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Is It Possible to Make a Good Game of Thrones Game?

/ Mar 14th, 2013 No Comments

Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones - Bluray

Joffrey would be the slimiest villain since Seymour from FF X.

There is always a problem when taking a hugely beloved or popular or simply interesting license then adapting it to a new medium. It is a storied history of failure in video games when bringing natively passive series to an active past time. Right from the beginning of video gaming with E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, a game so awful they had to bury unsold copies in a dessert right up to recent years with the various attempts to make Epic Mickey happen. Last year saw the release of Cyanide’s Game of Thrones adaptation riding on the wind of HBO’s popular take on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Game of Thrones the video game, while featuring some popular characters from the series, focused primarily on two original characters to its benefit. Despite Martin being involved with the game, the game never quite capture the excitement of either the TV show or the novels and gameplay was a chore (read the full review here). Everything in the game felt too much like taking good ideas from modern RPGs that had been executed better elsewhere and dropping them into a cauldron in an attempt to make gold, but it sat blackened at the bottom as a leaden homunculus. The attempt to make Westeros come to live only left it stillborn. Cyanide also developed the even more misguided adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire with the Real-Time Strategy game, A Game of Thrones: Genesis. The decision to take the series in that direction is not totally baffling, and choosing to span the breadth of Westrosi history is inspired. However, creating a story with the depth of the novels or even the mildly well-written later Game of Thrones game is difficult in a RTS that spans 1,000 years of history. Plus, when the gamer can simply create units based on resources without any back story or connection kind of misses the point of what makes A Song of Ice and Fire compelling. Truthfully, Cyanide had two ends of what would make a Game of Thrones game work, but they never met leading to wildly unsuccessful adaptations.

To take a slight departure from adaptations, Intelligent Systems recently released the latest installment in their long-running, beloved and notoriously deep Fire Emblem series with Fire Emblem: Awakening. The game tells an unfolding story where the actual threat is hidden until the player reveals the layers through battle and gameplay. Not only does the plot evolve as the game moves on, but it juggles a huge cast of characters. Each of these characters is realized with unique personalities and their relationships with other characters strengthens and becomes richer as the player nurtures them. Also, it takes place in a medieval fantasy world with a huge amount of warrior classes and fantastical elements while staying grounded in some small basis of reality. Oh and important characters can die and never come back, so… If the answer for taking the rich, layered and deep world of Westeros and turning it into an Role-Playing Game or a Real-Time Strategy is incorrect? Then what is the correct genre to create a fully realized and fleshed out video game? It is fairly obvious and straddling between these two genres. However, despite it starring everyone in the face, it is hard to miss. Only by playing Fire Emblem: Awakening did the answer crystallize. In order to make a great game worthy of the Game of Thrones name is to make it a Strategy RPG.

Fire Emblem

Game of Thrones X Fire Emblem

The biggest problem with Game of Thrones the video game was that even though certain major characters showed up it was not the ones anyone would want in a video game. It never felt like anything more than fanfiction, but not even the cool fanfic like where someone has Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon in a buddy cop type movie cleaning up the streets of King’s Landing. With a Fire Emblem-esque strategy RPG, it is easy to have hugely popular characters show up in organic ways during this hypothetical a Sword of Storms video game. The game has plenty of events to shape its story from Martin’s gigantic novels. It could focus on the war between the Young Wolf and the Lannisters, all while building the War of the Five Kings around it. Perhaps wanting to eschew to something not firmly established from the main books, the game chooses to expand, flesh out and create the back story of Robert’s Rebellion. This story could tell it from both perspectives with half of the game being the War of the Usurper. A Game of Thrones: Genesis had a good idea in telling more of the back history of Westeros, but in the wrong genre.

By using the systems firmly established by Intelligent Systems’ wonderful Fire Emblem series, it is not too difficult to use that as a blueprint to adapt a Song of Ice and Fire into a video game that captures the action, politics and backstabbing that typifies the series. The character interactions could have every bit of depth that occurs in the novels and with Martin’s humor and wit, the dialogues could sing. Any game that adapts Game of Thrones needs to have the danger that lives on every page of the novels or in every scene in the television show where a beloved character could quite honestly not make it to the end of the book, season or even the chapter or episode. Fire Emblem has always made its characters lives hinge on superb strategy because one wrong move will result in death. With Fire Emblem: Awakening there are some more obvious reasons why Game of Thrones needs to be adapted in that style with the Risen. This undead threat is similar to the Others/White Walkers in Game of Thrones, which makes even more sense to adapt the series to this style of game. The truth is there may never be a great video game based on George R.R. Martin’s iconic world, but if ever one were to be made, it would basically need to be Fire Emblem with a Lannister mod.

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Associate Editor/Editorial Lead at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. Currently, he lives in Tustin, California. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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