One of the most intriguing upcoming games based on a famous character is The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, which will put players in the dirty bare feet of the ancient Stoor Hobbit.
The game will trace the journey of Gollum after he lost the One Ring to Bilbo Baggins. You’ll see familiar moments, such as Gollum being tortured to reveal Bilbo has the ring, but you’ll also see new material that’s been carefully crafted in conjunction with Middle-earth Enterprises, the rights holders to JRR Tolkien’s books. .
At the recent Bigben Week event in Paris, the game developers at Daedalic hosted a booth where you could watch a member of staff play through a short demo of the game Gollum. We couldn’t play the demo ourselves, this being strictly a hands-off affair, but we watched with interest from behind the scenes.
Watching with interest from behind the scenes, ultimately, is also what Gollum himself has to do. This game has always been touted as a stealth experience, though it also features plenty of puzzles and exploration, but one thing really stood out from this demo: the game seems to be almost entirely combat-free.
The short demo that was shown, which appears to be the game’s opening tutorial, sees Gollum attempting to sneak around Orcs and other enemies as he attempts to escape. Gollum has some decent skills at his disposal – for example, because he’s so ancient he has a trait called ‘intuition’ which helps him sniff out his goals – but one thing he can’t do is to beat. At all.
In the demo, at least, if Gollum rushes at a guard and falls on him (rather than finding a sneaky way around him), you’ll see an instant GAME OVER-like screen. Gollum is caught and defeated, and the player is reloaded to their most recent checkpoint. There is no option to hit the guard with a rock or anything like that, at least not at this early stage of the game.
Instead, the player is encouraged to use the environment to guide Gollum away from danger – you can throw rocks to distract guards, you can climb walls to find hidden paths, you can sneak through small holes no one else can fit into, and you’ll also be presented with decisions that play into Gollum’s split personality.
Will you adopt the darker personality of Gollum or the more innocent Sméagol? Your choices, in some cases, will send you down different paths, though the game seems to have a story set in stone in the overall sense. It looks like an interesting experience, and the graphics are also in pretty good shape (especially when you manage to overlook the extremely expensive movies).
If you thought Gollum was battling nameless Orcs, imagine how he would fare against a larger enemy like a giant flying creature. This also happens in the demo, and Gollum’s only option is to run away and slide through a small gap in a wall to escape. Being both evil and incredibly old, Gollum certainly isn’t about to engage in massive boss battles, quick events, or Arkham-style combos.
The only exception to this no-combat mantra, which is certainly an interesting way to build a game, seems to be stealth kills. If you sneak up behind a standard enemy and have the right timing, you should be able to knock them out and fight your way through. That’s pretty standard in stealth games, of course, but it looks like those kills will be doubly important in Gollum, since he has no other combat options to fall back on.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum launches September 1, 2022 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S, with a Nintendo Switch launch later this year, and you can pre-order your copy at GAME now.
We’ll definitely be keen to see how the full experience feels. There aren’t many major games these days that don’t involve combat in some way, so this should be a very interesting experience. The results could be valuable.
To follow Radio Times Gaming on Twitter for all the latest information. Or if you’re looking for something to watch, check out our TV guide.
Visit our video game release schedule for all the games coming to consoles. Drop by our hubs for more gaming and tech news.
The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – Subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for just £1. For more from TV’s biggest stars, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.