by Ryan Sandrey
reviewed on PC
Wrestling for control (cntd)
The combat itself is also an awkward system, but it’s perfectly serviceable after a few times wrestling with getting your characters to attack who you wish them to attack. Outside of the normal battles, you are able to use Mors’s Skinchanger ability in order to control his trusted dog. If you are using him to track scents, or to rip the throats out of unsuspecting enemies it does make a welcome and unique change from what you usually see in games.
One of the most annoying things about Game of Thrones, however, is a change that isn’t a welcome one- broken, or glitched, set-pieces. Several times during the game, there were moments that inspired complete frustration, because the game throws almost insurmountable obstacles at you. The most notable is a situation where you’re defending a cottage from invading soldiers, and you have to stop them from battering down the doors and attacking your companion. This, as it turns out, was much easier said than done. As the mission evolved, you were alerted to the door where enemies were congregating. However, several times whilst engaging the assailants in combat, the door would be battered down with nobody near it. When such a glitch prompts a Game Over screen and forces you to replay a certain scenario many times, it’s utterly irritating.
It isn’t the only time when Game of Thrones stokes anger in the player, however. As you progress through the game, and begin to wrap up the storylines, the battles become completely unbalanced from enemy to enemy. Whilst supposedly elite soldier pose no real challenge, units as generally useless as archers and pyromancers become almost invincible to melee attacks. This creates an environment where more time is spent grinding your way through such fights rather than using any kind of skilled technique. It’s a real shame, because it sours the game.
A bard’s tale
However, despite the bad taste the set-pieces and combat leave, the story and the universe in which it takes place feel as incredible as the books. This feeling is an absolute necessity to keep Game of Thrones worth experiencing. Although relatively linear progression means you only visit a handful of the many famous cities of Westeros, there are occasions when you have to pinch yourself due to the fact you are exploring the Throne Room at King’s Landing, or when you are wandering around The Gift under the shadow of the Wall.
The main bulk of the game’s hook is definitely within the intertwining tales of Alester and Mors, however. With relatively few side-quests until the later chapters of the game, it is left to the main story to carry the bulk of your 20 hours spent in Westeros. It’s lucky, therefore, that the choices you make throughout the game really do make a difference to how you progress and how the game ends. One of the main ways Game of Thrones does this is by affecting what traits you gain along the way. Making the right decisions at the right time can give you bonuses in combat.
Although that is one way to change your character’s abilities, there are still normal methods of levelling up and selecting new powers from skill trees to allow you to really make Alester and Mors excellent fighters. If you are unhappy with the class you chose at the beginning, you can adjust your skills throughout the game in order to counter that. This includes, when reaching a certain level, the ability to unlock a new skill tree. All in all, Game of Thrones allows a considerable amount of growth for your characters, and it’s great to see.
Do my eyes deceive me?
What isn’t so great to see is the game itself. Although the graphics on the PC version are relatively decent, there are a few problems with dodgy animations and blurry textures that mean the game looks as dated as some of the game mechanics. The overall presentation itself betrays the game’s low budget – the stilted voice actors that voice the characters who haven’t appeared in the TV series can begin to grate. Luckily, every now and then there is a cameo from someone like Varys the Spider or Commander Mormont, voiced by their TV counterparts, which breaks the monotony.
Overall, Game of Thrones is a surprising title. Not because the game’s low budget shows through in the presentation, but because the story itself is so memorable. Considering tie-ins to television series and movies are generally poorly written affairs, Cyanide have broke the mould with a gripping and interesting story that slots nicely into the lore of Westeros. If you’re a fan of the TV series, or the books, then Game of Thrones is an excellent game to fill the long wait for the next series, provided you can look past some of its exasperating shortcomings. You should look past them, because once you do, you find an enthralling experience underneath. It’s just a shame that the game is too irritating at times to let you truly enjoy it.
Gripping story and excellent atmosphere.
Annoying combat, poor presentation and irritating set-pieces.