Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum - Not so Precious

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a stealth platformer where you take on the role of the titular character, Gollum. Notice I didn’t say hero, because Gollum is anything but.

Developer Daedalic, however, had a wonderful idea. Take a beloved franchise and tell a new story that occurs during an iconic journey that all of us know so well.

The Lord of the Rings Gollum takes place at the same time as the Fellowship of the Ring. While the Bagginses of the Shire are busy trying to take the One Ring to Mount Doom Gollum is busy trying to retrieve The Ring for the all seeing eye.

There is plenty of room in Tolkein’s wonderful world of Middle Earth for new stories and I welcomed the chance for Daedalic to fill in some of the blanks of what Gollum has been up to between the time we last saw him in the Misty Mountains during the Hobbit and when we met him again in the Lord of the Rings.

The character design of Gollum and the rest of the cast felt familiar but at the same time did not resemble carbon copies of what we saw in the movies. The Uruks were menacing and some of the more iconic enemies we see, small spoiler but this takes place within the first 5 minutes of the game, like Shelob were presented with an interesting spin. 

The war for the ring isn’t the only war that is taking place in the game. There is also a war over Smeagol conscious. Where we saw Smeagol and Gollum have a debate in the movies we get to control it in the game. Players will be presented at times with options on how to respond to certain situations, either as Smeagol the meek hobbit, or Gollum the dark and twisted hobbit monster. There is even a game play element that is added to this at times where you’ll have to convince one personality to answer a certain way by answering questions from the other personality. Answer wrong three times and he’ll say what he wants. Answer three of the questions correctly though and the other personality will go along with what you want to say..

The most prominent gameplay mechanic is the platforming. Climbing your way to new heights you’ll set your sights on completing chapters. Scuffed walls, rope braided plants, and spinning platforms make unique challenges for Gollum to trapeze his way across.

During certain sections you’ll have to sneak about the Uruks. You can do this through a mix of hiding in the shadows, climbing under tables, or scurrying through bushes. You can even cling to the side of a ledge to get out of eyesight. By tossing rocks you can knock out lights to increase the area of shadows to hide in and even distract your enemies. Once in a while you’ll even get lucky enough to sneak up behind an Ork without a helmet and throttle them to death. It feels very satisfying to make your way through a room full of patrolling orcs by using your wits instead of brute force, what doesn’t feel good though is getting stuck on a corner or trying to quickly dash from one shadow to the next only for the game to lock up and you be discovered by that patrolman you were attempting to avoid.

For as much promise as Lord of the Rings Gollum had it is marred by technical difficulties. I reviewed the game on a PC built with a Ryzen 3900x, 32 gigs of RAM, and a Nvidia Geforce RTX 3700. So not cutting edge, but not a Potato PC either. At this point I’d say it’s pretty similar to an average PC. That’s by design because that’s what most people will be playing on. 

The game struggled to maintain 30 frames during cutscenes and at times would turn into a slide show. I turned the settings down to medium, had a resolution of 1920x1080, Ray tracing off, DLSS on, and during most sections of the game I could sustain over 60fps every few minutes are so there were times my frame rate would drop into the teens. I found myself dying to lock ups and stutter more than to my own negligence. I wasn’t just dropping frames. I was pouring them down the drain. It was so bad I couldn’t play with a mouse and keyboard, I had to resort to using a controller because with a mouse and keyboard I would keep doing a 180 during performance hiccups.

I did also try the game on the PS5 and I did not have as near as bad of performance issues with but there were still noticeable irregularities with the graphics.

There is a day one patch on the way but for a game that has already been as delayed as LoTR Gollum has been, these performance issues should have already been ironed out. This release a game as a performance mess and clean it with patches is becoming tired.

Technical issues aside LotR Gollum filed a nice gape in the lore. The wall art throughout the game is engaging, the vistas feel epic, and the models The platforming felt good, when the controls where bugging out from performance issues, and the story was engaging. Additionally finding collectibles provided more context around the world that Tolkien created. 

Until they can get the performance issues ironed out I can’t recommend that you buy this game and I score it a 5 for mediocre.