The Lord of the Rings: Gollum poses itself as an epic quest across the treacherous realms of Middle-earth, where an inner conflict will rage inside the mind of one halfling. Of course we refer to the split-personality of both Smeagol and Gollum, an integral character across both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings stories. Filling in the blanks between both of those tales, Daedalic's third-person stealth platformer will let you take control of the titular menace as he continues his never-ending search for his precious ring. Sadly, the only precious thing about our time with Gollum was the hope that one day we'd eventually finish the game, uninstall it from our PS5, and never think about it again.

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As you may have been able to surmise then, we're not big fans of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. Across its roughly 10-hour campaign, we were subjected to some of the most dated and disastrously dull stealth and platforming segments that we've seen in a game in quite some time. In fact, we didn't even get through all the story chapters. Nine chapters in (out of 10), we encountered a game breaking bug that stalled our progression and left us unable to complete the game before embargo. We reached out to Daedalic Entertainment for any help in this matter, but as of writing are yet to hear back.

By the time this game-breaking bug emerged from the shadows, however, we were hardly surprised. That's because from start to (not quite) finish, we experienced a bevy of bugs that not only impeded our experience, but led to several game crashes and fresh app restarts: catching on invisible objects; getting stuck in death loops; characters disappearing from the game's cutscenes; and being unable to interact with vital mission objects. Frankly, it's a mess, and it felt like we were getting a glimpse into what should have been an early, early build of a game with a desperate need for more time in the oven.

This made it all the harder to work through the game's (almost) 10 story chapters, which severely lack any sense of variety. Each chapter, which lasts around an hour, consists of a rotation of stealth, platforming, and fetch quest levels, where the only real mix-up is the location, but it isn't afraid of making you retread old ground either. Regardless of whether it took us to the fiery pits of Mount Doom, or the Elven kingdom of Mirkwood, it was difficult not to run into some kind of issue. Sometimes it was the dodgy controls during prolonged climbing sections that sent us to our death time and time again, and others it was the brutal yet mind-numbingly dumb AI in near-instant fail stealth levels that left us wanting to throw our DualSense at the TV, like a rock aimed at Samwise Gamgee's head. Eventually, it all becomes a fever dream of repetition, not helped by the fact that nearly half of its campaign is set in the same linear location.

Despite its repetition, we were still left scratching our heads as to where to go at times. The level design feels messy in that way, never truly leading you down a set path. This meant we were often jumping for ledges that caused us to double back or land back where we started. In the slightly more open levels, we sometimes felt like we accidentally happened upon our destination. Some levels even included a bird's eye view of the layout, where the camera would sweep across your intended route. We have a sneaking suspicion this was a feature added in later to counter the often confusing level design. Don't get us wrong, it's never maze-like, we always generally knew where we were supposed to go. However, whereas most linear games feel almost natural in your discoveries, Gollum never feels quite right.

However, that brings us onto the IP that the game is set within. The world of J.R.R. Tolkien is filled to the brim with fantastical settings and dollops of lore that could potentially break through even the dullest of gameplay loops. It's a shame, then, that Gollum is not concerned whatsoever with tapping into that, and truthfully doesn't even feel like The Lord of the Rings. With the odd appearance from someone like Gandalf, or the mere mention of Aragorn, the references within are so vapid that it feels tailored to someone that had once sort of watched the films while they were on in the background.

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Narratively, there's also nothing here that feels remotely consequential to the wider world. Instead, we're offered affirmations on events that we suspected, leading it all to feel rather pointless, like Daedalic wasn't really allowed to touch anything too substantial within the Lord of the Rings universe. Understandably, that's potentially more of a legal/canonical restriction than something that Daedalic should be blamed for, but it is a shame because there was such potential within this character and setting. We would have loved to have heard Orcs discuss world events, spy intricate details referencing aspects of the books, or visit locales ripped straight from the films. But it's all so bland that it barely feels like it's set within the same places that Sam and Frodo destroyed the One Ring, or a collection of Dwarves made their daring barrel-based escape.

The game does try to tap into mechanics specific to the character of Gollum, like the intermittent choices you can make which side with either of his personalities. There's something interesting there, especially when it makes you argue your point to convince either Smeagol or Gollum. It's helped by the performance which, while Andy Serkis-less, manages to not feel too derivative, especially as you settle into the game. However, like almost everything else, it doesn't feel properly developed. After a couple of goes you'll steadily realise your choices boil down to the same outcome mechanically. We also never had a time where we lost an argument to the other side, so the answers we chose never seemed all too important. Maybe we're just really good at arguing our side.

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The graphical presentation then tops it all off. In motion it doesn't look too bad, and the game's Performance Mode maintains a steady 60 frames per second. However, it can actually be shocking how unpolished and just outright bad everything can look. There are options for a Quality Mode, and a Quality Mode with Ray-Tracing, but the game crashed multiple times on these modes, so we didn't experience them much. We understand that Daedalic might not have the biggest budget for the game, but everything looks muddy and definitively PS3 era, which is especially disappointing considering how fragmented the levels are with multitudes of loading screens. It certainly doesn't feel like a game utilising the power of the PS5, despite its decent use of DualSense haptics.


The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a broken mess of a game. There are barely any redeeming qualities to be found amidst what can only be described as a massive missed opportunity. There is some serious potential in a single-player linear Lord of the Rings experience like this, but with outrageously dated level design, clunky controls, a severe lack of polish, muddy and unimpressive graphics, and a dull story, Gollum completely misses the mark. As massive fans of the books, films, and games, it's sad to see that there is nothing precious about this experience.