Game of Thrones is one of the hottest properties around at the moment. 5.1 million Americans just tunes in to watch the second season finale, and the show as a whole is simultaneously one of the most watched and one of the most downloaded shows in the world. Printings of the books are selling out worldwide, making George R. R. Martin a a rich(er) man. Aside from being under extreme pressure to release the next book early, Martin has also reportedly revealed the rest of the story to a group of insiders, just in case he dies before the series ends.
With all this exposure it’s no wonder that a second game based on the series has been developed (named simply A Game of Thrones). Cyanide Studios, responsible for the glacially paced Game of Thrones: Genesis RTS once again take on development duties. Unfortunately they have also shown, once again, that they are apparently incapable of making a decent Game of Thronesgame.
Developed in collaboration with George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones is an RPG set in the years before the series, filling in the events surrounding the death of the Hand of the King, Jon Arryn and the early political rise of Queen Cersei. Players take control of two characters in alternating chapters, Mors Westford, a grizzled brother of the Night’s Watch, self exiled after Robert Baratheon’s rebellion, and Alester Sarwyck, a former soldier turned Red Priest of R’hllor, recently returned to his ancestral home to mourn the death of his father.
Both characters exhibit an attachment to the old magic mostly gone from Westeros, with Mors being a “skinchanger” capable of controlling and seeing through the eyes of his faithful hound, and Alester having a Red Priest’s control over fire. There is a lot of potential to both characters, and their respective stories have an interesting core, but the clumsy nature of the moment-to-moment writing, combined with the terribly animated and voiced cutscenes and dull mechanics makes actually wading through their stories more of a chore than an enjoyable experience.
Although reportedly in development for seven years, Game of Thrones shows none of the polish you would expect from such a protracted development schedule. The characters are poorly animated, the textures are erratic, the amount of shamlessly cloned NPCs can get quite jarring in large crowds, and the camera has the annoying habit of travelling inside characters during conversations.
The lack of polish in the looks department could be forgiven if the actual gameplay was compelling, but the combat system – the thing that takes up the majority of the player’s time outside of the long-winded conversations – is both dull and mechanical. At its core the combat engine is similar to that of Dragon Age II, combining real time and turn based combat, with characters hacking away with normal attacks until you choose to you a special ability. Unfortunately, no matter what class you choose, from Hedge Knight to Water Dancer, combat always ends up the same.
Characters may have a dozen skills to choose from but combat always resolves in the same way, stun enemies trying to use abilities, try and knock them down, take advantage of the knock down. Rinse and repeat. There is no spark or variation in fights. What’s more, the animations are as mechanical as can be, sapping any residual excitement from the fights.
At fifteen or twenty hours in the story actually becomes good, if not great, but it’s all too little, too late. Game of Thrones is a game for super-fans who need something Westeros-flavoured to while away the (far too many) hours until the next book or season is released. For anyone else there isn’t much to get you playing in the first place, let alone keep you playing until the story gets compelling enough to keep you interested.
- Interesting story
- The last few chapters are compelling
- Mors and Alester are interesting characters
- It’s better than Game of Thrones: Genesis, at least
- Distinct lack of polish
- Terrible moment-to-moment writing
- Dull combat
- Long, boring conversations
- Terrible voice acting