Lord of the Rings: Gollum Is as Pitiable as Its Namesake

Inverse Score: 3/10


I let out a sigh of relief after finally scaling to the top of a tower within the Black Pits of Sauron’s fortress. All I have to do now is stealthily take out the orc to advance. I jump onto its head, the game stutters, and then it crashes completely. I’m back to square one.

I fall to my death once more, and when the checkpoint resets, Smeagol appears mid-fall, over and over. I’m stuck in an endless loop of doom with no escape. It’s a sick sort of irony, considering what ultimately happens to Gollum in J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a messy and frustrating action platformer set in Middle-earth. While the story focuses on Gollum, other familiar faces make appearances, such as Gandalf. Or at least, that’s what the game tells you. The visuals are so bad, it’s hard to discern who’s who, but Gandalf is apparently in the game.

Most of the gameplay involves platforming and stealth, though neither works very well. Gollum is full of technical problems that make an otherwise unpleasant experience even worse, and the game’s boring story makes it hard to recommend, even to the most hardcore Lord of the Rings fans.

Flawed From the Start

Platforming is frustrating, as it’s easy to miss jumps and fall to your death.


As the story begins, Gollum is being held prisoner within the Dark Tower in Mordor, eight years prior to the trilogy, and we learn how he escaped captivity to search for his Precious. Throughout the journey, Gollum is forced to perform menial tasks, such as herding large boar-like creatures called Borocs. A large portion of the game takes place inside the Dark Tower, which means you’ll be seeing an awful lot of dreary, gray hallways.

Platforming leaves a lot to be desired. It’s hard to tell where you’re supposed to jump, since grabbable walls blend in with non-grabbable surfaces, leading to lots of flopping around. Fall damage is quite unforgiving, which makes traversal feel frustrating and cheap. Even the mere act of jumping over an object can be tricky, due to floaty and imprecise controls. Gollum often gets stuck on surfaces, requiring you to restart the checkpoint a number of times. If you’re being chased by enemies, clearing a small gap or successfully completing a platforming section becomes more a matter of luck than precision.

Gollum does a poor job of enticing you to keep playing since it gets repetitive early on. Levels blur together, the game forces you to traverse the same sections over and over, and there’s very little variety throughout. You can only jump onto a wall so many times. To make matters worse, nearly every movement in the game is excruciatingly slow and clunky. The mere act of walking around as Gollum is painfully sluggish, making it almost unbearable to play.

You’re also given very little direction. Dull visuals blend together, so you often have to rely on Gollum’s “Senses” ability (think Detective Move from the Batman: Arkham games) to see where to go, but even that gets a bit muddled. It’s easy to get lost due to unintuitive level and environmental design. While things do brighten up eventually, the entire first half of the game is muddy and dark, making it hard to distinguish certain areas from each other.

Out of Sight

Checkpoints are unfairly spaced at times, causing you to restart lengthy platforming sections.


Stealth also plays a major role in Gollum, but the level design doesn’t leave much wiggle room to avoid enemies, so it frequently takes an excessive amount of time to navigate past your foes. On top of that, enemy AI is wildly inconsistent. You can sometimes walk directly next to a foe without being spotted, while other times, you’ll be seen from behind a piece of cover.

One specific section requires you to run past a guard — whether or not you get caught seems purely random. Then, you need to distract another guard before climbing the wall behind him while the first guard chases you. A lengthy platforming section lies ahead, with several choke points — any of which can easily cause you to restart from the beginning of the area.

I retried this part upwards of 20 times before getting it down. It’s somehow more than just sloppy execution — it’s as if the game is out to get you, prioritizing frustration over fun. Checkpoints are spread too far apart, forcing you to replay frustrating sections over and over. Even experts at action platformers will struggle with Gollum.

Characters are stiff and lifeless in Gollum.


The visual presentation of Gollum leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes, characters’ mouths don’t move when they talk, while other times, character models look downright unfinished. Gollum himself looks pretty rough at times, though it's nothing compared to the glazed-over and soulless supporting cast.

Even aside from all the technical issues, terrible platforming, boring gameplay, and abysmal visuals, Gollum simply does not work as a video game protagonist. If you had any concerns the first time you saw the trailer, know that you were right. I wouldn’t recommend playing The Lord of the Rings: Gollum if you get it for free, much less paying $50 for it.


The Lord of the Rings: Gollum launches for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on May 25, 2023. Inverse reviewed the PS5 version.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.
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