When it comes to art, I’m something of a masochist. I listen to music that the average listener might describe as “unlistenable.” I relish in the skin-crawling cringiness of the major motion picture musical Cats. I gravitate toward games that make me beat my head against the wall, for better or for worse. However, every pain junkie has their limit, and The Lord of the Rings: Gollum pushed me to mine–and then some.
The long-delayed stealth adventure from Daedalic Entertainment, centered around one of Middle-earth’s most iconic (if not exactly likable) characters, does not simply miss the mark here or there: It’s an unbridled disaster of truly epic–like, Tolkien-level epic–proportions. Beyond its overly simple level design, jarringly dated graphics, and deeply uninteresting gameplay, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is broken to the point where it’s nearly unplayable, making it one of the worst uses of a licensed property in recent memory.
The game begins in Cirith Ungol, the Orc-infested outskirts of Mordor, some 60 years after Bilbo Baggins stole the One Ring from our slimy, frail protagonist, Sméagol–or Gollum, as he’s come to be known. Taking place not long before the events laid out in The Fellowship of the Ring, the crux of the story is instantly recognizable to anyone even peripherally familiar with the series: Gollum must find Bilbo and take back his “precious” at any cost, while avoiding the wrath of Sauron along the way.