George R.R. Martin is a very happy man right now. His beloved series of novels, A Song of Fire and Ice, has hit the mainstream. HBO is handling the television series, while Atlus and Cyanide Studios have taken care of the video game counterpart with Game of Thrones. The Stark House words are “winter is coming.” Does Game of Thrones survive the long winter? Or, does it fall victim to a false spring?
*WARNING-The game takes place before and during the events of the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series: Game of Thrones. Because of this there are possible spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the show or read the book.
Game of Thrones stars two characters created specifically for the game: Mors Westford, black brother of the Night’s Watch, and Alester Sarwyck, next in line to rule an area called the Riverlands and a red priest following the Lord of Light. There are a few cameos, most notably the Master of Whispers, Lord Varys, and the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jeor Mormont, among others. For fans of the show, both of these characters are voiced by the actors portraying them. The story itself starts out split on two different timelines before the death of Jon Aryn, who is the King’s Hand, which eventually meet after his death and before the execution of Eddard Stark. It is the best thing the game has going for it. There are plot twists and turns, crosses and double and triple crosses. Players have the ability to make choices during conversations but it is somewhat limited and doesn’t have the same impact as other games.
The story is tolerable, more so if you have read the books and know what is going on in the universe proper. Playing the game without any background may actually hurt the experience. If you don’t know who any of the characters I mentioned previously are, some of the game’s story will be lost. This gives a limited point of entry. However, if you have read the books, there is a good deal of enjoyment to be had.
Now, the rest of the game is a different matter. It feels like the developers made it a point to put the story before everything else and presentation suffers for it. The sound cuts in and out and has occasional speaker crackle moments. The characters, while decently detailed, move rather awkwardly. While you get to travel to cool places like the Wall and King’s Landing, the environments aren’t very detailed and there are very few NPCs around. This is most apparent in King’s Landing where commerce is supposed to be bustling and the streets should always be crowded. It makes for a rather lackluster experience.
Speaking of experience, the leveling system is very basic. You can choose from 3 different classes for Mors and 3 others for Alester. The classes determine which weapons and armor best suit you, as well as your fighting style. There is a hint of customization when you level up though. as you are able to allocate points to different skills and stats. But, by the end of the game, the points end up being used randomly because you’ve already maxed out your main skills and abilities.
The fighting system is the absolute worst part of this game. You would expect being based on a book known for its violence that the action would be bloody and fierce. It is quite the opposite. When you engage an enemy in combat, you can choose up to three actions to take, attack, use an ability, or heal. When you bring up the ability ring, the game slows done but the action doesn’t stop. This is supposed to create a feeling of urgency. It does more harm than good and doesn’t enhance the system. The attacks are slow-moving and the characters reactions are even slower. When a two-handed sword strikes someone, you’d think they’d at least react to it; in Game of Thrones they don’t.
Games based on other media end up causing more groans than cheers from gamers. Game of Thrones, while it had potential with a good story and a rich background to draw from, falls flat as a game. The battle system is heavily flawed, the environments are empty and there are several technical issues players have to deal with. If it wasn’t for the story, this game would not be worth even a rental.
Words may be wind, but heed mine and you won’t be disappointed. Game of Thrones is dark and full of terrors.
- Good story if you have read the books
- Neat Pre-Order bonus art book
- Broken battle system
- Unoriginal leveling system
- Several technical issues
- Small point of entry if you haven’t read the books
2 / 5
Note: This review is based on the PS3 version of the game provided by the publisher. There is also a version for the XBox 360.