After a brutal reaction from reviewers and players alike—"Misery! Misery! Curse Daedalic. Curse it and crush it! We hates it! We hates it forever!" one Steam user wrote in an appropriately in-character review—Daedalic Entertainment has apologized for the sorry state of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum and says it will continue working on the game to ensure that it meets "its fullest potential."
The highly negative reaction to Gollum caught me a little bit by surprise. I played a pre-release build of the game a few months before it came out, and found that it was actually better than I'd expected. (Acknowledging, for the record, that my expectations were pretty low.) It seemed pretty enough and potentially clever, the sort of thing that might rate a mid-60s (or maybe even a surprise 70!) at PC Gamer—which, in the context of our scoring system, is not terrible.
That's actually right where we landed. "For all its many flaws," we said in our 64% review, Gollum "is an oft-beautiful and oddly endearing adventure." Alas, we were in the minority on this one. The Metacritic aggregate score currently sits at a dismal 43% and it holds a "mostly negative" across a paltry 113 user reviews on Steam. On social media, people are practically lining up to declare it the worst game of the year, even though it's only May.
There's no question that Gollum is something of a mess. Even if you dig the underlying idea of playing a weak, vicious hobbit twisted by the evil of the One Ring, the game is plagued with bugs and performance issues, "including frequent crashes and progression-breaking bugs forcing rolling back to earlier saves or worse," as we noted in our review.
The situation is bad enough that Daedalic Entertainment has now officially apologized for the state of the game.
"We would like to sincerely apologize for the underwhelming experience many of you have had with The Lord of the Rings: Gollum upon its release," the studio said in a message posted to Twitter. "We acknowledge and deeply regret that the game did not meet the expectations we set for ourselves or for our dedicated community. Please accept our sincere apologies for any disappointment this may have caused."
Daedalic also said that it is "working diligently to address the bugs and technical issues" in the game, and that it is "committed to providing you with the patches that will allow you to enjoy the game to its fullest potential." That of course opens the door to the obvious question: What is Gollum's "fullest potential?"
Bugs can be fixed and stability improved, but the underlying game is what it is, and the negativity of the initial reaction, and those brutal review scores, aren't going to change.
Predictably, the reaction to the apology is also ugly, with many accusing Daedalic of either incompetence—pushing Gollum out the door without knowing what a state it was in—or corruption—knowing what a state it was in and pushing it out the door anyway. A few take a more nuanced approach to the situation, but there are clearly limits to how much patience remains.
"Release the patch," faceless wrote in response to the apology on Steam. "Improve the graphics. Improve the musical accompaniment. Improve the gameplay. Add more game mechanics. Create an improved customization. Everything is in your hands. I'm a fan of the Lord of the Rings series. But you screwed up hard."
Some of that over-the-top backlash against Gollum may be hyperbolic or a heat-of-the-moment reaction, but the frustration with botched game launches is understandable. Over the last two months alone, publishers have apologized for the half-baked states of big-time games including The Last of Us Part 1, Redfall, and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.