With the HBO adaptation of the George RR Martin novels sitting high and mighty on the Iron Throne of television right now, a video game adaptation was inevitable. So far, those incarnations of the world of Westborous have failed to live up to the high standard set by the show itself, but can Game Of Thrones, live up to the impossible standards of the show, or should it be banished to a lifetime of service in the Night Watch?
Set months before the events of the first book, Game of Thrones places players in the boots of Night Watch veteran Mors Westford and Alester Sarwyck, heir to a royal family on a quest to reclaim his rightful title.
The game alternates between the two characters, men who are leagues apart in their mannerisms and skills, but whose paths eventually cross when they circumstances force them to begin a hunt for a mysterious young girl.
From there, the game places you in the leather of these characters, switching out every few hours in order to progress with the story, as Mors and Alester find themselves caught up in a web of intrigue and manipulation, despite their attempts to stay true and honourable.
Conversations with various characters, and a few familiar faces, will prompt a branching dialogue option, and while having no real discernable consequence on the game itself, it does provide some effort to make players more involved with their character. It’s superfluous, yes, but a nice touch overall.
As for the story itself, while it does attempt to capture the feel and setting of the show with harsh language, actions and terminology, it’s lacking that spark, that crucial key in making that world exciting and vibrant, coming off as a dull, uninspired take on that wintery land.
If you happen to be a fan of reading walls of text and sitting through lengthy exposition sequences, you’re in luck though, Because Game of Thrones has plenty of that in store for you, whether you want it or not.
Various threads throughout the game coalesce into one of four possible finales, while smaller codex entries on characters round out the package, offering brief and concise summaries on the people encountered, a gameplay mechanic that should have been applied to the whole game.
As for the game itself, Game of Thrones uses an active turn-based system for combat, a system that feels woefully underdeveloped, much like the mental fortitude of a child born from incest.
Chaining attacks and commands, players can slow down time in order to do so, but the clumsy, semi-automatic action creates a disconnect with the player, as your character hacks and slashes his way through, most of it occurring at a speed that some scientists call, “Post-Office Speed”.
When attempting to engage with large groups of enemies and allies, things just get even uglier, as the mosh pit of swords and steel result in a situation that is difficult to grasp and adjust to. Likewise with trying to move out of range from these attacks, the game shows how broken this combat mechanic is, as a player can still be murdered, despite being out of range and several meters away from an opponent.
This happens a lot, so prepare yourself. Mors and Alester encounter foes with pretty much the same stock standard approach to battling working every time, a repetitive feature that is only occasionally broken up when Mors places his mind in his trusty hound, a four legged beast who creates more stealthy gameplay moments as you hunt down soldiers, but this is done with the barest of bones, and with many the bashing of buttons.
As for Alester, his unique gameplay comes in the form of light puzzles and mysteries, as he works his way through secret passages, but these two sub-games aren’t truly entertaining, and can be more tiresome than welcome at times.
Picking up items and loot, while providing better armour and weapons, also feels strange, as Mors and Alester can equip these items, and walk around with the emblems of various houses and clans emblazoned on their body. Sure, it’s realistic in a strange sense, but in a fantasy game,it creates a weird disconnect with the world around you.
As for the aesthetics of the game itself, it’s a massive letdown. Towns are eerily deserted instead of bustling, textures are muddy and don’t load properly, the dismal lighting effects will make you think that you’re playing as a Smurf with bad animation, while the dialogue barely ever matches up with the genuine effort put into the voice-over work.
It’s an outdated, technical mess of polygons and pixels, that would have drawn criticism even if the game was released several years ago. As for the audio, besides the stirring opening theme from the core show, expect more short rounds of apathetic melodies, music that does little to enhance the experience available.
It’s a tired, rigid model, that feels incomplete and is woefully lacking in the basics of good design. Sure, levelling up your character with unique attributes is always fun, but having to slog through clumsy combat through a hazy slow-motion effect, isn’t. An attempt to add more to the game besides that, in unique quests and abilities, is an opportunity missed, as Alester and Mors make the experience even more tedious.
Design and Presentation: 5/10
There’s not much that could be said here, except that this game was probably made with technology that had been hit with an entire forest of ugly trees. It looks ugly, dull, and downright stupid at times.
Provided that you want to get into the story, Game of Thrones is a pretty lengthy epic, ranging anywhere from taking 20-30 hours to complete. There are plenty of sidequests available, but they operate under a take ‘em or leave ‘em principal, meaning that a quick travel back to town will reveal that you might have missed a chance at earning some extra loot.
But otherwise, this is one of the few single-player games out there that could have really benefited from a shorter running time.
On the surface, Game of Thrones has all it needs to be at least a decent game, but is unfortunately let down by repetitive gameplay, glaring bugs and a tepid approach to the source material, that fails to create the same atmosphere of intrigue, excitement and mystery that is present on the TV show.
This is one Game of Thrones, that no gamer can win.[Reviewed on Xbox 360]
Last Updated: July 18, 2012