June 20th, 2012 by Derek “Digi” McRoberts
Game of Thrones is the first console release from Cyanide Studios in partnership with George R.R. Martin. With licensing from HBO to use character likeness, and several actors from the show taking on their respective roles in the game, this has been a highly anticipated title for fans of the show and novels alike.
It’s no surprise to say, given the support direct from the author himself, that this game has a plot as dark, realistic and gritty as any storyline from the books and TV show. Although the entirety was written by the staff at Cyanide studio, his involvement to ensure it felt canon, and didn’t conflict with his existing stories, is obvious from the outset.
Playing as two new characters within an overlapping narrative you will visit locations across Westeros and become entwined in the events leading up to the war of five kings.
Initially you play as Mors Westford; last of his bloodline and a sworn brother of the nights watch. Events unfold which allow him to finally fulfil his oath to his shield brother Jon Arryn, the current Kings Hand.
Secondly, you play as Alester Sarwyk, who for the last 15 years has been in self-exile in the free cities of Essos following his actions during Robert Baratheon’s rebellion against the Targaryen king. Returning to his home of Riverspring, following his father’s death, he finds himself on a path to Kings Landing and the Red Keep, drawn into the great game to claim inheritance of his lands and titles from his bastard step brother, Valaar.
An action-RPG, with a clear leaning towards action, this is the literal jack of all trades, master of none. The combat has been simplified somewhat to allow for some unique use of equipment. Both you and your enemies have one of four armour types; un-armoured, light, medium and heavy. Each has its own weaknesses against the several weapons types, be it perforating weapons for those enemies in leather or chain mail medium armour, or blunt weapons for heavily armoured foes. It’s clear from the outset that the battle system drew inspiration from Biowares staple RPGs.
Potions, character skills and abilities become available for use during combat with the Active Pause System. Activating the APS will bring up a radial which will slow time, allowing you to stack three abilities and take control of party members to issue them commands. The fact that time is slowed instead of stopped forces you to quickly assess a battle and make the best possible choice of abilities to turn the tide in your favour.
The ability to switch weapon sets on the fly, and the “rock, paper, scissors” approach to combat gives a subtle level of strategy that can be applied to each fight. A further entertaining diversion when out of combat is the ability to take direct control of Mors’ dog. This allows you to traverse the level in the game’s only stealth sections.
When in control of the dog, you can see your enemy’s line of vision. Sneak up behind the lone guards and with one short QTE, you can rip out his throat to either reduce the enemies you encounter, or forge a path around them entirely.
The simple but effective combat system as well as the intriguing and lore appropriate narrative tease at the great potential, It’s a shame then that there are some major flaws that detract from the game.
The character models look very dated. Specific characters, mainly those from the TV Show, appear to have had more attention to detail than even the playable characters themselves. Add to that the clipping issues occurring throughout the game and the occasional pathing problems when interacting with objectives, and the flow of the game is interrupted frequently.
Additionally the environments look drab and unappealing, lighting sports incongruous colours, even making Mors’ dog look blue on more than one occasion. There’s also a lack of scale to each location, further pulling you out of the immersion.
The hit and miss voice acting is also a problem, with many characters failing to deliver on the decent script and the character Mors flitting between brilliant – akin to Simon Templeman as Kain in Soul Reaver – and awful – akin to the Hollywood trailer voiceover. It’s another disappointing detraction that’s hard to look past.
Being a fan of the television show and G.R.R Martins literary works, this was a game I was highly anticipating. For Cyanide Studio to come so far, it is truly a shame that its negatives take away from what could have been one of a very short list of successful videogame tie-ins.
G.R.R Martin said it best when interviewed about the game and his involvement.
“Not everyone will like the game. You do the best work you can, and hope the world responds. I’ve sampled the work Cyanide has done, and I’m largely happy with it. I think many of my fans will share that feeling.”
As it stands, if you are a fan of the world that A Song of Fire and Ice spawned, or you are partial to a fairly decent action game with lots of plot, there is plenty here for you to enjoy.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Platform: PS3/ Xbox 360 Release Date: 08/06/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Game of Thrones by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PS3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.