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The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was too broken to review on PS5

Update (5/26): We returned to the PlayStation 5 version of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum after Update version 1.003.000 was released, and have found the experience has improved notably. It does still feature plenty of bugs, which we experienced on the PC version, but it’s far more stable on console now. Progression-preventing glitches have disappeared, and the updated PS5 version has yet to crash on us. If you’re grabbing the game on console, make sure to download the patch before starting.

What’s unclear is how many of the problems were actually fixed. During the review period, Nacon’s PR team attributed Gollum‘s performance problems in part to a setting that animated the character’s hair. The patch appears to remove that option from the game entirely. It’s likely that the problems the toggle was causing still persist behind the scenes, so it’s hard to say if the game was fully fixed, so much as a problem feature was cut.

We opted to review the full game on PC after experiencing the issues mentioned below. You can read our one-star review of the game, which calls it a “throwback to the Wild West era of carelessly greenlit licensed games.”

Original Story: We had planned to post a review for the PlayStation 5 version of Daedalic Entertainment and Nacon’s The Lord of the Rings: Gollum today, but we can’t do that in good faith at this moment. Simply put, the PS5 version we tested was too broken to fairly critique.

After downloading the PS5 code we received from a PR representative for Nacon, we booted up the game, interested to see Daedelic’s interpretations of Gollum’s tragic story. We could load up the game just fine and watch the game’s intro, but within five minutes of playing, the game crashed. That certainly struck us as odd, but prelaunch builds of games do crash sometimes. We chalked it up to a normal incident, restarted the game, and kept on playing.

Then it happened again. And again. And again.

During our first two hours with The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, the PS5 version of the game crashed 11 times. On top of that, we experienced many other bugs, like objectives not triggering, losing the ability to move, and Gollum getting stuck in the floor for a second upon respawning. It quickly became apparent that it would be difficult to critique this game properly. So this is not a proper review of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. Instead, we want to paint a clear picture of what shape the game was in less than 24 hours ago, as well as provide a sense of how many of those issues you can expect after its day one patch.

Gollum stares at the eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum key art.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why we didn’t review The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

In the little time we did end up spending with The Lord of the Rings: Gollum prelaunch, we did see the basics of the game’s story, platforming, stealth, choice system, and puzzles. We found all of those elements initially intriguing, if a bit antiquated. However, our experience was much too unstable to get a true feel for how this game will play post-release. After the 11th crash, we deemed that the technical state of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum on PS5 was too dire for us to keep playing for review.

So, why not just stop there and give Gollum a zero-star or half-a-star review? Well, that’s not fair to the game, either. These technical issues were so overbearing that it felt impossible to critically assess The Lord of the Rings: Gollum as a gaming experience in a legitimate way. It’s Digital Trends’ belief that if a game is outright broken like this, it’s not yet worthy of a review in a traditional sense. When Digital Trends’ gaming team gives a low score, it’s because of something more intrinsic to the game’s design or execution of its idea. But those games are still functional experiences that we can see to the end. With Gollum in the state it was in, it would have been like writing a review for a film that didn’t run through the projector properly.

After experiencing so many game crashes across gameplay, cutscenes, and even once while the game was booting up, we reached out to the PR agency that provided the code, making them aware of the issues. They told us that the problem may have stemmed from “a memory issue regarding Gollum’s hair” (yes, that’s a toggleable option in-game) and that a patch for the PS5 version would come ahead of launch. We toggled the hair simulation off at the team’s suggestion, but still ran into multiple crashes and some other glitches.

A close-up of Gollum.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

We were offered a PC code for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum when we brought up my issues with the PS5 version and was told it didn’t have game crash-related problems. After playing through the first four hours, that seems to be correct. We didn’t experience a crash in that time, though we did encounter a bevy of other issues, from load times that lasted well over a minute to frequent audio desyncs during cutscenes. Those issues aside, the PC version does at least seem stable enough to play and we’ll likely be reviewing it there in the coming days.

However, we felt that the PS5 is a popular platform that many will buy the game on — and one that’s generally reliable when Digital Trends tests games. After discussing the situation internally, we felt that there were red flags there and that it would be worth holding back a review regardless of how it ran on other platforms. As such, we made a decision on Tuesday to delay the planned review and instead give an honest explanation of the issues the PS5 version of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum faced prelaunch.

What next?

All of these issues with The Lord of the Rings: Gollum on PS5 may sound like a nightmare, but the truth is that a lot of video games we review tend to be in rough shape even days before launch. The Callisto Protocol featured performance issues that hard-locked the game a few hours in, prompting the developers to deliver an emergency patch over Thanksgiving weekend — one that reset our progress. Those issues didn’t pop up in the final release, but it still had its fair share of tech problems at launch.

So where does that leave Gollum? On Tuesday of this week, we got an email saying that a Day 1 patch “should address some issues in the game,” and that the crashing was caused by “a problem with the save game system [that] has led to save files occasionally being corrupted after specific actions, e.g. dying and restarting.” As those patches are just rolling out now, there wasn’t enough time for us to play the PS5 version of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum properly for review.

Still, we don’t recommend playing The Lord of the Rings: Gollum on PS5 at release. These patches may resolve many of the game’s most significant technical issues, but it’s also very possible that other issues will remain (note that the patch is only expected to address “some” issues). Interested players should keep an eye on the general technical state of the game after the day one patch before playing, as we will.

If it doesn’t improve, you may want to check out how the game runs on other platforms; at the moment, we don’t know how it runs on Xbox Series X or past-gen consoles. We especially can’t recommend picking up The Lord of the Rings: Gollum for PS5 physically unless you plan to update it immediately, as a patch-less version of the game will be akin to the experience we had during the review period.

Daedalic Entertainment

Despite the fact that buggy prelaunch builds are common, it’s rare that we receive a game in this kind of state mere days ahead of its release. These aren’t bugs that drag down an otherwise completely playable experience, as was the case with recent titles like Redfall or Star Wars Jedi: Survivor; a non-updated version of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum on PS5 is pretty much unplayable.

Digital Trends never takes a piece like this lightly. We can only imagine the stress and last-minute work this has caused behind the scenes, and we sincerely hope that the issues outlined here are resolved by the time you’re reading this. However, as it stands, we don’t have confidence that The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will launch free of significant issues. There are simply too many problems on PS5 to fix in a single patch, so we feel it’s worth raising those red flags with our readers weighing whether or not to buy a $60 game. We hope that the technical experiences are resolved swiftly, and we look forward to giving the game a fair reassessment on PS5 when that happens. We’ll do our best to update this post when we have a better idea of how it fares post-patch. In the meantime, you can expect a full review of the PC version sometime in the next few days.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. A Nintendo Switch version of the game is in development.

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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