Game of Thrones is a Role-Playing video game adaptation of both the popular HBO series Game of Thrones (read the Game of Thrones Season 1 (Blu-Ray) Review), as well as, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, which both the television show and video game use as source material. Cyanide developed the title for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. While Atlus handled the publishing for the North American release of the game, Focus Entertainment published the game in Europe and Australia. In addition, Focus Entertainment published the digital Steam version of Game of Thrones. This is one of two games in the medieval fantasy RPG genre that Cyanide developed this year, the other game featuring a more atypical fantasy bent in Of Orcs and Men released recently for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in October (read the Of Orcs and Men (PS3) Review). Game of Thrones released back in May 15 for PS3 and Xbox 360 and May 16 for the Steam version.
Mors’ story begins with him tracking down a brother of the Night’s Watch who deserted his position, a grave taboo in Westeros and especially serious for those devoted to the black brothers. As Mors catches up with the deserter, Gorold, he tries to give Mors a fight, but forgetting about Mors’ trusty dog, he fails. Upon bringing Gorold back to Castle Black and meeting up with Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, Mors learns of some unsettling activities that have happened while he was away. After dispatching of the traitor as per Westerosi law (any black brother who forgoes his oath will only be met with death), Mors helps welcome some new brothers and has to take them on a first mission to track down another traitor who raped a new brother. As with any of the events in Game of Thrones, it is not as simple as bringing the man to justice, upon reaching the accused’s destination they find that wildlings have invaded and they must fight them off. This is just the beginning of Mors’ story, and after much heartache because of fighting the wildlings, he learns that the Hand of the King, Jon Arryn has a mission tasked specifically for him that pertains to the good of the Realm.
Alester Sarwyck’s story is not necessarily simpler, but less complicated due to the lack of a sacred order’s baggage. The baggage is quite honestly just his own. After Robert’s Rebellion, Alester fled Westeros for Braavos where he entered the order of R’hllor, the Lord of Light. For fifteen years, he did not set foot into Westeros that was until he received a raven informing him of his father, Lord Sarwyck of Riverspring’s death. Now he must return to bury his father. The reunion as one might expect is tumultuous due to his abandoning his family all those years ago. After his father’s funeral, he must help quell a peasant uprising (things have gotten bad in Riverspring in his absence) and find a way to save the nobles taken hostage and keep the peasants from being even more discontent. Once he has dealt with the issues of the rebellion, he learns of the grave fate that might befall Riverspring. It seems his sister who is currently in charge of lordship duties has been betrothed to Alester’s bastard half-brother, Valarr at the word of Queen Cersei. Having curried favor with the Queen, she intends to have him marry Alester’s sister and become the Lord of Riverspring. Alester will not let this happen because Valarr is a cruel and wicked man, so he must forsake his duties in Braavos and take the responsibilities that his father always wanted him to undertake. In order to do this, he must travel to King’s Landing and demand his rightful titles from King Robert. Things necessarily get complicated along the way and the fate of these two protagonists intertwines throughout the events of the game.
The story is enrapturing and engaging much like the show and the books. It is certainly the biggest strength of the game and for fans of Martin’s epic fantasy, there is plenty here to love. The game may have more intrigue for fans of the books as it has more references and the role-playing aspects with Mors and Alester’s dialogue has more weight for those familiar with the great detail that Martin uses to demonstrate how brothers of the Night’s Watch or Lords act in the books. There are moments within the dialogue choices and decisions that make the player truly seem like they are in the rich and complex Westeros that Martin has created in five dense and layered books. Even if the stories may seem slightly familiar, as they have well worn analogues in both media and even A Song of Ice and Fire, it is because they share many themes found in both the show and books that make them so intensely fascinating.
As with Cyanide’s other game this year, Game of Thrones features active-time turn-based once again similar to Knights of the Old Republic, Final Fantasy XII/XIII and Dragon Age (and Of Orcs and Men). When first playing as Alester or Mors, the player can select one of three classes for each depending on their style of play. The classes are references to different types of warriors within R.R. Martin’s world, and the coolest of them are Water Dancer for Alester (Sylvio Forel) and Magnar for Mors (Wilding beyond the Wall). This gives the characters access to specific skill trees and special skills, in addition, to proficiencies. After selecting skills and upgrading the character each level, then the battles begin. Mainly fights are auto-battle unless the player selects a special skill from a menu. This pauses the action so they player has time to choose a move for the situation, and each move drains the player’s energy bar (they can recharge it every twenty sections by using a hotkey). Thus, the gameplay is a bit static; there is not a whole lot to battles despite the rock, paper, and scissors aspect to armor type and certain move specialties. The most intriguing parts of combat are using Mors’ dog for extra help and Alester’s red priest abilities, which is the closest to magic the game gets.
Outside of combat, there are some interesting wrinkles with Mors’ status as skinchanger (a deep cut for fans of the books). This allows Mors to take control of his trusty dog during missions, which helps him track smells to chase down main objectives of treasures. Even if the controls for the dog (due to a first-person perspective) are a bit wonky. Then Alester has an ability due to R’hllor that lets him see secrets in dungeons and help guide him through labyrinths. The controls are okay for the most part when in third-person using the keyboard, but become troubling when controlling Mors’ dog due to the perspective shift. The game supports the use of a gamepad and that makes the game a bit more manageable in a number of ways, but especially with Mors’ sections.
Graphics and SoundWith graphics on the highest settings, the game looks good, there are still some texture issues at moments, but overall it has some bright spots. At its lowest settings, it is downright ugly. Even with the highest settings, there is some tough facial work and some heads look malformed, and the figure work in places seems a bit off and boxy (Valarr’s bowl cut is unsightly and will haunt people’s dreams). However, it is nothing hugely offensive and for the most part, it helps bring to life what is an engrossing story. What is troubling and distracting are the game’s frame rate issues and texture pop-ins, they are hard to ignore and persist even on the highest settings. The sound design is decent enough with some high marks in voice acting coming from James Cosmo reprising his role as Jeor Mormont and Conleth Hill as Lord Varys. Then the voice acting for Mors and Alester Sarwyck is quite good. With the rest of the voice cast, it is a grab bag, sometimes it is good and sometimes it is pretty bad. The most distracting voice is the Lena Headey impersonator as Queen Cersei, it doesn’t have any of the malice, underhandedness and false sincerity that Headey brings when playing the role and changes how complex the character is. Game of Thrones features a solid soundtrack that has quality battle music that manages to give fights a sense of kinetic energy and tries to replicate the orchestral sound of the show. However, it is not nearly as beautiful or addicting as the show’s score, and while the game re-uses the television show’s main theme in the main menu, it is not nearly thrown in enough in the game (mainly because with rights to use the theme, it should be used everywhere and always).
Game of Thrones, the game is not nearly as great as either Game of Thrones, the show or Game of Thrones, the book (and by extension any of the A Song of Ice and Fire books). There are several huge quality issues with the graphics that make it sometimes hard to look at even if there are some decent parts to the visual look. The gameplay is a bit stale and despite some cool little features, does not seem half as engaging as other games in the RPG genre that use a similar type of combat system. Its sound is a mixed bag, where it features some good voice acting and a solid soundtrack, it is taken back by poor voice acting choices. The biggest asset to the game and what makes it worth picking up (for Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire completists) is the engrossing and addictive storyline. By exploring similar themes found in R.R. Martin’s work, it truly has the feel of Westeros and the characters that populate the region, which makes the show/books so compelling.