Image Source: Daedalic Entertainment
Any game set in the rich lore of Middle-earth will always be of appeal, particularly because of how protective the Tolkien estate is of its precious IP.
What’s fascinating about the upcoming The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, though, is its titular character, the conflicted being that was once the hobbit Sméagol.
Instead of following the tales of the heroic warriors of Middle-earth, the Hamburg-based developers decided to explore one of the most intriguing characters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world.
Already revealed to lean into the dual-personality of Sméagol and Gollum, Daedalic Entertainment has revealed more information and a clutch of screenshots for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum.
In an interview with German game magazine GameStar, the team behind The Lord of the Rings: Gollum explains the process of creating the protagonist, the early story of the game, and how the gameplay works.
Caution! The following contains light spoilers for the story of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum game.
When does the Gollum game story take place?
Gollum’s story spans hundreds of years, with the tormented hobbit’s journey far surpassing his pivotal role in the history of the One Ring, from serving Shelob to being interrogated by Gandalf and Aragorn.
However, based on the information provided, it looks as though the story will take place relatively shortly before the events of The Fellowship of the Ring and hit key events established in Tolkien’s lore.
In the interview, we are informed that The Lord of the Rings: Gollum game doesn’t derive directly from J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, but that the Middle-earth experts in the development team have made sure that the game fits within Tolkien’s universe.
Gollum goes on his own adventure in this game, but lead narrative designer Tilman Schanen has been sure to keep it within the boundaries of the lore.
In the first half of the game, Gollum is interrogated by Gandalf and recounts his story, which the player then plays through.
Here, you pick-up as the cursed creature, trying to make your escape from the Dark Lord Sauron’s fortress in Mordor, Barad-dûr, where Gollum had been held as a prisoner.
Later in the Gollum game, you venture to the dark forest of Mirkwood – which is where Aragorn captured Gollum following his release from Mordor in the lore – as well as Cirith Ungol, near Shelob’s lair.
As the screenshots suggest, as well as the locations mentioned, giant spiders look to play a large part of the Gollum game.
Given the gameplay style, players look to be encouraged to embrace their arachnophobia and hide from the spiders.
However, if Gollum does come to meet Shelob, there may be some extended scenes with the daunting giant spider in the darkness.
In Tolkien’s works, Gollum is known to have become a spy for the great spider as well as having promised to feed her sweeter meats than the orcs that she was used to – leading to him luring the hobbits Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee to her lair.
Founder and CEO of Daedalic Entertainment, Carsten Fichtelmann, states in the GameStar exclusive that the Gollum game will show “a very, very respectful handling of the template.”
Game designer Martin Wilkes says that the setting covers a vast history, but the Gollum game tells “a small personal story,” within that huge world.
Further, Wilkes explains in the interview that they want to show significant conflicts as well as Gollum’s internal conflicts, such as overcoming fear, along with his devotion to animalistic instincts.
What kind of gameplay does the Gollum game feature?
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is described as a stealth-action adventure game in which sneaking and the dual-personality mechanic will take centre stage.
To help showcase the dual-personality, the team has made it so that big yellow eyes indicate the brave Sméagol being played. In contrast, squinted green eyes indicate that Gollum is in control.
It’s a story-driven game that features gigantic level maps and persistent environments, within which there are several quests and NPCs – both friendly and unfriendly – to navigate.
In the Gollum game, the gameplay focuses on sneaking around, crawling in the shadows, scaling walls, and hiding under carts while trying to escape the evils of Barad-dûr.
Gollum’s posture and stances also play a crucial role in how you make your way around the world.
The three postures range from crawling to more of an upright walk, with each stance changing Gollum’s visibility and detectability through the size of his silhouette and the noise created by his movements.
Decision-making will also be a core gameplay mechanic in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, with the duality of the Smégol-Gollum character to be in-play throughout the experience.
As you can see in the screenshot above, several thoughts run through the cursed character’s mind, some offered by Gollum, others by Sméagol, with you seemingly being able to decide which personality to follow.
To help the player immerse into the setting and connect to the character, the development team is also working to include Gollum’s tendency to talk to himself.
It’ll include Gollum talking about his possible escape routes, if he could deal with a fat orc blocking the way, or his opinion on the player’s decisions of where to take him.
The team is looking to strike the right balance for Gollum’s soliloquies in the game to offer increased insight and atmosphere.
Regarding combat, Gollum isn’t one to wield a dagger, bow, sword, or axe, and shan’t be using such weapons in the adventure of the Gollum game. Fighting head-on “should be avoided as [much] as possible.”
Will the game Gollum be like the movie Gollum?
These early screenshots of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum game do indicate that the aesthetics draw, somewhat, from the Gollum seen in Peter Jackson’s epic film saga.
While the movie version of Sméagol and Gollum does have some lovable aspects, he is primarily a villain: a conniving and vicious villain at that.
So, the character design of the protagonist in the Gollum game tries to make him much more likeable while also adhering to Gollum’s base instincts. Afterall, Gollum is still the embodiment of obsession.
As Andy Serkis’ rendition did, the Gollum game character will adhere to the personality created by Tolkien. For the purposes of the game, though, the good-natured side of Gollum will be shown more often than in his other depictions.
Still slated to launch on the next generation of consoles in 2021, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum gets more and more enticing with each new set of reveals.