The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was one of the very first games that we heard about for the PS5. That’s why gamers couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed when they learned that it wouldn’t be a launch title; in fact, it’s not slated to come out until 2022.
Up until now, all we knew about the game came from a few intriguing screenshots and a short teaser trailer. However, Tom’s Guide has finally seen the game in action, and we can report that it looks like an intense stealth adventure. Furthermore, if all goes well, Gollum might not be the last Lord of the Rings game from Daedalic Entertainment.
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Tom’s Guide attended a digital press briefing from Daedalic on March 18, and got our first extended look at Lord of the Rings: Gollum in a hands-off demo. As the screenshots and teaser suggested, Gollum is a stealth game in which the titular character must escape from imprisonment in Mordor and pursue some precious jewelry all across Middle-earth. (This is what happens between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, for those of you who aren’t up on your J.R.R. Tolkien lore.)
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum gameplay
The footage we saw was from an early level, in which Gollum has escaped from his prison cell, but has yet to find his way out of Sauron’s dark tower, Barad-dûr. The first thing Gollum had to do was climb his way up a rocky edifice. The developers pointed out that most of the game’s levels feature a great degree of verticality, and climbing, running and jumping will all play big roles in how Gollum traverses his surroundings.
Another skill that Gollum employs is an ability to “see” foes by listening to them. By standing still and focusing his senses, Gollum can detect nearby enemies, outlined in red, even through walls. This makes sense, given that the character lived in total darkness for thousands of years.
As Gollum is a stealth game, simply getting from one corner of the map to another undetected is the main challenge players will face. Some areas have consultable maps; some don’t. Entering a new area will usually show a far-off objective — in this case, a gate out of Barad-dûr — but players will have to figure out a path for themselves. Most objectives have multiple approaches, depending on whether you’d rather focus on stealth or platforming.
One interesting thing about Lord of the Rings: Gollum is that there’s no combat whatsoever. Given the character’s size and skills, that makes sense, but it’s still very common for stealth games to offer some light combat as a fallback option. Gollum can indeed kill orcs — if he sneaks up on them, executes a successful attack, and spends a long time wrangling them from behind. It’s a difficult, time-consuming process. Otherwise, he’ll have to run and hide.
As the game progresses, players will also be able to influence the story in subtle ways. In the build we saw (as in early screenshots), Gollum will sometimes have to decide between taking a vindictive, violent action (leaning into his “Gollum” personality), or a sneaky, self-serving action (leaning into his “Sméagol” personality.) However, Daedalic informed us that these binary choices were part of an older build. While the choices will still exist, their implementation will be subtler. These choices can still alter the story as the game progresses.
One final point of interest for the game is that Gollum won’t go through his entire adventure alone. In the demo, Gollum partnered up with another prisoner named Grashneg, and the characters had to cooperate to continue their escape. Gollum could navigate in the dark; the much bigger Grashneg could clear large obstacles out of the way. It looked like a relatively short and simple section, but Gollum will cooperate with a few different characters during the game — and we wonder if we’ll see any familiar faces.
Lord of the Rings: Gollum follow-ups
After the demo, I spoke with some members of the publishing team at Daedalic. I was surprised to learn that Gollum won’t be a one-and-done adventure. In fact, if the game does well, Daedalic has two other Lord of the Rings games in mind.
“We’re talking about a game series,” said Carsten Fichtelmann, Daedalic’s CEO. “Gollum is the first game in the game series we are working on. There will be a second game, and hopefully a third game.”
Fichtelmann was coy about any details beyond that, but in theory, anything that shows up in the Lord of the Rings books is fair game. Lord of the Rings: Gollum is based on Tolkien’s novels, not the New Line Cinema film adaptations. As such, anything that happens in them would have to follow book lore and avoid movie plot points and likenesses.
However, Fichtelmann did say that he “decided, for the first game, to go with Gollum,” suggesting that the follow-up games may center other supporting characters from the Lord of the Rings mythos.
Another interesting point is that while fans may have expected Lord of the Rings: Gollum to be a PS5 launch title, that was never Daedalic’s intention.
“The media made more of this than it actually was,” said Jonas Hüsges, the company’s publishing director. “We always wanted [The Lord of the Rings: Gollum] to be ready for the next consoles, and we had those in mind when we made the game. We never necessarily were settled on releasing it as a launch title.
“A lot of friends are still going through the pre-order chaos,” he pointed out. “There’s still time to settle in on these consoles. We’re still in development, and the game is shaping up nicely. But it’s going to be next year.”
That’s where things stand right now. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is well underway, it’s slated to come out in the second half of 2022, and if it sells well, we may see more Lord of the Rings titles from Daedalic. As for Gollum himself, well, we all know what happens next.