Gollum in the new Lord of the Rings game has more hair than in the movies to make him “less creepy”

Following the release of some… interesting screenshots back in May, today we’re finally getting a look at the first trailer for Lord of the Rings: Gollum, the upcoming title from Daedalic Entertainment. Oh, and also a little more about the design decisions behind those screenshots – including why Gollum looks like he’s sporting a quarantine haircut.

The teaser doesn’t give a whole lot away, other than plenty of shots of Gollum scurrying around in a cave, but we do have a couple of tidbits of new information. As many predicted from the screenshots, the game will feature a fair bit of stealth, along with some vertical climbing parkour. “If you want a reference you might think of it as similar to Prince of Persia,” lead game designer Martin Wilkes told IGN. “It is mostly a non-combat game, but Gollum will be able to stealthily take out enemies.” That means scrabbling around for scavenged items, environmental hazards and finding “special allies” with useful abilities, apparently.

Beyond the stealth gameplay, Gollum focuses on story decisions and dialogue choices, with narrative designer Tilman Schanen confirming it has a branching narrative. “The decisions you make affect the way the game feels… you always either play as Sméagol or as Gollum as the ‘dominant’ persona and that can influence animations, soundscapes, certain gameplay situations, and in-game dialogue,” he added. The game uses a “sort-of” morality system which Schanen says is more nuanced than merely good and evil. Ultimately, Daedalic is sticking fairly faithfully to Tolkien’s work, and thus Gollum’s fate ultimately ends up in-line with the books. The player’s decisions can affect the wider world, however, such as impacting the lives of NPCs.

But now for the real question: what is going on with Gollum’s hair? As Daedalic’s work is based on the books rather than the films, some fans have expressed bemusement at the more wide-eyed and hairy take on the character – but art director Mathias Fischer explained the reason behind this.

“With Gollum himself, our goal is to make him more relatable, as players have to be able to slip into his skin for the course of an entire game,” Fischer explained. “That’s why our Gollum looks less creepy (and has more hair) than the movie version.”

Sure.

As for the game’s structure, you can expect a series of levels and hubs, with a mixture of open levels and more linear missions where players are presented with a choice of alternative routes. I’m not sure what to make of it all, but I’m definitely intrigued – and am looking forward to admiring Gollum’s new haircut when the game releases sometime in 2021.