Lord of the Rings: Gollum clearly still needs work, but I love the concept

Lord of the Rings: Gollum clearly still needs work, but I love the concept

An air of mystery has surrounded Lord of the Rings: Gollum ever since it was announced by Daedalic back in March 2019. The studio has outlined its grand vision for the game, to tell the story of the destruction of the One Ring from the perspective of Gollum, rather than the Fellowship. But now, finally, I get to see the game in action, and a sense of how it might actually play. Alas, it’s a hands-off demo, and the developer playing it says the build is ten months old. So I’m not getting a totally accurate picture of what the finished game will be like when it’s released in 2022—or even what state it’s in right now. But hey, it’s something.

Gollum has been imprisoned in Barad-dûr, the colossal tower built by Sauron in the fiery heart of Mordor. The Dark Lord’s stronghold looks massive from the perspective of the diminutive former Hobbit. Luckily we’re playing as an expert climber. The developer controlling the demo notes that Gollum has been clambering around Middle-earth for around 500 years, and has developed superhuman strength and climbing skills as a result. He can run on walls, swing on poles, slide down cliffs, and crawl up certain surfaces. He may be a wretched monster tormented by the power of the One Ring, but he’s very nimble.

(Image credit: Daedalic)

In the build I’m shown, Gollum’s animations are in pretty rough shape. I watch him scramble around Barad-dûr, and it feels very… placeholder. There are no smooth transitions between his various states—running, climbing, swinging, and so on—which makes it look very stiff and robotic. And there’s something distractingly weightless about the way he moves, as if he’s not fully connected to the environment. Hopefully, this will be improved before release, because navigating this massive, cavernous level looks, otherwise, pretty fun.

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