Fresh off the end of HBO’s second highest-rated television show of all time comes the video game adaptation of Game of Thrones. This time, the game does not follow the events of the books or the television show, but rather creates a new set of characters and settings to supplement the existing canon. Under the watchful eye of George R. R. Martin, creator of the source material, the video game puts you in the place of a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch and a lord who abandoned his claim and is looking to reclaim what was lost. The game, much like the books and show, weaves itself into a lush world as you deal with conspiracy and treachery, meet existing characters (like Queen Cersei and Jeor Mormont), and learn how this new tale unwinds.
As mentioned earlier, the game follows two separate characters whose fates ultimately intertwine. One of those characters is Mors Westford, a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch, loyal to his Lord Commander, Jeor Mormont. Strange reports have been coming in that say wildlings are starting to cross the Wall by an abandoned castle located to the west. Mors takes a small group of men to the abandoned castle, and a series of events leads Mors to discover more about what is going on to the south of the Wall than he would like. The other playable character is Alester Harwyn, eldest son of the Lord of Riverspring, who decided to leave the city and the lordship to pursue a different life. You soon learn that your father has passed away mysteriously. As the eldest son, you come back to the city to learn what happened to your father and attempt to reclaim your title and lands to become the new Lord of Riverspring. However, many events have come to pass that may block your rise to the lordship. Both characters are quite different and have two very different story lines, but they are both linked in a very special way.
Game of Thrones is one of the more intriguing titles to come out this year. The game does a great job at recreating Westeros, and the story told is excellent. The plot twists and turns will surely keep gamers at the edge of their seats. Several locations around Westeros are recreated, so fans of the series will recognize much of the landscape. Some of the original actors from the television show even reprise their roles in the game, which is especially fun to experience. The blend between old material and new material is very well executed, leaving you unaware of what’s coming next, but never far from something familiar for fans. From a source material stand point, the game is excellent. Unfortunately, there are several technical limitations present that make this game seem less than what it is. Animations are not very smooth and are often out of sync with the voice acting. Some areas feel much more claustrophobic than they should be, especially in the Red Keep. This shouldn’t render the game unplayable, but if graphics and performance are important to you, you may want to prepare yourself.
The combat system is interesting and seems to borrow ideas from turn-based and action RPGs. In combat, your character will automatically attack your opponent in an action RPG style. You can queue up to three actions, which will interrupt your auto-attacking. These actions can be any moves that you learn through the skill tree, using potions, or any other combat related action. You can put the game into slow-motion at any time to queue your actions, allowing you to properly execute the moves you want to perform in the order in which you want to perform them. The system is not as complicated as it sounds, but it does require some time to experiment and see how the moves will effect certain opponents. You also have access to lots of different melee and ranged weapons that you can equip at any time. You will have the ability to save two different weapon combinations to counteract the different types of armor found in the game. This may seem fine superficially, but since there are three different armor types found in the game, you’ll lose the damage bonus on the armor you can’t counteract, leading to some long fights. Having an extra slot to swap weapons would have made combat a little smoother. Also, the targeting system is confusing, and you won’t always attack the person you want to attack. You’ll find your character running away from where you want them and attacking enemies on the other side of the battlefield. It can be extremely frustrating and is ultimately a big shortcoming for this title.
Fortunately, there is much more to this game than just combat. You will be talking to lots of different people on your travels, and whatever you say has a profound effect on how they will treat you in return, the outcome of the situation at hand, and which characters will appear in the story as you move through it. The answers you choose will not always be fully right or fully wrong, so you’ll dance the line of moral ambiguity often. Thankfully, there is no real way to know how you did, so it adds some mystery as to how this will all work out. Whether you decide to act compassionately or aggressively, there are consequences for both actions. This is a source of tension as you see your decisions pan out across the game. It also adds a fair amount of replay value to go back and see how different choices would change how the game plays.
Exploring the world of Westeros is not as gratifying as it should be. There is literally an entire world detailed in Martin’s texts, but this game fails to take advantage of the source material. There is very little diversity in the look of the levels, so whether you are in the dungeons of the Red Keep or exploring the castles along the Wall, they all look relatively similar. This isn’t to say that they don’t look good individually,though; it just feels like a missed opportunity to have such an extremely detailed world, yet see so little of it. The game offers players the ability to see a few different towns in the area that you are in, but it really has no benefit to the player unless the quest is taking place there. This really limits how much exploring you can do outside of the quests. Also, the player always fast travels between locations with no option to make the trek yourself. This gives the game a very linear feel to what should have been an open-world adventure.
There are also a few special abilities that both of the main characters can use during battle that add some spice to the formula. When you play as Alester, you will have the ability to manipulate fire at will. You will be able to set your enemies on fire, and they will consequently run into their kinsmen and set them ablaze, as well. This is particularly effective in large groups of enemies, and it helps you tremendously. When you play as Mors, you will have the ability to control your dog, known as “warging”. Once activated, you will possess your hound and will then be able to attack and kill most enemies with a simple button tap. This is almost overpowered, though, since most enemies will die with one chomp of the dog’s bite; it is certainly easier than loading up attacks and having a battle play out. However, when you play in this form, you will be able to find hidden treasures and areas which helps with the linear nature of the game.
Overall, Game of Thrones is an excellent addition to the world that George R. R. Martin has created. The original characters mixed with the new characters come together quite well. The game feels faithful to the material, and because of its devotion, the story line is excellent. You’d expect nothing less from the master himself, and thankfully, we get a quality product. Unfortunately, there are just as many issues holding this game back from living up to its potential. There are several technical issues in the game, the battle system is complicated at first, and the scope of the game is very narrow. However, if you are looking for your Game of Thrones fix now that the season is over and the next book is years off, this game will fill that void and then some. You will have to be patient with the flaws, but we are confident that this game will grab you with its intriguing story.
This review is based off a review copy of the Playstation 3 version of Game of Thrones by Atlus