The assortment of The Lord of the Rings games that have been released over the past two decades have varied in quality and style. Back in 2019, Daedalic Entertainment announced they would be making a new game following the perspective of Gollum in the years leading up to The Fellowship of the Ring. After several delays in development, the game finally has a solid release date this spring, and was on display at PAX East and GDC where we got to try it out for ourselves.
The demo opens with Gollum captured by the elves, and Gandalf the Grey visiting the imprisoned creature, recognizing him from the adventures of The Hobbit, and deeply concerned about the coming dark days of the third age as Sauron scours Middle Earth to find his all powerful One Ring. The games latest story trailer details this, even featuring Gollum being assailed by the Nazgul. This demo also presents
The game puts you in control of the wretched Gollum, the halfling who famously found the One Ring as his former self, Smeagol, and in the years since losing his precious to Bilbo Baggins over a game of riddles, skulks about Middle Earth to get it back. With the ability to sneak, run and climb on all fours, the player gets to traverse the environment and take in all the beauty of Middle Earth, or at least the dusty and cold parts of Mo
rder. Visually, the demo showed off some gorgeous landscapes and character designs even if there were some small technical glitches we noticed. But, for a demo of a game that’s still in development it looked better than a lot of fully polished games put out today. If we had to guess, the demo presented was a previous beta version of the game, and a lot of these issues should be finalized by the time the game releases, lest players see Smeagol’s hair turn into a pixel mesh whilst crawling around.
The true highlight of the demo showed off an element of the game that not many games can pull off. Gollum is interacting with a character and is asked a question in which you are given two choices of answers. One of these answers is from Gollum’s perspective and is eviler and more negative, while the other is from Smeagol and is a weaker and positive answer. In my case, I picked Gollum’s answer and was then set into some sort of mini game within the question in which I had to defend my answer to Smeagol and convince him that I’m correct. Most games that use this multiple-choice response system typically just end it there, but this game doubles down and utilizes the two egos living in Gollum and creates a whole new aspect to decision making.
We got to speak to one of the developers after the demo and we asked about this fascinating game mechanic. What we do know is that, while the beginning and ending of the game is set in stone for overall canon purposes, the middle of the story is fluid and will be manipulated by player decisions. We also asked about the time this game takes place in and while he wouldn’t get that specific with us, he did allude that elements from The Fellowship of the Ring may bleed into this game, for instance following the fellowship into the Mines of Moria. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the world that J.R.R. Tolkien created or a newcomer to the series, this game is shaping up to be something worth a play when it officially comes out on May 25, 2023.