Review – The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

The Lord of the Rings Gollum

I didn’t hate The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. There’s actually a few things the game does well. I believe that the premise is decent, and with the right execution, it could have been great. However, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is not that game, and fails at being a game on every level. It doesn’t just squander what it did well, but completely and utterly ruins it. I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan, so a game like this should be within my wheelhouse. However, its total failure as a game ruins any and all chance of it living on as a niche fanbase focused title. It’s not a good game. Worst of all time though, not quite. 

Gollum Choices

Gollum features an underused decision system that has no impact on narrative or gameplay outside getting two achievements.

From its announcement, this game’s very existence has been questioned. Why make a Gollum game? What’s interesting about that? What could you possibly do with that premise? My answer to those questions is: read the book. Gollum’s portrayal in the Lord of the Rings movies is iconic, but it’s only a small part of his story. In the books, Gollum’s journey is much more eventful, important, and brought together several members of the Fellowship before they gather later in Imladris. So this premise, if done well, could have been a fantastic little companion piece to the novel (singular, Lord of the Rings is one book, not three, per Tolkien himself), an extended prologue of sorts. Emphasis on “if done well”. 

Because The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is not done well. As a matter of fact, it maybe one of the worst-executed games I’ve ever played. Not because it’s all terrible, but because there’s a great game that’s just been horribly mangled. And worst of all, every issue with the game starts with one simple issue. The game is way WAY too long. Gollum, the game you would reasonably expect to be a simple five to seven hour adventure, actually lasts for fifteen to twenty. Hours. The game is horribly inflated, and that drags out, wears down, and exposes every issue with the game while burying everything good about it. 


I wonder who this mysterious figure is.

First off, the gameplay. No, it’s not great, but it could have been serviceable. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum billed itself as a stealth adventure game, with little to no combat. Problem is, the stealth is incredibly simplistic, revolves around instant seen-instant loss situations, and is boring. Especially when you’re engaging with it for fifteen hours, and it never improves or evolves across your entire playthrough. Sometimes you won’t be stealthy and instead be collecting something. Which just removes the instant fail, and replacing it with fetch quests. Because everyone just loves hours of those. Had this game been a more reasonable length, this would have been much less of an issue. Instead, it’s a glaring fault with no excuse or easily solution. It’s a boringly unfun game, no walking that off. 

Which really sucks, because the writing, story, art, and voice-acting are all great. Fantastic, even. The story is, as expected, based on the novel, but with a few surprises and lore cuts for hardcore fans. However, it’s about five hours of story that takes three times longer to tell. It feels drawn out, inflated, and disjointed. The art and voice-acting are great, I love the direction Daedalic chose when portraying Middle-Earth and her people. What makes it much less exciting are glitches, performance issues, and tons of repetitive textures and assets. All of which would be solved had the game simple been the length that it would have naturally fit it. Sure, some people are iffy with paying $50 for a shorter game. But I can definitely say nobody wants to pay that for a overlong unfun slog of a game either. Not even on sale. 

Gollum design

This design of Barad-dur is unique, bold, and fantastic, stuck in an empty slog of a game.

There’s nothing else to say really, except to say that I’m not mad at The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. I don’t think it’s some greedy money grab, a worthless piece of trash, and the worst game ever. There is a ton of effort and quality here. It’s just buried under nonsense, which I suspect only exists because of market pressure. A $50 niche stealth game is a hard sell, and being a short game only makes it more so. But I think we can all agree that taking the same game and artificially inflating it to AAA length at AA quality wasn’t the solution. And while Daedalic has said they intend to work on and fix the game, I honestly don’t see how. The damage is done, the issues baked in. Just learn and move on. And in my case, ponder over what could have been.


Graphics: 4.0

Gollum looks like a late PS3 to early PS4 game, with great looking landscapes and terrible looking character models and animations.

Gameplay: 3.0

Gameplay is incredibly bare bones and generic, with no variety or depth to any of the mechanics.

Sound: 9.0

The music and voice-acting is surprisingly fantastic, especially the extra effort taken for lore accurate spoken Sindarin and Black Speech.

Fun Factor: 2.0

Gollum’s strong writing, art, and sound design are quickly negated by its weak animations, generic basic gameplay, and heavily inflated game length.

Final Verdict: 3.5

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, with a Nintendo Switch release later in 2023.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was provided by the publisher.