Paul Kleynhans sets out to decide whether the pen really is mightier than the sword.
The Song of Fire and Ice series, and Game of Thrones are incredibly popular, which for a fantasy property is very uncommon. Sure Tolkien has pulled it off, but I am hard pressed to think of many other examples. The books have been in the top sellers section for quite some time now, and the HBO TV show has been very successful as well. Basically, George RR Martin is printing money. All this considered, it is hard to think of a reason to give the development of the Game of Thrones video game to a studio the size and calibre of Cyanide.
What they produced, while not terrible, is long way from what you’d expect quality wise of a Game of Thrones offering. I’ll say it again, it’s not very good, but it’s not terrible either. Mr Martin himself is said to have been involved during the development. I believe that is largely in a writing capacity, which makes sense as the story is actually pretty decent. The rest of the game really doesn’t live up to the name though.
The story does not re-tread any ground covered by the books or TV show (essentially the same story), but instead tells a parallel one. You play as two new characters, Mors Westford and Alester Sarwyck. Mors is a ranger in the nightwatch. He was exiled for disobeying orders during the original war for the Iron Throne, the one that sat Robert Baratheon on that spiky chair. He is summoned by the Hand of the King to protect a mysterious woman, and travels south to do so.
Alester heads home to Riverspring from a self-imposed exile. His father, lord of Riverspring had recently died making him the rightful lord. Nothing is ever quite that simple in this universe though and his bastard brother is attempting to insert himself in that role. Alester has to overcome an internal struggle to do things the right way.
Both of the protagonists have a defined sense of morality guiding them and both are strong characters. However, they go about business in quite different ways. Mors sees things as black and white, right and wrong. Alester on the other hand is more of a “for the greater good” kind of guy. The end justifies the means etc.
While there are dialogue choices, they tend to impact how others react to you more than shaping the story or characters themselves. One choice might have someone help you out, while the other has them running away. Your choices affect what other characters are present, so they do have impact on the game, but it’s fairly linear otherwise. There are five different endings but which one you get is entirely dependent on choices made in the last chapter so you can easily reload a save and see what changes if you so please.
As was mentioned earlier, the story is actually pretty good. There is plenty of intrigue and deceit, murdering and such. However, the terrible voice acting distracts from the story in a big way. It’s not all terrible, but most of it truly is. The term “phoning it in” might be too close to the mark in this case. The dialogue itself is fine, mostly, but the voice acting is just terrible.
The game is more story than anything else, which in this case is a good thing. The combat is boring and clunky. Initially its overwhelming, with a lot of ideas thrown at you. Numbers are flying everywhere, and while there is a tutorial, there is a lot to keep track of. The combat happens in real time, but at any time you can slow down time to select your next series of actions. This includes a bunch of different attacks, buffs, potions, and a raft of other abilities. At some point however you will notice that you can interrupt attacks. This stuns them while you and your mates smash them around for a bit. When you get a few different interrupting attacks, it becomes very hard to lose a fight.
It is a very linear game you don’t get much opportunity to explore. You fast travel between points on the map which makes everything seem much smaller than portrayed in the books or show. The locations have a bit of room to walk around in, and usually has a few side quests to complete. The side quests are actually pretty interesting and manage to avoid the usual fetch quests that dominate this slot in most RPG’s.
Sadly, the game looks very dated, which might make exploring less than awesome anyway. Crappy animation, old technology, low res textures and an unintuitive menu systems further hamper the experience. Furthermore, most of the areas in the game feel like ghost towns. There are very few other people about except for those you can interact with, people selling potions etc. It also misses the clutter than make towns feel lived in.
In closing, would I recommend you buy Game of Thrones? Sure, but only under certain conditions. If you love the Songs of Fire and Ice books, have played all the other, better RPG’s, and can find it for cheap, I would say get it. If not, I would recommend you play through the Dragon Age games, or the Witcher series instead. Those have a similar feel to the stories and are much better games.