Game of Thrones Review
Game: Game of Thrones
Developer: Cyanide Studios
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Available on: Windows PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed on Windows PC)
You live or you die when you play the Game of Thrones, but what happens when play the game of Game of Thrones? That’s the question that Cyanide Studios and Focus Home Interactive are asking and they’re hoping that you answer with a modest level of enjoyment, but can the newly released video game version of Game of Thrones sweep us all off of our feet just like the TV show did, or is it something that feels rushed together like so many other TV and movie licenses?
STORY: If you’re a fan of the story of Game of Thrones, whether it’s on the TV through the fantastic HBO series (don’t have HBO, check out www.bestsatellite.tv to remedy that and watch the show!) that’s just finished its second season, or through George R. R. Martin’s original book series, then you’re going to enjoy the story that is presented to you in this video game universe. The story takes place before the events in the first season of the show (or before the first book), while Jon Arryn is still the King’s Hand to Robert Baratheon. All of the events that we’ve pretty much accepted now – such as what happens to certain major characters – haven’t happened yet so don’t go around Castle Black expecting to run into Jon Snow. Through the game you’ll take control of two totally separate people. Firstly, Mors Westford, a member of the Nights Watch who isn’t exactly the most likable of characters but when you need a job doing properly, Mors is the kind of person you send in. The other character that you’ll be taking control of at various points in the game is Alester Sarwyck, a Red Priest in the service of the Lord of Light R’hollor.
GRAPHICS: Game of Thrones game isn’t actually all that bad graphically. People may be expecting a lot worse from a game that would have been understandably rushed together after the success of the TV show. All of the characters that you’ll come across are quite well rendered, as long as you don’t focus too much on their lips, because there hasn’t been much work put into the game in this area. The quality that’s been put into the game is especially obvious when you’re talking to the couple of characters in the game that are based directly on characters – and actors – that you may have seen while watching the popular TV series. Some of the more disappointing aspects of the game happens when you’re inside one of the many castles and internal areas of the game. Things start to look a little bit similar quite early on into the game, so much so that you’ll quickly find yourself a little bit bored with walking down what looks like the same corridor over and over again. Thankfully the story is good enough to distract the player from the bland surroundings that will be encompassing them, but not for long.
SOUND: The sound design in the Game of Thrones game is actually quite good most of the time. There’s no doubt that people who are fans of the brilliantly made HBO series will get goosebumps as soon as the show’s title music is played at the start of the game. Those feelings will continue through the first part of the game as you’re in control of Mors Westford, especially when you’re talking to Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night Watch and you start to realise that some of the people that played certain characters in the TV series have come to the game to reprise their role in a digital form too. Unfortunately that’s where the good aspects of the sound design seem to end, a lot of the sound effects, while starting off well, don’t really change much throughout the game and start to get a little bit boring after just a couple of hours play.
GAMEPLAY: Most of your time spent in Game of Thrones will be performing quests for the various people that will give you tasks to do, some of the tasks are relatively menial, especially for characters like Mors or Alester, but they need to be done anyway; after all, what’s an RPG without a couple of retrieval quests dotted around here and there. You’ll be able to choose one of three classes for each of the characters in the game and they all stick closely to the RPG archetypes of heavy but slow combat, light but fast combat and then the obligatory ranged combat role. Most players will settle into whatever roles they happen to have chosen quite well, each of them are diverse enough for the player to be able to mould them in the type of combatant that they want to play, but the severe lack of skills present for the majority of the game means that you’ll find yourself performing the same sequence of attacks over and over again; eventually it’ll get tiresome to even the most die-hard of RPG fans. The breaking up of the story, through switching characters from Mors to Alester and back again serves to break up the story into more manageable chunks but it also takes the player out of the story somewhat. Not entirely a good thing, especially if you’ve just gotten into a particularly good section of the story only to be ripped away from it.
Despite the lack of a decent amount of skills, the combat is the only part of the game (apart from the story) that can be commended in any way. On the PC version of the game, a quick tap of the space bar will slow down the action on the screen to a snail’s pace. This allows the player to set up a sequence of up to three attacks on the unsuspecting enemy. You have the ability to set up the attacks for any team member that’s currently under your command. You’ll be able to see a list of people who you can control on the left hand side of the screen and a quick tap of the Tab button will allow the player to cycle through them all. This lets the player decide on tactics beforehand, then sit back and watch as the characters perform the actions to a satisfying degree. There’s nothing better than being attacked by a platoon of Wildlings while playing as Mors Westford only to have yourself and two other party members outflank them, outthink them and ultimately (if you’ve set things up right) outlive them.
The most disappointing aspect of the gameplay is that there are several areas of the game that show off just how much Game of Thrones was developed with the console market in mind. The equipment assignment area of the game is one such section, requiring players to click on the item that they want to assign, then click on the slot that they want to assign it to. PC RPG player will automatically assume that they can simply drag and drop the sword (for example) into the sword slot, but this isn’t the case. The sword must first be clicked, then the sword slot must be clicked separately. It just screams of a lack of forethought when it comes to the PC.
LONGEVITY: If you wanted to play though the game again once you’ve gotten to the end the first time, then there’s obviously nothing stopping you, but I can’t see people rushing to work their way through the title more than once. There are a couple of options for each of the characters in terms of what class they want to play through the game as, as well as a couple of different ways to work through each of the skill trees but it’s still going to be the same old mediocre gameplay, changing classes or the way you play the game is unfortunately not going to change that.
VERDICT: Unfortunately, the video game version of Game of Thrones doesn’t live up to the lofty heights set by the TV counterpart, the visuals are passable at best and the gameplay doesn’t live up to a lot of the promises set by the developers. The combat system is the only aspect of the game that saves it from an oblivion of mediocrity allowing for a decent amount of tactical combat and strategy. However, even this can get a little bit old after lengthy game sessions. If you’re looking for a game that you can play in one to two hour chunks, with a decent story and passable visuals then you could give Game of Thrones a try. If you’re looking for something a little bit more substantial, then you should probably keep walking.