Almost exactly two years ago, Daedalic announced their action adventure from the Lord of the Rings universe. At that time there was no more than one logo from Gollum. Now the Hamburg developer and publisher has given insights into the game for the first time.
Gollum plays before The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and tells the prehistory of the eponymous anti-hero, which is only hinted at in the trilogy of novels: at the time when Gollum was in bondage to Sauron and as a slave to the monster spider Kankra had to serve. The presentation shown to us starts at the moment when he manages to escape from the spider’s nest.
But that is only the beginning of a long, arduous journey. Because between him and freedom there is still a huge mine full of orcs, deep in the mountain under Sauron’s tower Barad-dûr. Slender as Gollum is, the playful focus of the action adventure is of course less on brute force, but on sneaking, hiding and climbing.
Gollum’s approach is therefore very reminiscent of the Schleich adventures of the Styx series. You scout out the patrol routes of the orc guards from a safe distance, take cover behind rocks and carts and use dark corners as privacy screens. The great playful importance of light and shadow is also reflected in the skilful design: the mighty orc buildings made of pitch-black lava stone contrast with the threatening red glow of the melting furnaces and the seething lava that shimmers through the crevices in the rock. As in their adventure games, the developers at Daedalic compensate for a lack of AAA budget with a clearly defined style.
Nevertheless: With a team of 80 developers, Gollum is by far the studio’s largest project to date. And you can see that too: The mine that spreads out in front of us in the shown section of the game is not a narrow tunnel of shafts and rock walls, but a considerably huge cave, full of fortifications, load cranes and melting furnaces. According to the developers, the sheer size of the level also promises a high level of playful freedom. Because the game does not give you a direct route. Instead, you are relatively free to choose your creep speed.
Particularly cool: The game also gives you a choice when it comes to shaping Gollum’s personality. In key moments, like the character in Peter Jackson’s film, you fight with the two souls in his chest, which also has a playful effect. Depending on whether you are rather fearful in hiding or go nastily on the offensive, this strengthens the Gollum or Smeagol persona in your main character.
Because yes, secret takedowns are also quite possible, although Gollum is much less agile than the protagonists in an Assassin’s Creed adventure. It takes several seconds until the victim is finally strangled into the afterlife, during which the danger of being discovered becomes greater and greater.
The companions who join you temporarily during the course of the adventure are more responsible for the rough stuff anyway. At the end of the game segment shown, Gollum frees Grashneg from a cell, who then follows him every step of the way and helps with his size and strength, for example by lifting Gollum over obstacles or even clearing them out of the way.
At the end of the section, the two of them leave the cave, and Gollum sees daylight for the first time in a long time. But before him lies a huge city full of orcs and other horrors. There is still a long way to go to freedom …