No sooner than the final credits roll for the end of season two of the TV hit A Game of Thrones and developers Cyanide have rather sensibly released a game based on the rich story world of A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of books upon which the popular TV series is based on. So as we all wait patiently for the third season to kick off, in a round a year’s time, we can take part in a unique tale that has been vetted and authorised by the author, George R.R. Martin himself.
Rather than step all over what has come before and possibly ruin what fans get from the books and also the TV show, this is a separate story, far away from the events that fans are familiar with but close enough that it fits seamlessly into the general Song of Ice and Fire canon, with many familiar places, ideals and faces taking part.
Straight from the start we are on very familiar territory, with the camera panning across a map of the Kingdoms and giving us a brief update on what has come to pass, cutting to a chase through the frozen wastes of the Northern Borders of Westeros, where criminals and knights work side by side, patrolling a 700 foot wall of ice, fighting back the ever present horde of Wildlings and other unmentionable horrors that want to pass and wreak havoc across the Seven Kingdoms. Knights join for honour, criminals do it out of choice, it’s either working here or the gallows. You play as Mors Westford, a man there not out of choice but still takes his oath to the Night’s Watch very seriously, patrolling Castle Black and its surrounding ruins, beheading deserters and putting new recruits through their paces. Mors is a gruff veteran ranger and also a Skinchanger, which means he is able to control a familiar, which in Mors’ case is a ferocious pit-bull dog. The story immediately settles you into the familiar tales of betrayal and dark characters and just as you start to get into the swing of things and taking on an ambush of Wildlings the game takes a surprising turn as we join a second main character, this time at Riverspring, a city in turmoil following the death of its ruler. Your next character is introduced as Alester Sarwyck, the returning son of the fallen Lord, who left 15 years ago to cross the Narrow Sea and become a priest of R’hllor. Since his departure the city has fallen apart but his return is not welcome by all, with many blaming him for the ruin and ultimately the death of his father. Not only struggling with the death of his father, Alester must face many hard truths as to why he ran away in the first place, dealing with many accusations surrounding his father’s death and also coping with the rioting locals that have all but turned on their once great city.
Being an action/role playing game; the action itself is a hybrid of real time fighting and character management. With both characters you are able to stack up to three attacks or actions, each one being spent in order, be it a simple sword swipe to more powerful special moves, defensive moves or drinking a flask to boost your health. With the bumper buttons you are able to slow down the action to almost a crawl, giving you time to decide what next stack of moves you want to dish out, change focus to another enemy or even take control of one of you brothers in arms to see battle through their perspective, or in Mors case, even control his Pit-bull. The radial attack menu allows you to stack moves and combine specials with the rest of the team to maximize their efficiency, making sure you use the right attacks for the many styles of armour worn by your foes. This sounds very similar to the Dragons Age style of combat but is sadly very unresponsive and really does not put you in the battle, making you feel like a bit of a bystander, watching you r characters just swinging swords or shooting arrows as you occasionally press a button until the baddie falls; thank heavens for a decent story otherwise this game would be a complete miss.
Though your character is pre-set, you can tinker with fighting styles and attributes to suit your gaming type. With Mors you can have a sword and shield, double handed weapons or duel wielding, each of course coming with their own pros and cons, leaving it to you to choose to play as the more mobile version with swift attacks or slower more cumbersome heavy armour and just bludgeoning your enemies. Alester is a little different, with a more ranged approach in his fighting styles, enabling him to become an archer. An interesting addition to the usual point allocation for attributes is the Strengths and Weaknesses, allowing you to add positive and negative bonuses to the characters and whilst they are not mandatory, they can really change the way you play. The idea is to have a perfect balance of gifts, leaving well alone is acceptable but if you want to add a little depth to your character you will need to make some tough choices; say you include the gift of being able work well in a team, you will then be require you to balance this out with some bad points, be it having butterfingers with a higher chance of dropping a flask to having an even worse reaction to poisons.
Another plus point for the game is that the inventory system between all characters is refreshingly easy to use, with benefits of each item shown against what you currently have and from here you can equip potions, set up your secondary tier of weapons (can change instantly between the two in game with click of the left stick) and upgrade your character as you level up for even more powerful moves.
Being based around a TV show you would expect a high standard of voice acting and on the whole it works, with the addition of the familiar choices of texts to choose from on how to react during a conversation, though most of the time it feels like whatever you say, the outcome will always be the same. The presentation of the game is a mixed affair, with some well-designed environments with deep details and beautiful vistas that we all expect from the show being let down by some lacklustre character animation and designs that look a bit too basic for this otherwise realistic world.
Game of Thrones fans are going to absolutely love this game, since they will be more than willing to pass on the negative points and enjoy this title. At its heart, A Game of Thrones has a great little side story to the main plot and therefore those whilst patiently for the start of the next season at least have something to keep them occupied. There are other, better RPG’s around, although none of them are based on one of the most popular set of books around.
Rating: Below AverageReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
You can order A Game of Thrones here.