When it comes to games like The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, we’re left with a tough question: just how much time do you put into a bad game? You see, the review embargo is up – we’re free to share our thoughts. But glance over our front page and you’ll see that we don’t have a review. Why? Because we’ve only played a quarter of it at most; that’s all we’ve been able to stand. So that’s our review, we guess: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is so awful that we simply can’t bring ourselves to finish it.
It doesn’t feel fair to stick a score on it though. Maybe in later chapters the story picks up, or a gameplay element rears its head that’s actually rather fun. Judging by other critic reviews that’s not the case, but you never know. What we know for certain is that its first few chapters are turgid. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum has less charm than the movie tie-ins that used to grace our games consoles a decade-plus ago. You know, the games that were hastily made on a budget and moderately fun for an afternoon at best.
The gameplay certainly feels as dated. It’s a linear affair, with basic stealth and traversal mechanics. You climb up vines and shimmy along ledges, heading towards objective markers because that’s pretty much all you can do. Sometimes you get to crawl through grass or in the shadows to sneak past enemies – get caught and you’re defenceless, resulting in you being taken back to a checkpoint. You can take down certain enemies though, providing you remain in stealth and they don’t have anything protecting their necks while you choke the life out of them.
Basic mechanics are just one of the reasons why The Lord of the Rings: Gollum fails to entertain, though. There’s also the fact that it’s incredibly dull, with a story that fails to engage and a world that’s plain ugly. There are blurry textures everywhere, character models are below par, and animations are underwhelming. Playing on PS5, it would be unimpressive even as a PS4 game. Controlling Gollum isn’t much fun either – in fact, he’s irritatingly unwieldy at times. It very much looks and plays like a budget game, but it’s not being sold as one.
Even the game’s standout feature – being able to determine Gollum’s personality – falls short in our experience. All it boils down to is randomly being given a choice between some actions. Early in the game you have a choice whether to kill or simply observe a strange beetle, for example, with you needing to reason with your other half to achieve the desired outcome. You never really get a sense that there’s any weight behind your decision, and after the resultant scene, you simply carry on as usual. It all feels so meaningless.
We can’t recommend The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, then. While there are uglier games around, and ones that are perhaps even less fun to play, it offers such a boring and basic experience that you’ll likely grow tired of it within a couple of hours at most. It’s a waste of the much-loved license, and of the opportunity to create something unique and different within it. But more importantly, it’s a waste of your money if you do happen to buy it. How much time do you put into a bad game? As little as possible. And so, spend your money and your time on something else – practically anything else.