Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, May 25th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/game_of_thrones/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
With the raving success of Game of Thrones on HBO and the wildly popular A Song of Ice and Fire novels written by George R.R. Martin, it was only a matter of time before a video game adaptation came into play. Actually, developer Cyanide took nearly seven years to complete the game, so from a lore perspective, it stands off to one side, independent from the core series.
An action RPG game with the type of entangling plot Mr. Martin is well known for, Game of Thrones is a standalone story fit for newcomes and long-time fans alike. While the author did oversee the game's scipt as it was written, he was more focused on making sure it melded with the current canon rather than actually writing it himself. This doesn't detract from the story at all, so expect a gripping tale to be found here, if you dig deep enough.
Two main characters star in Game of Thrones. Mors Westford is a member of the Night's Watch, forced into the fold for disobeying his lord. Alester Sarwyck is a red priest who fled his homeland fifteen years ago to stave off his past. Both characters have a choice between three classes, which range from a warrior-type class to ranger. Mors focuses on heavy attacks, while Alester is a lighter bodied fellow with a knack for speed and agility.
Your class choice determines your initial stance, which in turn dictates the weapons and armor you can use, as well as whether you will be a strong fighter or focus more on defense. These expand even further after Level 7 when you can choose a secondary stance from a wide array of choices. Such options depend heavily on the initial stance, class choice, and character. Thrones offers a huge variety to pick from, so I highly suggest you look into an in-depth guide if you're interested in shaping your characters to a desired mold.
Along with choosing a class for the two characters, you are able to assign a handful of points to five key attributes: strength, agility, luck, endurance, and intelligence. They are the typical stats you will find in most RPGs and follow the same basic definitions.
One interesting twist in the character development which had me on the fence is the character trait assignments. Here you must balance your traits from a list of good and bad bonuses. Each bonus has points assigned to it and selecting nine points from the good list of traits means you must select nine points worth of bad traits. This was a huge hang up for me because I am so indecisive when it comes to character building and stat assigning. Some of the bad traits draw pretty heavy penalties, and it took me quite a while to make up my mind. The system itself is actually really nice; it was only my own hesitations which made it such a hassle.
The characters themselves are actually fleshed out very well, and alternating between the two narratives in between chapters is well played. However, they are surrounded with a droll supporting cast crippled by weak voice acting and slow wits. If you can deal with the slow and uneventful delivery of these characters you're a better (wo)man than me. As it stands, the only thing I enjoyed was the way every single character emphasized the word "shit", which is only effective for those of us who are easily amused.
To be blunt, the graphics are horrible. What should be a robust engine is nothing more than a second -- if not first -- generation build. If you're not walking through objects or NPCs, you're pushing them with your body by walking into them. Objects strewn throughout the levels are hazy until you get within sight, and Mors' dog looks like he's a lump of gray Play-Doh. Squiggles and jaggies make up most of the scenery, with plenty of screen tears to keep your eyes focused away from some of the more fleshed out areas, of which there are plenty. Unfortunately, beautiful and vibrant castle details only hold so much weight when you're being bombarded with ugliness everywhere else.
Besides the pitiful graphics, you'll find plenty of instances where the animations of the characters are off. Characters walking on air above the ground instead of physically walking down or up stairs is just one of the noticeable flaws. During combat, enemies will swing their weapons right through you, while all of the character movements feel stiff and mechanical. Plenty of lag and skipping fill the voids in between combat -- just in case you forgot how bad the graphics were in between key scenes.
Most of the sounds come through crisp enough, but there were a few times where the audio cut out completely. Some of the cutscenes show the characters talking out of sync like an old kung-fu flick. It's a trivial matter mostly, but can be distracting if you're paying attention too closely. I stuck with reading the subtitles to drive myself a little less crazy.
Game of Thrones takes all of the fun and excitement of button mashing and turns it into an even more tedious event without any real satisfaction. You must fill your action queue with a combo of normal attacks, defensive positions, item usage, and special attacks. Thing is, you can only have three actions in the queue at any given time, and defensive actions need to be perfectly timed with strong enemy attacks if you want any chance in hell to deflect.
Special attacks are accessed by opening an action wheel. While not pausing the action completely, it does bring the entire battle to a slow crawl, giving players some time to pick their skills. Annoyingly, you must open the action wheel every time you want to queue a new skill. Special attacks are an option, but few instances actually call for their use, and I felt compelled to ignore them whenever possible. This essentially created a spam fest for me where I focused on pressing X the majority of the time.
There are many things to keep in mind while choosing your attacks; four levels of armor, and each level has its weaknesses. For instance, axes and swords output more damage against light armor while blunt weapons such as hammers and maces are better matched against heavier armor. Though combat may seem overly complicated at first, the levels of armor and their weaknesses follow the rules of common sense in most cases and are easy to pick up.
In reality, any action found in Game of Thrones takes a backseat to the narrative. Overall, I found the gameplay be rather boring and slow, leaving me wanting much more than the game could actually deliver. Even standard turn-based RPG combat feels more compelling.
I will not ruin the story for you here, as anyone who has read the book or watched the show knows the series' penchant for delivering a compelling and dramatic tale. Game of Thrones does not fail in that regard, and offers a gratifying narrative experience. That story does come at a cost though, as impatient players may quit the game long before the plot comes to a fruition. Honestly, what seems to be a slow delivery in the beginning is really a methodical and carefully laid out setup for the rest of the story, which can fully captivate players willing to push to the very end.
Sitting at around 30 hours, Game of Thrones can be quite a bore for those who are more focused on action, however. The challenge of Game of Thrones isn't beating the game, but having the patience to actually make it through long enough for the story to finally pay off. Thankfully, because the game branches off the core series, skipping out on this adventure doesn't mean missing out on anything too important.
In the end, the interesting story and name alone fail to carry deadweight characters, generic action, and outdated graphics. If you're a fan of the Song of Ice and Fire series, chances are you'll enjoy some of the back-story found in the narrative. However if you're a fan hoping you'd find the same intense action as the show, this game just will not do.
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