Like the twisted version of Sméagol himself, the new game Lord of the Rings: Gollum, based on the franchise and character of the same name, has been hiding in the shadows up to its release this week.
While not all forays into Middle Earth have been gaming gold, we've enjoyed a fair share of great games based on the franchise, so what new experience could we create based on another standalone character?
Think you've got an idea worthy of the Horn of Gondor? Let us know on Discord.
Éomer | Liam Andrews
My initial instinct was to go with Boromir, just because his (spoiler alert!) death at the end of the first film was one of my favourite scenes in the whole trilogy and I think it would make for an epic finale in any game about him. If I was going for a Boromir game, I reckon it would be linear, and that horn he carries would be used to summon nearby allies to your aid in battles or temporarily boost your health and attacks.
However, I’m going to pick Éomer instead. A game starring the future King of Rohan would be an open world one, seeing as the Rohirrim are known for their love of horses and you need a big bit of land to ride them in, a bit like the one in Read Dead Redemption 2 (it’ll borrow some of those horse animations as well).
The game would see Éomer roaming around picking fights with orcs, having adventures and helping Rohan’s citizens, generally keeping the lands safe and being a good Marshall of the Mark. It would probably follow the events of the films, with a whole new map opening up (again, Red Dead Redemption style) when Éomer is banished and rides north and also feature some big set piece battles in the form of the charges at Helms Deep and Minas Tirith.
Sauron | James Parry
While The Rings of Power might not have done a great job at building a compelling world as backstory for the heroes we know and love, there's something to leading the rise of evil.
We know from just the films the gist of the story, sure, but the satisfaction of slowly taking over the various realms and pooling their resources could work as a sort of macro scale Fallout Shelter, combined with the option to get out and take on battles yourself, just as a lord gradually realising his power would do.
The combination of action and strategy gameplay could make for a really unique experience, and turning the Nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor/War on its head could enhance the push and pull of the growing war and give it a real personal edge.
The world is already so rich and exploring it could give you a chance to explore well-known locations in a way you wouldn't be able to any other way.
Plus, the series is arguably about the character, given the title, and it’s fair to say it doesn’t come off looking too great in that, so perhaps there’s a chance for some well-needed good PR for The Dark Lord.
With The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom hitting the Switch this week, excitement levels are high(rule) for gamers to rejoin Link on the next chapter of his journey.
While we don't know too much about TotK just yet – expect a review in a little while – but there are so many critically acclaimed Zelda games we are still yet to play, so here are a few.
Have you played them all? Which would you say is the best you haven't got to from what you've heard about it? Share your picks in the Discord.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild | Chris Brand
A little bit of business before I get started, most Zelda titles kind of passed me by (the last Nintendo console I owned was the N64 and I struggled with the weird, three-handed, controller because I was born with only two hands, like a stupid normal person), so I chose Breath of the Wild as the best Zelda game I've never played, despite knowing little about it. After re-reading James' review and watching a couple of speedruns, I can now confidently claim to be an expert.
I'd like to say that the story is absolute perfection, from beginning to end, with a huge twist that no-one could have predicted. However, given the nature of speedruns, I didn't have much of a chance to soak in the narrative. Also, the speedruns I watched were in French, probably due to unskippable dialogue or cutscenes being shorter in that language, which made things even harder to follow. All I can say with any degree of certainty is that Breath of the Wild is devoid of red pencils.
In terms of gameplay, it looks like just the sort of open-world epic I could really get stuck into. The games have evolved over the years but this is a refreshing change which breathes new life into an old franchise, much like Odyssey did for Assassin's Creed. Having played Immortals Fenyx Rising (Ubisoft Does Zelda), I almost feel like I've experienced BotW myself, though the Ubisoft version does seem like a Diet Zelda, which is surprising, given the amount of unnecessary bloat in most of their titles.
I'm often looking for a big single-player adventure to get lost in, so maybe someday I'll pick up a decades-old Switch and finally play what's been heralded as one of the greatest games of all time. Or maybe this will be a Pokémon situation.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask | James Parry
I missed Ocarina of Time when it was first released, but I was drawn into the N64 era in time to get the gold edition cartridge release, so – even though I failed to finish it – I did at least manage to play the game. I think I even got to the adult Link section...so long as there are absolutely no follow-up questions.
Majora’s Mask, which is set two months after OOT, was a different story. At the time I heard the game featured time travel, which involved you travelling through the game in a three-day cycle, about 54 minutes in real time, before using the Ocarina of Time itself to return to the first day. Undoubtedly cool, but it also immediately made it more intimidating and, after failing to get through the previous game, I ran from the terrifying hills of Termina.
On top of that, the game takes a step forward from its famous predecessor in other ways, such as masks, some of which transform Link into different creatures to let you access areas or complete puzzles.
The mechanics of OOT were already solid, and in the years since are still held up as amongst the greatest in not just the series, but open-world games in general, so perhaps Majora’s Mask has got the short end of the Deku stick by being the difficult second child in the 3D Zelda world.
What would your pick be? Shout in the comments or join the conversation on Discord.
With the punniest celebration day of the year nearly upon us, and with Jedi Survivor bringing newcomer's to a galaxy far, far away, it's time to talk Star Wars.
We have been graced with so many Star Wars games in the past…40 years, it's impossible to pick a favourite – though we've certainly mentioned plenty in Team Talk over the years.
So, instead, we're coming up with our own. Whether it's a sequel, a remake or something brand new, there are almost endless possibilities. What would you choose? Let us know in the Discord.
A Darth Maul origin story | Chris Brand
Despite being one of the more intriguing characters from the prequel trilogy, Darth Maul didn't get a lot of screentime in The Phantom Menace. Parts of his story have been told in other media since Episode I and he lived an eventful life, often coming face-to-face with Obi-Wan and other, less famous, Jedi. It would be a wasted opportunity if we didn't get to experience some of that first-hand, maybe in the style of The Force Unleashed, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor or even Knights of the Old Republic.
We got to visit Maul's birthplace, Dathomir, in Fallen Order. Oozing with atmosphere (and possibly other things), it was as creepy as the Nightbrothers and Nightsisters who dwelled there, though it would likely have a very different feel if these were our brothers and sisters and this was our disgusting tentacle-tree thing. It could serve as a base or central hub, somewhere to train Maul and his allies, and recuperate after getting cut in half by Obi-Wan, again (I'm assuming it happens a lot).
Star Wars games are great for exploring, with a lot of variety between locations. There's also plenty of iconic vehicles that can be used for getting around fast, something that, as far as I'm aware, has never really been utilised outside of the Lego Star Wars series.
If Darth Maul can't have his own game, Obi-Wan Kenobi would be my next choice. He must have lived an interesting life if his encounters with Maul aren't even worth mentioning to Luke Skywalker. I stole a hot baked potato at college and I bring it up every chance I get, Obi-Wan must be chopping dudes in half before breakfast.
An open world game on Coruscant | Liam Andrews
I can’t remember if there’s ever been a game set properly on Coruscant, but I think it would be very cool to have one take place entirely on the city planet, especially one with a Grand Theft Auto-style open world with plenty to explore.
Of course, it would be impossible to cram an entire planet’s worth of structures into a game map, but again GTA could be an inspiration. GTA games were always good at stitching together three or four unique areas into one big map, which created a feeling of a much larger world that was still easy to explore on foot or by vehicle.
However, with Coruscant being a city world and lacking in open countryside, the different areas linked together in the game could instead be unique districts, such as lower-level street areas, high rise skyscrapers, ship docks, the Senate, Jedi Temples and so on.
For gameplay, I wouldn’t mind having multiple protagonists, again like GTA V. There is a Star Wars book by Karen Traviss that’s set on Coruscant (called Triple Zero) in which a team of clone troopers go undercover to take down a separatist organisation via espionage, ambushes and shootouts, which would probably translate quite well to the heist mission structure found in GTA V's campaign.
It could also be fun to see a few rival factions working together to take down a larger threat, such as a Jedi, a Mandalorian and an Imperial/Separatist.