shadows to avoid orcs involves a lot of throwing rocks to distract, waiting, and never knowing if walking right next to an enemy would actually trigger them to notice you.

Gollum — But Why Tho

Many times when I was in the dark or hidden in brush and walked within feet of a character and was not seen, but other times when I was far away with obstacles in the way and they started coming straight after me. It made it really difficult to actually gauge how to approach moving through a new section. Luck played a much bigger role than it should in a game where stealth is such a vital mechanic.

Despite my frustrations with the mechanics of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, there are positives to take away. The beautiful environments felt like Middle Earth, which can be a hard thing to capture. Even beloved characters like Gandalf, despite being different than they appear in the films, felt very true to their characters. The musical soundtrack also helped bring about the same emotions that Howard Shore’s legendary movie score did. This attention to detail is vital to make the experience feel worthwhile for Tolkien fans, but it might not be enough for anyone who is not already in love with the franchise.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a love letter to a flawed character that shares some flaws of its own. The care and love of Tolkien lore are quite obvious, but it doesn’t always mesh well with the disappointing mechanics and less-than-stellar gameplay. Fans of Tolkien’s work might find solace in the attention to detail, but it’s hard to see how anyone else would find much enjoyment in the experience.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum releases May 25th on  PC and console, including Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series S|X.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
  • 5/10
    Rating - 5/10


The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a love letter to a flawed character that shares some flaws of its own. The care and love of Tolkien lore are quite obvious, but it doesn’t always mesh well with the disappointing mechanics and less-than-stellar gameplay.

%d bloggers like this: