by Ryan Sandrey, reviewed on
A tool for every task, and a task for every tool
Game of Thrones has been one of the breakout series of late from the book world. With a highly successful series (A Song of Ice and Fire) and two series of the exceptional HBO drama based on those books (titled Game of Thrones after the first book), it’s hard to avoid its reach. Video-games, on the other hand, have been somewhat out of grasp for the series, or at least GOOD games have. The previous incarnation, A Game of Thrones: Genesis, was generally perceived to be a rather average and uninteresting strategy title.
However, the second of the games in the agreement between George R.R. Martin and Cyanide, Game of Thrones hopes to turn the tide. A role-playing game seems perfectly suited to the expansive lands of Westeros and, boasting an original story that ties into the world of the books and television series, it seems there is a winning formula there. Does it live up to expectation?
You win or you die
In Game of Thrones, there are two stories in Westeros for you to play through that intertwine as you progress through the game. In the first of the two threads encountered, you play as a disgraced knight named Ser Mors Westford, exiled to the Night’s Watch after the Baratheon Rebellion. After you capture and execute a deserter, you learnt that one of the Watch has attacked and killed a new recruit. Embarking on a quest with the surviving recruits, you leave The Wall to track them down. Once you have done so, you return to Castle Black to some disturbing news, and a new quest begins to take shape.
Running concurrently alongside this story of wildling infiltration and civil war, there is another story involving Alester Sarwyck, the son of Lord Raynald Sarwyck, returning home to Riverspring to bury his father after 15 years outside of Westeros. Upon your return, you see that Riverspring itself is threatened by a problem close to home, and you set out to secure your seat as Lord of Riverspring. As you progress through the game, however, Mors and Alester’s paths cross in the most deadly of ways, forcing you to make important decisions along the way.
Although the situation both men find themselves in is perilous, they are more than equipped to fight their way out of it. The biggest determiner of how Game of Thrones plays out is, in true RPG fashion, through selection of classes. As a Ranger, Mors is able to select from three classes – Landed Knight (good with a sword and shield, and wears heavy armour), a Hedge Knight (good with two-handed swords and ranged weapons, with good resistance to damage) and the Magnar (a fierce melee brawler possessing dual wielded weapons, medium armour and great mobility).
As a Red Priest, Alester has access to a very different class set. He can either be an Archer (a ranged bowman... you know what an Archer is.), a Sellsword (a Mercenary, fast on his feet, with medium armour and deftness with a blade) or a Water Dancer (a fluid, agile swordsmen with light armour for easy dodges). After assigning points to your skills, traits and ability with weapon types and armour, both men are ready for action.
Wrestling for control
Much like the Usurper Robert Baratheon wrestled control from Aerys the Mad in the War of the Usurper, so too does the player have to wrestle control of the game from the clutches of a poor control scheme. With the likes of The Witcher 2 advancing the cause of RPGS, Game of Thrones in comparison feels rather outdated. The camera is controlled by holding the right mouse button to rotate it, which is rather outmoded. Using numpad 7 and 9 to quickly switch between targets during combat is similarly antiquated, and just as irritating.
Gripping story and excellent atmosphere.
Annoying combat, poor presentation and irritating set-pieces.