An entire video game starring Gollum, the miserable wretch of a creature that serves as a minor antagonist in The Lord of the Rings, sounds like an unpleasant experience when you first hear about it. But for any diehard Tolkien fans out there that don’t consider all Middle-earth video games sacrilege, a new one starring Sméagol might offer one of the most compelling contextualizations to come out of this universe in years.
How does the Ring truly influence creatures over extended periods of time? We see the after-effects on Sméagol after 400 years in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but a new upcoming game will show the gradual corruption and decay as Sméagol’s mind erodes into the internal chaos of his split personality. It might even become a launch title for the Sony PlayStation 5.
Daedalic typically makes point-and-click adventure games, but it sounds like this Gollum game might expand into something more extensive. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is scheduled for release in 2021 on PC and “all relevant console platforms at that time” — which probably includes the currently unreleased PS5 and the Xbox Two (or whatever that system gets named).
“You already have that big conflict in the character, two voices talking to you continuously, which means there is a good reason there are decisions to make in the game: the Sméagol decisions or the Gollum decision,” Daedalic CEO Carsten Fichtelmann said to The Hollywood Reporter.
In this, Gollum sounds a bit like Mass Effect and similar games where players can make decisions in binary terms of good and evil. No one choice will have a huge impact in the short-term, but repeated decisions one way or the other will shape how the character develops. This game might offer a means to craft a more redemptive arc for poor Sméagol that feels oh-so precious.
Fichtelmann called the game “more story-orientated than some of the other products that came out over the last years,” tossing some shade at Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War without naming them outright. Those title create serious continuity issues with actual Middle-earth canon, but the developers behind Gollum are working closely with Middle-earth Enterprises to ensure that this one fits within canon.
The game will focus mostly on “everything that happens to [Sméagol] before he appears in the book,” referring to the 400 or so years between when he took the One Ring from his cousin and when that wretched Hobbit Bilbo Baggins stole his Precious.
Polygon reports that the game will “will also explore new events and details” in the history of Middle-earth, implying that it will take liberties by creating all new stories as well.
Up until now, the closest we’ve gotten to filling in those missing centuries in Gollum’s early life came from the montage in The Return of the King. But that was an accelerated version that left out huge gaps.
Frodo had the Ring for around 17 years, and he only used it actively for the year or so that covers The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bilbo had it for 60 years, using it off-and-on. The toll it took nearly killed Frodo and came very close to corrupting Bilbo into a creature of total evil. He famously told Gandalf, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” Oh Hobbits.
Gollum isn’t so much a malevolent villain; He’s merely a weak creature that succumbed to the overwhelming power of the Ring over centuries. Experiencing his slow descent into madness in a story-driven narrative could offer a compelling meditation on the nature of corruption itself.
It’s hard to imagine, however, what the actual gameplay might look like. Does it involve lots of sneaking around to murder enemies by surprise, like in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice? An alignment system like Mass Effect? Using the Ring to turn invisible? Solving complex puzzles to craft riddles about fish? I can’t wait to hear more.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is scheduled for release sometime in 2021.