You’ve probably played a lot of Lord of the Rings games, but have you ever played one where Gollum is the protagonist. The Hobbit-turned-slave to the Ring’s will has remained one of Tolkien’s most iconic and fascinating characters for decades upon decades, and soon, Daedalic Entertainment will be putting players in his shoes (or his bare feet, more like) in the upcoming action-adventure title, the appropriately named The Lord of the Rings: Gollum.
This, of course, is a game that has turned more than a few heads since its announcement a while back, and now, after plenty of anticipation and a couple of delays, its launch is finally right around the corner. Ahead of its release, we recently reached out to its developers with a few of our most burning questions about the game, learning quite a bit in the process. Below, you can read our interview with The Lord of the Rings: Gollum producer Harald Riegler.
"We chose Gollum because he’s one of the most fascinating characters from the works of Professor Tolkien: a long-lived being that knows Middle-earth like no other, a twisted Hobbit with two personalities, and a tragic entity whose soul and body has been tormented by the One Ring."
Gollum is obviously one of the most well-known and beloved characters in The Lord of the Rings, but what about him was it exactly that led you to decide that you wanted to make a game that was focused on him as the protagonist?
We chose him because he’s one of the most fascinating characters from the works of Professor Tolkien: a long-lived being that knows Middle-earth like no other, a twisted Hobbit with two personalities, and a tragic entity whose soul and body has been tormented by the One Ring. This is just the lore explanation as to why Gollum is such an interesting choice for a protagonist but there’s also the gameplay side. Despite his looks, he’s an agile creature that can climb, leap and grapple his way past dangers or into advantageous spots.
We also chose him because while studying the original books by Tolkien, we realized that not much is known about Gollum’s time between leaving the Misty Mountains in The Hobbit in search of the One Ring and the what is happening in book one of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Professor Tolkien gave us hints but never any details. It became clear to us that there is an untold story that needs to be unfolded and we did this by working closely with Middle-earth lore experts who knew every minute detail about this grand world.
The result is a beautiful and captivating epic adventure that shows the player what happens in Mordor and other places while they all prepare for the war. An adventure that builds upon what Tolkien gave us without altering the existing lore.
Gollum’s duality and his inner conflict are obviously big parts of his character. How will that play into the game’s story, and how will it affect the actual gameplay side of things?
Indeed, the game’s story is centered around the conflict between Gollum and Sméagol. We all know the famous chapters, where we see Gollum and Sméagol discussing their plans. Now, in our game, the player will be able to experience these conflicts from the inside, listening to both personalities stating their arguments and witnessing how both of them are fighting for the upper hand. The results of these inner conflicts will impact the story with sometimes devastating results for the fate of certain characters. Beyond that, the results will also strengthen the personality that won which influences Gollum’s behavior in the game.
While Gollum is bold, cunning and vicious, Sméagol is cautious, social, and caring. Other characters will react to Gollum differently depending on which personality is the stronger one. However, this is not a simple black and white moral system, where Gollum is the bad guy and Sméagol is the good guy. It’s more like two different shades of dark with a few sprinkles of light.
It looks like the game is going to feature a few characters beyond Gollum himself that fans of The Lord of the Rings will be very familiar with, with the likes of Shelob and Gandalf having been shown in trailers so far. What kind of a balance have you struck in the game in terms of pulling from your source material and creating your original narrative content, especially where the story’s main characters are concerned?
Choosing characters from this beloved world that will make an appearance during the game was a hard task. Telling a story in a world like Middle-earth is indeed a balancing act between pleasing the fans with familiar faces and expanding the world with new characters – we are confident that the story of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will resonate with fans. On the one hand, we have fan favorite characters like Gandalf, Shelob and the fearsome Mouth of Sauron which we are proud of that are not just cameos for fanservice but play a significant role on Gollum’s journey! On the other hand, we have new characters like the Inquisitor or Mell, the blind Elf, who expand the lore in new and exciting directions while also paying respect to what was written by J.R.R. Tolkien himself.
It is important to note that for the players who have only watched the movies, those above-mentioned fan favorite characters will only be familiar to a certain degree. That is because we based their designs and personalities on the books. A character like Gandalf will without any doubt be recognized by everyone due to his iconic visual aesthetic and the excellent voice acting in the game, but when you look at the details, you will notice certain elements where the book version of Gandalf deviates from the Gandalf in the movies, not just visually but also from his personality. This way even the well-known characters will definitely bring something new and unexpected for many players.
"We are confident that the story of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will resonate with fans."
Gollum obviously isn’t an ordinary protagonist, especially for a game. Where gameplay is concerned, how have you shaped the experience around him as a character and the unique things he brings to the table?
Indeed, with Gollum we chose a protagonist with quite unique characteristics. Designing a game around a character with such a distinctive physique and movement was a very interesting challenge but our game designers went above and beyond to create gameplay mechanics that compliment his traits.
This shows especially in situations where enemies are nearby. Let’s imagine a situation where a hostile orcish guard is patrolling through a tight hallway.- Gollum could try to stay in the shadows and sneak past the guard, which could turn out to be very tricky. In addition, he could try to throw stones to deceive the guard. If the player is not fond of sneaking then they could try to climb to the ceiling and from there, leap their way to the other side of the hallway. If there is no way to avoid a confrontation, the player could also try to creep up from behind and strangle the guard, or as Gollum likes to call it, to play his little game. This is just a glimpse of the diverse gameplay mechanics our team has created around Gollum that’ll keep the game exciting from beginning to end. We are eager to see what solutions the players will come up with, once the game releases on May 25th!
Given Gollum’s very nature as a character, what sort of a balance will the game strike between its combat and stealth side of things?
We know that some people out there still believe that The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a pure stealth game but it’s more than that. It might be true that Gollum’s nature does revolve around the deep desire to be invisible, so being stealthy is a trait of his. However, stealth is just one of many pillars that make up the foundation of the gameplay. We have climbing sections, action packed sequences, quiet moments to give the story and the characters room to breathe and of course the inner conflicts.
Some people consider Gollum as weak – we beg to differ. He is using his cunning mind and agility to his advantage. While being stealthy can be advantageous, so can be a more agile and aggressive playstyle. It all depends on the situation and the preferences of the players. While designing the levels we avoided forcing one style of playing upon the player as much as possible.
What can you tell us about the game’s progression mechanics, and how Gollum’s gameplay abilities will change and evolve throughout the experience?
Early on in development we knew that we wanted to create an endearing story that all people can enjoy, not just for the hardcore gamers but also the more casual players who just love the world of Lord of the Rings. Instead of placing barriers in front of the player that can only be overcome, by navigating through menus and learning certain skills we decided to focus on the strength of Daedalic Entertainment: thoroughly developed characters, a captivating story and an exciting adventure. For the sake of this, we purposefully decided not to implement any mechanics in the direction of level-ups or skill trees.
This is the gameplay explanation but there’s also a lore-focused explanation for this decision. All Lord of the Rings fans will agree that the inability to change is inherent to the character of Gollum. Though it would be wrong to state that Gollum doesn’t experience character growth during his journey through Middle-earth, it just wouldn’t feel true to the character if he’s a little six-packed one-man army by the end of the game!
"With Gollum we chose a protagonist with quite unique characteristics. Designing a game around a character with such a distinctive physique and movement was a very interesting challenge but our game designers went above and beyond to create gameplay mechanics that compliment his traits."
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of the game be?
A relaxed playthrough of the game with exploration of the beautifully crafted environments and listening to dialogues will take around 20 hours. Avid adventure players will be able to finish the game faster but we advise everyone to take their time and breathe the air of Middle-earth.
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?
We are aiming for 2K at steady 60 FPS for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The game will come with a performance mode and quality mode.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about the game?
Now that the release on May 25th is on the horizon we welcome everyone in our take on the world of Lord of the Rings, be it a Tolkien lover or a newcomer. Discover Middle-earth like never before in a video game and learn more about the untold story of Gollum and Sméagol. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about our precious game!
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