Game of Thrones – otherwise known in the literary world as the first novel from a series titled “A Song of Ice and Fire” penned by George R. R. Martin in 1996 and brought to life on TV screens more recently by HBO to a worldwide audience.
Due to the massive success of the screen adaption which has not only brought a mass of tourism to filming locations in Northern Ireland, but alas for us gaming folk who like to drift off in a world of our own an RPG game has been developed by Cyanide Studio’s that mirrors the journey of two key characters from the story. Using the tv-series musical theme and other associated assets including voice work from the series very own actors – you’re interactively on your own journey as you are transported through the land of Westeros where your fate is guided by vengeance, allegiance and honor… and it does all start off very promising – then it gets a bit dull, but then it does get interesting again.
The game has two epic quests based around two main characters: Mors Westford, a veteran ranger of the Night’s Watch who are a military order that guards an immense fortification called the Wall of Ice which protects the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms – and Alester Sarwyck, a red-robed priest of R’hllor who returns home to Riverspring after a 15-year absence following the death of his father and becomes instantly embroiled in the politics of court as well as being blamed for the death of his father who was once a very powerful ruling Lord. Sarwyck is on a journey to restore peace and order whilst promoting the benefits of following the Gods of R’hllor with the intention of becoming a rightful Lord, and Westford on the other hand is on a far more gruesome and eventful journey that is less about the power of the gods, but more distinctly about brutality, leadership, bravery and defence – with a dog in tow!
It’s two very different quests set within the same land, but plays out in chapter based episodes where you take on parts of one story with one character before switching over to carry on within the next part with your other character – until there comes a point where the paths of both characters cross. You get to experience the journey and plight of both characters need for vengeance and order as you openly explore the massive medieval themed locations, but your political choices in the games narrative will help shape the environment and order of peace around you. As you’d expect from any half-decent RPG game, a multiple choice response system that allows you to develop a characters personality should be given as standard, and with the Game of Thrones it’s been adapted very well. The choices you make are not about what’s morally right or wrong, but it’s about political implications that form a set of circumstances based on your choices. A great example of this method is that you get to listen to two parties reasoning with a guard and a potential arsonist; you can choose to hear both sides of the story or just the one and form a rationale where you can decide to kill the arsonist or imprison them. If you were to listen to just the guard’s point of view you would be perhaps in agreeance to kill the arsonist or imprison them, but by choosing to listen to both sides of the argument – you could take into account the arsonists reasoning behind the attack and decide that it was a just cause. Some people’s lives are quite literally in your hands with the decisions you make – kill the wrong or right people and you could have a revolt or revelation to deal with respectively.
Sadly, despite the great multiple choices in the decision making process of your characters and how it affects the other people in the world of Westeros – it is all voiced very badly and the narrative efforts of the actors come across as outright pathetic and very weak. It comes across distinctly fake-sounding, badly timed and the long-winded drivel can soon become an annoyance that you’ll want to skip the voiced parts with the quick press of a button. Although the story is epic, the quest somewhat large-scale and your character looking every bit the hero, it’s a just a pity he wasn’t a mute. It certainly doesn’t ruin the game completely, but it hinders the quality and somewhat shames the franchise with a poor effort since the narrative is one of the most important aspects of the story.
A fantastic character customisation implementation offering within the Game of Thrones sets the combat alive with a wide varying scope of choices. Again, as an RPG it should be a given standard that a vast array of options to depict how you want to shape and develop your character as you up the ranks on your quest should be available – and this game does that very well – even with the addition of Character Traits where every Strength must be balanced out with a Weakness. For every Strength point where you can choose to be a master of the sword and an almighty explorer as just a few given examples, you must balance this out with Weaknesses that range from Witless, Clumsy, Asthmatic and other ailments that would potentially affect your combat or leadership skills. It follows the line of “one hand giveth; the other hand taketh away” where pretty much all choices be it character or narrative have a positive and negative effect in some way or another elsewhere.
As you progress through the story you rank up experience points with every completed quest, combat and even through exploration where you get to decide how you want to improve your characters Strength, Agility, Luck, Endurance and Intelligence scoring. You also get to manage your defence attributes, as well as learn new skills for combat to improve both cutting weapons and blunt weapons which each have their own uses at varied points. Adapting attributes follows a familiar RPG tree-style system where you select a main interest and then gradually unlock others down its path of additional traits. The choices you make in this selection process affect your gameplay style and your characters Health, Damage, Critical Hit Chance, Deflection and Energy Recovery points – which in short are basically your survival chances. The more you play and the more you dive into combat situations the more points you’ll earn that will better your character in the long term.
With easy access to an Inventory screen through the Start Button you also get to personalise your characters appearance based upon armor and other items you can collect throughout the journey from downed enemies. Weapons, Potions, Armor skins, Chest Plates and valuable Jewels can all be selected as wearable’s to alter your Damage, Health and Energy attributes – obviously you’ll want to find the right balance in being able to sustain a heavy amount of damage, but this could come at the cost of using more of your energy. Other options available from the Start Button include your Quest Log, a more detailed map of the surrounding area around you and a handy Save option to save your progress from anywhere in the game if you don’t want to wait until you’re at the next auto-save point moment.
The combat system within this game feels way slower than other RPG’s – it’s almost time based like Pokemon where you perform a strike and wait a bit for the ability to strike again rather than free flowing sword to sword action with every button press, Game of Thrones goes for a more tactical approach…which is basically crap and at times frustrating until you’ve got better attributes, Armor and more speed later down the line. The plus side is that at any point during combat you can press the option of slow-motion to be able to analyse the situation and choose the best attack or defence tactic – albeit it slow, it is at times a life-saver as you additionally get to choose up to three special attacks per character, these lunch deeper more damaging jabs on your opponent that should be used wisely and timely. Full on sword-to-sword fights with button mashing capabilities would have been so much better for this time of game that would speed up the combat and make it more interesting. When you are surrounded by a swarm of enemies, the slow nature of this tactical process is absolutely annoying and stops you from being able to defend yourself freely from other enemies who are attacking you from behind. An option is there to be able to take on the control of another character within your fighting team, but if that character is in the same situation it doesn’t make any difference. The combat system is highly flawed and one of the worst encountered for an RGP, combat until you are heavily armored and ranked up a lot of experience points is a chore and a dread. Persistence will pay off in the end, but at the cost of frustration and dismay along the way.
Visually and graphically the use of the Unreal Engine 3 in the Game of Thrones is impressive for half of the games story – the Alester Sarwyck chapters which are filled with castles, and spectacular lighting and immersive surroundings, yet the darker times of Mors Westford’s chapters are basic and average looking. It doesn’t stay consistently on par with each other with both characters stories appearing as two different games, one that looks great, the other quite poor. The same applies to the cut scenes and scattered on-screen characters who don’t look half as detailed or intricate as the main protagonists. It’s as if you’re playing in two different worlds.
As it goes for RPG’s, the Game of Thrones is by far not the worst around, but there are plenty of better titles out there on the market already. Likely only to appeal to fans of the tv-screen adaption of the Game of Thrones rather than avid RPG gamers who would expect a lot more from a game that is based on one of the most renown fantasy stories known the world over. It’s averagely enjoyable with noticeable flaws, but the good parts such as Sarwyck’s chapters keep you entertained and hooked for hours whilst the poor combat system and bad dialogue through-out is a bit of a chore until you’re decently ranked.
RPG fan’s would have definitely played better, but Game of Thrones fan’s will find themselves thrown into a world of politics who should find this less disappointing to handle.