It is a shame Andy Serkis never won an award for his work as Gollum in the Peter Jackson-helmed The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The way he managed to evoke two distinct personalities — Gollum and his mild-mannered Hobbit alter ego Sméagol — with his voice and body movements is a performance that should have netted him one of those goofy-looking gold statues. In a hands-on demo of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, I was reminded of Serkis’ mercurial performance as Gollum and was pleased to see that those dual personalities were a fundamental part of the game.
In my short time with Gollum, I got to scamper around Mordor chasing troublesome crows and avoiding orcs, which, if they catch you, will automatically give you a “game over.” Sneakiness is the name of the game, Precious. Gollum can hide in weeds or in water or throw stones to distract enemies so he can pass by them unseen. Gollum also features platforming mechanics that remind me of the old PSX-era Tomb Raiders. You can shimmy on canyon walls as a stamina bar drains, run and jump to reach distant ledges, and swing like Simone Biles on the uneven bars. Basic stuff. But where I thought the game truly wowed me was when I was interacting with the various peoples of Middle-earth.
Throughout the demo, Gollum has the opportunity to make choices depending on his Sméagol personality or his Gollum one. Gollum is the harsh, strong survivalist while Sméagol is gentler, meeker, and more keen on making friends. As with any choice system, the more of one type of choice you make, the more that personality dominates, making it harder to make the opposite choice later on. The choices you make affect the people (rather, elves and orcs) around you and can influence their fate.
I’m interested in seeing how the different choices you make either as Sméagol or Gollum play out in the larger context of the game. It’s no nemesis system, but I’m a huge sucker when a game’s narrative is reinforced in its gameplay and vice versa. The divide between Gollum and Sméagol played a huge role in Frodo’s journey, and I’m glad The Lord of the Rings: Gollum found a way to artfully incorporate that into a story that’s wholly unique.