The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is set to take us to Middle-earth and offer us a different perspective. As the name gives away, we'll be playing as Gollum as we stealthily make our way through various locations plucked right from Tolkien's fantasy world. From Mirkwood to Barad-dur tower and Cirith Ungol, the new adventure from Daedalic Entertainment will let us put Gollum's skills - such as sneaking and climbing - to use as we navigate dangerous environments.
After it's initial reveal back in 2019 and some delays which have pushed back its launch, we've steadily been learning more and more about our upcoming journey with Gollum. We know, for example, that we can expect to see some new faces along with familiar characters such as the Elven King Thranduil and Gandalf. We also know that it's set to be come to multiple platforms, making among the lineup of upcoming Xbox Series X games and upcoming PS5 games on the way.
While we wait for more news, read on below as we take you through everything we know so far about The Lord of the Rings: Gollum.
What is Lord of the Rings: Gollum?
Announced in March of 2019, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is an action-adventure game from Daedalic Entertainment, a German studio famous for making point-and-click adventure games. While the studio's most popular output is the Deponia series, you may have also heard of some of the games they’ve published, including Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun and 2018’s State of Mind. Daedalic inked a deal with Middle-earth Enterprises to work on this project, which means that the game will draw from the books and not the movies.
Lord of the Rings: Gollum release date and platforms
Lord of the Rings: Gollum is one of the key new games of 2023, with its release date now set for May 25, 2023. The game is set to launch on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One. A Switch version has been announced, although no release date has been confirmed.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will take advantage of PS5 features
As we reported in November 2020, Jonas Husges of Daedalic Entertainment told Official PlayStation Magazine that Gollum will make use of the next-gen PS5 tech. Gollum’s actions become more tangible and his physical struggle when he runs out of stamina translates directly to the way the game is played," said Husges. This points to The Lord of the Rings: Gollum using the PS5 DualSense's haptic feedback ability, which will likely apply more resistance to the triggers when Gollum is tired or otherwise strained.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will have ray-tracing
In the same interview mentioned above, Husges praised the PS5's SSD component, and said it will help the Lord of the Rings: Gollum vastly decrease loading times and create a large explorable world. It also means Gollum's world will be incredibly well-lit.
"Clean, ray-traced shadows allow for maximum effect in player guidance in building stealth passages while dynamic and moving light sources bring in the extra challenge when Gollum is roaming through the darkness," said Daedalic art director Mathias Fischer. "All these things, of course, have the nice side-effect of making the game feel vast, and such free roaming environments we are creating look as spectacular as Middle-earth deserves."
Lord of the Rings Gollum story - When will the game take place?
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Daedalic explained that the game will take place in the years following Gollum’s acquisition of the one ring, meaning that it is set prior to the events of The Lord of the Rings. “Everything that happens to him before he appears in the book are the main things we will see in our game.”
"We have the story that we all know from the book, but everything that happens to him before he appears in the book are the main things we will see in our game," Carsten Fichtelmann, CEO and co-founder of Daedalic Entertainment, told The Hollywood Reporter. "We will tell the story before he first appears in the books."
The game was then subject to a world-exclusive preview in Edge Magazine in January 2020, which revealed some more details about the story. The game will kick off in Barad-dur, a Mordor fortress where the creature is being kept against his will. More recently, in a recent 2022 press release from Daedalic, the developer described the upcoming adventure as a look at Gollum's experiences from "behind-the-scenes" in the first chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, when he leaves the misty mountains after losing the ring to Bilbo.
In the very first gameplay reveal from Daedelic, we got to follow Gollum at Barad-Dur as he tries to reach a gate and free himself from the tower once and for all. As the studio notes, the game will go beyond Mordor to other parts of Middle-earth, such as the land of the elves where we'll meet a variety of Lord of the Rings characters. It’s a clever timeframe to set the game as it affords Daedalic a lot of creative freedom to dive into the murkier bits of lore that Tolkein didn’t dwell too heavily on.
How the story develops, however, is down to you. Speaking to GamesRadar+, co-writer Damiri Knapheide promises the dialogue decisions you make as the diminutive hobbit have impact.
"You have to think, how do these strange elves and orcs operate?" Knapheide says. "You figure that out as a player – whose side you're on and who will probably die. They have a lot of influence on your decisions into the way you experience Middle Earth as Gollum."
Keen to keep some expectations in check, Knapheide says the amount of narrative branching opportunities isn't on the scale of Detroit Become Human, though you can expect to see one level change substantially depending on how you play.
"It's a core mechanic, and it changes the way you interact with the world and the way the world interacts with you," they say. "You'll get other options if you opt for one side and different options for the other. It's not Detroit Become Human – It's not that scale. One level is completely different in the latter part of the game. If you adopt [a certain side], you'll have a lot of problems."
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum characters
As well as a “range of friendly or unfriendly faces,” the Nazgul and King Thranduil will also feature in the game in some respect - Thranduil being the father of Legolas, for the uninitiated! During a hands-off preview for the Lord of the Rings: Gollum, we briefly got to see the elven king in the realm of Mirkwood, along with Gandalf who will also be making an appearance during our time with Gollum. Along with familiar characters from Tolkien's world, there will also be some new faces who we'll encounter during the levels that can help us along the way - so far we know about a young elf called Mell who Gollum meets in Mirkwood, and Greshneg who we'll encounter in Barad-dur.
Crucially, Daedalic’s version of Gollum will look nothing like the character popularized in the Lord of the Rings movies. “We started with the person he was and then evolved him,” explains producer Kai Fiebig. “You can see that this was once something like a human being before the Ring corrupted him.” So don’t expect to hear or see an Andy Serkis lookalike in-game when it finally lands!
Lord of the Rings Gollum gameplay details
The very first gameplay reveal gave us a look at the stealth-based abilities and parkouring skills Gollum can use as he navigates through each level. As he can't beat enemies by charging into battle, he has to rely on his ability to feel sounds and see in the darkness to use unlit spaces to curtail his enemies. Having gained skills over the last 500 years, Gollum is an experienced freestyle climber who can also jump across platforms, hang from ledges, and fit through tight spots to get away from, or around, his foes. Every action that requires force of some kind will use up Gollum's stamina gauge, so you have to be mindful of the amount of stamina you have left before you leap to do another big climb.
Part of the gameplay will also focus on Gollum’s inner battle with his Hobbit-self, Smeagol. CEO Carsten Fichtelmann told The Hollywood Reporter that in Gollum “you already have that big conflict in the character… which means there is a good reason there are decisions to make in the game: the Smeagol decisions or the Gollum decision.” So far, these choices have been presented as dialogue responses or choices that reflect his differing personalities on-screen, but Daedelic says the system is still currently subject to change while the game is still under development.
Most recently, Daedalic released a stealth gameplay trailer that shows Gollum sneaking through various locations in the world. Using his small stature, the protagonist can be see using the shadows to his advantage to avoid nearby enemies. We also see a brief glimpse of Shelob.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum levels
So far we've seen snippets of three different locations that we'll be venturing through as Gollum. With the first look showing off the dark depths of Barad-dur, the latest preview showcased the Cirith Ungol mountains in Mordor and Mirkwood. All of the levels in the game are said to be "quite linear", but you can use Gollum's small stature and climbing abilities to make use of multiple different paths to progress.
Lord of the Rings Gollum visual style
Accordingly, the visual style that Daedalic is aiming for is set to skirt “the uncanny valley” and aim for bold style over true realism. Fichtelmann notes in the initial report that the team is trying to “produce something that is a statement.” Gollum’s descent into hunchbacked creature will no doubt be striking then - the game has a lot of wiggle room if it wanted to incorporate some elements of the horror genre given Tolkein’s rogue’s gallery of creatures. By seating the player outside of the shoes of the atypical hero, Daedalic would do well to drive home the imposing terror of some of Tolkein’s beasts when facing an unarmed, frail creature like Gollum and not say, an all-powerful wizard or warrior king.
It looks like the game will seek to make you feel different, perhaps more positive and empathetic emotions towards the gruesome creature than you’ve previously been acquainted with in the books and novels. Gollum is naturally quite a tragic character, so there is a lot of room to experiment here, especially for a studio so well-acquainted with branching narratives.