Video Games

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum Is a Tale of Two Smeagols

If you’re anything like me, you were skeptical when you first heard that a game was being developed set in the Lord of the Rings universe following Smeagol’s exploits. While integral to the story of the conflict between the nation and Sauron, he’s mostly a one-note antagonist who’s been around for as long as he’s needed throughout the book and no longer exists. Short time: Gollum makes a solid first argument that the lost journey of the third “Hobbit” might be as interesting as Frodo and Bilbo’s. , but what makes the journey compelling is the relationship between Smeagol and his repressed alter ego.

A big selling point for me was being able to follow in the footsteps of Middle-earth’s biggest misfit and watch him duel himself. The man’s body is steered by his two minds, the naive and gentle Smeagol and the selfish and malicious Gollum. Whenever he is led to make a choice, they are usually from one perspective or the other. Does Smeagol answer the question honestly and seriously, or does Gollum lie and insult the questioner? The developers told me that these choices stack up, and eventually you’ll find yourself in a position where one personality dominates the conversation, based on one’s preferences.

This is not the standard moral system you see in games like Mass Effect. At times, Gollum’s relentless selfishness keeps him off the chain. This is also expressed in an interesting way while exploring the world. In one chapter, you are ushered to a spooky fortress somewhere in Mordor by an imposing orc. He returns to his post and gives strict orders to stand still and wait for the gong. Good Smeagol would have waited nervously, but as a crafty little Gollum, I tried to escape. He’s quite the climber, and the platforming feels much like his Uncharted’s various ledges his grabs, vines his scaling, and acrobatic swings his jumps. Given the character’s impressions established from the books and movies, it was a bit jarring at first to see him move like in a video game, but after a while his almost supernatural gallop felt just right. This is mixed with the approach to combat – deterring it at every turn in favor of stealth and laying traps – combined to make it suitable for something like a creature that lives in the shadows of something bigger and scarier. It locks you into the playstyle you feel. I live to tell stories.

This is not the standard moral system you see in games like Mass Effect.


At the end of the above section, after roaming jagged scaffolding and tiptoeing through labs and offices full of extremely important and intriguing-looking objects, we met a creeper named Candleman. Intimidating had him lounging on the cliffs of Mount Doom, which made me think this was a book character I had missed, like The Silmarillion. I was. He and several other characters I met during the roughly hour-long demo affirmed that this story was a creation. Established characters like Gandalf the Gray also make an appearance, written and acted in ways that fit the characters we know and love.

Does all of this result in a cohesive experience that warrants another trip to the well-worn realm? We can’t be sure about the demo, but Lord of the Rings: Gollum is at least a good first. It makes an impression and outlines a solid case for piloting one of the strangest yet most important characters in lore. I hope it blends split personality choices, parkour, stealth, and story into a project you don’t want to throw into a volcano.

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