Game of Thrones: A song of trying and faltering

May 31, 2012

Before we dig into the whys and occasional bright spots, I am going to come right out and say it. You should not play Game of Thrones. It isn’t fun, it isn’t pretty, it isn’t well-acted, and in all other regards it feels like a bargain title from the previous console generation. What fun there is to be had is cribbed from better games that now retail for a lower price.

Game of Thrones’ shining point is its story. What Cyanide has strung together feels like it belongs in Martin’s dark fantasy setting. Mors and Alester, the game’s two protagonists, both have a believable and satisfying arc. Switching between two characters follows in the style of the books, and the events taking place feel organic even if the voice acting doesn’t. And it doesn’t. Throughout the 20-plus-hour slog, only rarely will dialog be delivered believably. For the lion’s share of the experience, the VO is reminiscent of PS1-era Resident Evil titles. It never manages to get to “so bad it’s good” either; it’s painful from start to finish to know that somebody paid for this, heard the delivery, and said “Yep! That’s the one!” The low-quality VO matches the low-res textures, sub-par animations and obvious character model re-use though ,so at least Cyanide’s depiction of Westeros is consistent where it can’t be accurate.

Looks aren’t everything though, and Game of Thrones manages to come up short in other areas as well. It’s not uncommon for music to just stop and restart for no apparent reason. Footsteps will cut out. Major clipping issues abound as well. It baffles me that a game made it all the way through the QA process with doors that clip through the main character as he opens them. And they’re not small doors. We’re talking 6+ foot tall doors passing through a man like he’s not there. This isn’t something that a tester missed; this is something that a tester saw and wrote up, and the dev team couldn’t figure out.

Combat has potential to be fun, and if it seems familiar to you, then it’s because you played BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins. Here though, instead of having a multitude of useful skills at your disposal, you have three useful skills and a whole lot of things you’ll never pick. Combat happens in three steps: knock enemy down, make enemy bleed, stab wound or set enemy on fire. That’s all you need and most likely all you’ll use throughout the entire game. Slowing down time instead of outright pausing it is an interesting idea though, and I hope it shows up in a better game in the future.

You’re not missing anything by skipping Game of Thrones. These aren’t characters that will show up in the next book or season of the television show. In order to make the whole thing accessible and allow for player choice, it’s all but required that all the characters are new or only interacted with in a limited way. There’s potential here, and I think that Cyanide would have come closer to realizing it if they hadn’t attached themselves to George R.R. Martin’s license. Odds are very good that you already know everything important that happened in the first book, and while the story is actually pretty good here, the format demands that it be standalone, and it’s not worth playing through for no payoff in future installments.

Pros: The story is good, but it should be license-free and a book
Cons: As a game, Game of Thrones is ugly, not fun, and bug-ridden

Score: 1/5

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