A Song of Ice and Fire boasts of one of the most detailed and masterfully crafted worlds in the history of fiction. Even before its recent propulsion into the public eye with the popularity of the television show, George R.R. Martin’s high fantasy series has been revered by fans of the genre since it was first presented to the world in 1996. Forgive me if I’m stereotyping here, but those of us who enjoy RPG games are also likely to enjoy A Song of Ice and Fire - and so, upon announcement of this second attempt at a video game adaptation of the beloved franchise, a large number of us got very, very, excited.
Did we have any reason to be? After all, the studio behind it all, Cyanide Studios, had previously released the cesspit of average that they called A Game of Thrones: Genesis. Why did we have any right to hope that their second shot, a classic RPG take on the franchise, would be any better? Well, because we wanted to believe. Game of Thrones seems like the perfect setup for an RPG. Upon loading it up and hearing the opening bars of the iconic theme song from the show, I nearly believed that they’d pulled it off this time. Unfortunately, however, it was not to be.
Let’s start off with the negatives – there’s a lot of them. It could take me a while. Most prominently is the drab, boring combat system. It’s your standard button mashing third-person sworder, with an “active pause” system. This entails a slow-mo “pause” feature, in which you can queue up to three special attacks. These attacks then play out. Of course, this results in you having to effectively pause combat every three strikes, which totally defeats any chance of building up momentum or fluidity in combat. Special attacks also drain your energy quite quickly, so you’ll eventually end up spamming the standard attack until either you or your combatant fall over. Oh, and enemies seem to employ the kung-fu combat mechanism in which one will attack you at a time while the others stand around you and wait for their buddy to be disposed of. Sometimes necessary, never ideal.
Your special attacks are only usable if you have equipped a type of weapon specific to your chosen class, of which there are three choices. I made my Mors a Hedge Knight, a class that specialises in two-handed weapons. Little did I know, if I tried to use anything other than a two-handed weapon, I wouldn’t be able to use my special attacks, and would instead rely on even more spamming of the regular attack. Ranged combat is effectively non-existent – rather than standing at a distance and sniping from afar, you’ll find that if you make your Alester an archer, he’ll stand a couple of metres away from a foe and shoot from there. There are a lot of character customisation options, especially for a game that presents two set characters rather than an open slate, but your main choice – your class – seems a little restrictive as to what you can and can’t focus on later on in the line.
Graphics are a little bit primitive for a game released in 2012 - GoT attempts to have all the shine and polish of a triple-A game, but you can never seem to forget that it’s really a low-budget title with mountains of ambition. Character models are jagged and blurry, and animations so repeated that you’ll think that everyone acts the same way in all of Westeros. In fairness, the voice acting is quite good – a couple of the actors are the same ones as in the show – but every second of dialogue drags on for what seems like forever. On, and on, and on, with any input from you only coming once in a blue moon.
To its credit, the plot is really fantastic, considering. Shying away from the potential of “play as Robb Stark, King in the North, as you bash and crash your way through the land of Westeros!”, GoT involves a point-of-view mechanism, similar to that of the novels, in which you play as the Night’s Watchman Mors Westford, and Red Priest of R’hllor Alester Sarwyck. Slowly and delicately, the stories of these two men intertwine into one neat narrative, perfectly set in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Game of Thrones has all the potential to be a fantastic role-playing game. It’s got one of the best settings and characters imaginable. Compared to the thrown together A Game of Thrones: Genesis, this title doesn’t seem thrown together to capitalise on the recent success of the show – in fact, I’ve heard a rumour that Cyanide obtained the rights to the franchise before the show was announced, and this role-playing game was always what they wanted to come of this agreement. This is a prime example of how budget can hugely affect the final outcome of a game. The team at Cyanide obviously have a genuine love for GRRM’s franchise, which shines brightly as you play.
Not once does this feel like a generic media tie-in game - Game of Thrones shows a lot of true potential, only to be let down by a lack of polish and, it follows, money. A higher budget and maybe a bit more time, in order to improve all those areas that really need more work, is what was really required. In all honesty, I hope that Cyanide are the team behind the third go at this IP as well, I just hope that they have a bit more money behind the project next time.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Game of Thrones by Focus Home Interactive.