Dark, Gritty Role Playing
Although it's a lower budget and less polished spiritual cousin to past Bioware RPGs, Game of Thrones is an enjoyable experience that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the lore and atmosphere of "A Song of Ice and Fire."
While having seen the show or read the books is by no means a prerequisite to enjoying the game, existing fans will almost definitely like it better and have an easier time sinking into the setting, with many of the locations and background characters already being familiar to them.
The plot of the game is just as dark and labyrinthine as the show, rarely giving you a moment of ease or a scrap of certainty before unleashing the next horrible revelation. The story does a great job of keeping you on your toes and reminding you just how frail your characters are (despite their increasing power, gameplay wise) which is something that many RPGs fail to do. If the presentation of this tale has a central flaw, it's that the tension and tragedy never let up. There's no comedy relief to give you a break from its dark themes.
The game takes place during season 1 of the show, starting just before the assassination of Jon Arryn and ending shortly after the death of the king. For the first half of the game, the story shifts chapter by chapter between your two main characters: (or as Martin would call them, perspective characters) Mors Westford and Alester Sarwyk.
Mors is a gruff old warrior living out what remains of his life in the Night's Watch. Alester is the son of a noble house who left the continent of Westeros in self-exile years ago and has only recently returned. Both characters served in Robert Baratheon's rebellion and have a fair amount of tragedy in their past. They also both possess special abilities that have allowed them to survive for as long as they have. Mors is a wog / "skinchanger" who can enter the mind of his attack dog (great for scouting around undetected and taking out isolated sentries) and Alester has become a red priest, infused with many of the abilities granted by the "lord of light."
I found the constant shifting between these two characters for the first half of the game a bit irritating, but at the same time it's a testament to the writing and how well the characters were designed that I never wanted to switch. If I had been playing as Mors for an hour, I wanted to keep playing as Mors, and likewise if I'd been playing as Alester. Halfway through the game their stories finally converge and the pace of the plot picks up considerably. Describing anything story related beyond this point would be too spoiler laden, but suffice it to say that the game has the kind of epic and existential conclusion that you would expect from the world of Game of Thrones.
While the game does have a strong narrative and a mostly linear path, many of the dialogue choices you make do have a legitimate affect on the outcome of your immediate quest and as a result the consequences of your actions feel quite real. For example, this isn't a game you can "white knight" your way through without paying a price. Even NPCs that have given you no reason to doubt them can let you down or outright betray you. The game's choices encourage you to consider your own needs vs simply helping out everyone else and trying to do "the most good" all the time.
Gameplay wise, the combat engine is similar to KotOR or Dragon Age. Once fighting begins, you can pull up a series of ability wheels on the fly. This doesn't pause the game, but does slow time down to a crawl as you make your selections. I thought this was well implemented since it gives you time to consider your options, but not an endless amount. Watching your opponents close in on you in slow motion or seeing one of your characters get hit while you sit there trying to choose the best response has a way of speeding up your decision making. It's also a wonderful dramatic flair to go from heated dialogue to the sudden metal rasps of weapons coming out of sheaths and then see time slowed down as you enter tactical mode.
I had a good time with Game of Thrones and I found the conclusion to be more satisfying than your average role playing game. It has some rough edges, but for a low budget RPG (with a correspondingly low price tag) I can't complain too much.
- Excellent story
- Compelling main characters
- Authentic Game of Thrones soundtrack
- Simple, but fun, combat engine
- Choices feel consequential
- Somewhat dated graphics
- Voice acting is a mixed bag (main characters are good, most NPCs are terrible)
- Limited environments that are heavily re-used
- Not enough boss fights (most of your enemies are rank and file fodder)