The Lord of the Rings: Gollum Review – Not Precious

Playing as an antihero can be charming if the stars align and the antihero in question has some redeemable personality traits. Many people are happy to slip into the shoes of Agent 47, Dante, or Wario. Why? Because they are indisputably cool. What about Gollum, that poor, sniveling, twisted, and tortured creature that dreams about The One Ring? As a character envisioned by Tolkien, Gollum is anything but cool, never mind the fantastic recreation by Andy Serkis that invokes instant sympathy. Making a successful game starring Gollum would require leaps in humanization which are impossible due to the licensed lore’s constraints.

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Gollum was designed to be pitied, not appreciated outside of that singular redeeming act in the sad history of his existence. He bit Frodo’s finger and fell into the lava, destroying the One Ring in the process. Go Gollum! Making a game about this broken victim of perpetual, multi-centurial torture would require extraordinary inspiration, supreme effort, and a hat full of brilliant ideas. None of that can be found in this game.

Addendums to the lore

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The Lord of the Rings: Gollum begins roughly sixty years after the fateful encounter between Gollum and Bilbo. Tricked and ringless, Gollum swore eternal hatred to thieving Bagginsses. He eventually left the Misty Mountains and roamed the world trying to find his Precious, ending up in Sauron’s captivity. You’ll spend the first half of the game as a prisoner in Barad-dûr, the dark lord’s stronghold in Mordor. Later, there’s a stint with Elves in Mirkwood, where the game actually begins as Gollum is being interrogated by Gandalf. Invoking painful flashbacks of years spent in chains, Gollum will spin his non canonical beans.

All that is mostly a gray zone in the established lore. Tolkien stated that Gollum was tortured and gave up the SHIRE and BAGGINS pointers, the scene which can be briefly observed in the movie. After it squeezed Gollum for information, The Eye set him free, unleashed the Nazgûl, and the rest of LoTR unfolded. The game operates on the premise that our sniveling antihero started as an expendable slave, but managed to survive and become the favorite snitch for one non-canonical wizard/warden, playing power games with Mouth of Sauron. The story is actually pretty solid, all things considered.

Slave to the grind

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And boy, have we got things to consider… You’ll spend the first half of the game playing boring, fixed action or puzzle pieces, enduring verbal and corporeal abuse by the Orc guards. We are talking about exposing yourself to six hours of pure misery, enabling the game to make a point about the horror perpetuated by the Dark Master. Developers probably wanted to emphasize the brutal aspect of Sauron’s rule the books and movies only implied. How slavery under The Burning Eye would really look like? Like this, I guess.

That potentially interesting ball was dropped due to a shortage of sensible gameplay ideas and absolute, suffocating linearity. Guards, thralls, and enforcers will shout the orders to poor Gollum, and he will obey, moving from point A to point B. His tasks will mostly involve climbing and a bit of stealth. Occasionally, he will face a simple environmental puzzle or a story sequence. A bit later in the first part of the game, he will actively try to escape, but those parts are identical in form to the slave labor he did previously. A risky climb over an industrial pit is the same whether you are ordered to do it or you are attempting it on your own volition.

Climbing and stealth defined some of the best games in history, such as Thief and Assassins Creed series. Here, both suck due to bad camera, worse collision detection, and Gollum fragility. He has a stamina bar required for running and hanging on to the ledges, but it depletes far too quickly. A simple fall from a ridiculously nonthreatening height will kill him, and an encounter with a guard means instant game over. Gollum can choke Orcs without a helmet, provided he sneaks up on them, but such encounters are heavily scripted. There’s no room for experimentation or exploration. Your path through the game is singular, linear, and devoid of any improvisation.

Bugses, nasty bugses

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Vapid gameplay is the first but by no means the last reason why this game doesn’t work. The vast collection of bugs helps in solidifying the bad impression you will inevitably form. Collision detection, essential for any game dealing with climbing and grabbing ledges is all over the place. The same goes for an insane camera, which will sabotage your efforts (especially in stealth) more efficiently than any Orc. Then there’s crashing. I played the game on PlayStation 5, which kept breaking every ten minutes until I turned off Gollum’s hair simulation in the options. The Witcher 3 on PC had the same problem, but that was eight years ago and it was related to Nvidia drivers.

Gollum/Sméagol’s split personality is a big thing in the lore. Devs tried to simulate that conflict in a few set scenes in the game, but the depiction of the internal clash is lame and inconsequential. This could have been a logical and plausible way to branch a storyline, but it all went nowhere. I could go on and list more gripes I have with LotR: Gollum, but I guess it’s all clear by now.

Worse than worst Warhammer

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The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is probably the worst product ever to use this beloved licence. Not even Warhammer, which proliferated beyond belief due to the indiscriminate licensing by Games Workshop, ever had such a broken and uninspiring doozie. This game is a complete, unmitigated disaster. Much as the miserable character it portrays, it stumbles, writhes, and wallows in the mud of low-end notoriety.



  • Semi-interesting story.
  • Impressive musical score.


  • Limited gameplay consisting of awkward set pieces and constricted mini-missions.
  • Gollum’s face and expressions are basic and look weird.
  • Linear, boring levels with zero opportunity to explore.
  • Host of bugs and technical issues.
Review platform: PS5
Published by: Nacon
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Author Chronocrator profile picture
With over 10 years of experience in gaming and esports journalism, I like to think that my guides once helped a NASA scientist to beat a game. Basically, I should be credited for NASA's Mars missions.In my free time, I dream of the day when I will finally start cleaning my Steam backlog.


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