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The Lord of the Rings: Gollum's gameplay is as conflicted as Gollum

Updated: Jun 5, 2022

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum seems to share Gollum's conflicted personality. In a 20 minute remote preview, I got to see its Gollum side—contextual stealth takedowns, ledge shimmying, and "Gollum vision"—but also its Smeagol side, an open-ended, combat-free platforming puzzle against a striking fantasy backdrop. Which one will ultimately win out is hard to say after such a short look.

The demo begins in one of the game's two primary locations: Mordor, realm of Sauron, volcanic moonscape, iron orcish keeps, all that jazz. I was a bit uncertain before the demo at how well this grey and red hellscape could carry half of a game, but Daedalic's done a decent job injecting more color, some yellow sulfur and even a bit of greenery that differentiates its Mordor from Peter Jackson's portrayal.

The Mordor segment mostly covers Gollum's tutorial, so it's possible the stealth gameplay could have more tricks up its sleeve, but I'm nonplussed. On approach to an orc fortress, Gollum activates "Gollum Vision" to highlight enemies, a feature familiar to anyone who's played a triple-A game in the past 10 years. Gollum scurries from cover to cover in concealing bushes, climbs up a high ledge to avoid a guardpost, and kills an orcish sentry with a contextual stealth takedown.

It all gives me an impression of a fully standardized 2010s stealth-action design, and I don't have particularly high hopes for this aspect of the game. Both Batman and Assassin's Creed have trod and re-trod this terrain.

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