Daedalic has teamed up with Middle-earth Enterprises to develop The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, an action/adventure game starring the bug-eyed, One Ring-loving former Hobbit. This is isn't the Andy Serkis version of the character, though: Daedalic has the rights to the books, not the movies, and so this will be their own take on the character and Tolkien's beloved fantasy world.
The game is being released in 2021, which makes this announcement rather early. There are no screenshots, and not even any concept art: just a logo with Gollum crouched in the 'O' of his name. So it's difficult to get a handle on what exactly it is. Gollum isn't exactly a warrior, so it seems likely we're in for some stealth. But it's hard to know what Daedalic has in store.
I had a chat with Carsten Fichtelmann, the company's CEO, about what we can expect from the game. He wouldn't talk about specifics, and it's clear the game is still in its earliest stages, but I managed to squeeze a few nuggets out of him about what we'll actually see and do when it's released.
"We already know what famous places we'll be seeing in Middle-earth when you play the game," he says when I ask about what iconic locations we'll get to visit, and what we'll be doing there as Gollum. "We're concentrating on the character of Gollum, and we're telling his story before we learn about what happens to him in the books. So it's definitely new content that we'll see."
"No one else is doing games for consoles and PC at the moment," he says, talking about the fact that Daedalic relationship with Middle-earth Enterprises is a special one. "I don't know what will change in the next few years, or what maybe Amazon will do, but for now we're in a comfortable situation."
"An action/adventure where you play as Gollum is quite a unique approach," he says. "It'll be a cool player experience. It opens up a different perspective. Every decision we make comes from what makes sense for the character."
Gollum's split personality seems to be a big part of how the story will be told in the game. "When you look at our history with storytelling games, it was obvious that we needed to do something where the protagonist has a conflict going on," says Fichtelmann. "This is also something you'll play in the game. You'll come to decisions you have to make, and you'll have the two voices talking to you. He may change his mind, and this is a clue about how it will play."
When you think of Lord of the Rings, images of the Peter Jackson movies probably fill your mind. The books have been around for decades, but for many, this vision of Middle-earth will be the most recognisable. I ask Fichtelmann if making their own mark on such a well-known setting is a tough nut to crack.
"This is a big task," he tells me. "A worldwide audience already has a vision of what Lord of the Rings looks like. We're not Warner, so we have to come up with our own approach. And I think we've found our own way to present Middle-earth. It's a cool approach, especially the art direction."
Daedalic is also making a point of saying that this will be a version of Gollum's story that we won't have seen in other mediums. "We're looking for ways to tell stories that haven't been shown in the movies," he says. "We'll tell the story of a character we're familiar with, but not repeating what you already know."
And that's about it. Honestly, I'm still none the wiser about what kind of experience The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will be. I like the idea of the conflict raging inside Gollum's weird head factoring into the storytelling. And I think it could be cool to see a new take on Lord of the Rings. We'll keep you updated, but for now this is about as much as Daedalic wants to reveal.