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Game of Thrones

Score: 70%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Cyanide Studio
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

I've been worried about Game of Thrones since it was announced. Licensed games tend to be awful more often than not, and this one in particular is dealing with a license that is very near and dear to me. I'm happy to report that this game knows where its priorities lie, even though the execution isn't as successful as I hoped it would be. Storytelling is front and center in Game of Thrones, so much to the point where it is its sole redeeming factor. The actual game is, for lack of better descriptors, not fun. If you are invested in the fiction of George R. R. Martin, you should play Game of Thrones, albeit with a very open mind. If you are not, stay away.

Game of Thrones is an unattractive game. Granted, Westeros is an unattractive place, but the show doesn't portray the Seven Kingdoms as rife with blurry surfaces and empty towns. Characters often literally appear out of nowhere. Westeros is absolutely full of human misery, and the lack of NPCs in most towns (particularly King's Landing) is absolutely striking. Also worthy of note is the lack of gruesome violence. The most recent episode of Game of Thrones featured the image of a man getting his skull horizontally bisected. I'm a red-blooded American male, and my gaming philosophy isn't exactly "No blood, no boobs, no way." That being said, it's such an important part of this license that its absence is difficult to shrug off.

Sound design is hit and miss. The soundtrack doesn't reach the same heights as its television counterpart, but it fits the world perfectly. I especially like the deep, airy gloominess of the music played at Castle Black. Voice acting is extremely inconsistent, leaning mostly towards the bad side. Conleth Hill and James Cosmo reprise their roles as Varys and Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, and though their performances are identifiable, they aren't as vivacious and engaging as they are on the television screen. Leading characters Mors and Alester aren't much fun to listen to, though that's more a fault of the writing than the performance of the actors.


Game of Thrones begins shortly before the events of A Game of Thrones and primarily deals with two main characters. Mors Westford is a Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch, and a damned strict one at that. His quest deals with the protection of a runaway. Alester Sarwyck is the son of a recently dead lord who has returned to his home after fifteen years in Braavos, one of the Free Cities in Essos. He has become a red priest, and aims to spread the R'hllor faith. Unfortunately for him, his holdings are placed in jeopardy due to a dubious arranged marriage. Of course, there's more to it than that. All you need to know is that the major players are fascinating and well-developed. However, despite the bleakness of A Song of Ice and Fire, there is still humanity and warmth. Game of Thrones possesses neither, resulting in a narrative experience that is as dour and joyless as it is interesting.

Game of Thrones is Dragon Age lite. You run from quest point to quest point, pausing time and again to become ensnared in a battle or two. You acquire wealth, gear, and skills throughout your adventuring, all while bringing the gripping story towards its conclusion.

I'll delve into what makes Game of Thrones not so much fun to play later on, but one of its key failings is in how underpopulated its world is. You'll do so much running through vast empty corridors that you will often catch yourself wondering why they didn't simply cut out the unnecessary exploration in the first place. If they really wanted to bring places like King's Landing and The Wall to life, they needed to go all out. As it is, I'd rather simply jump from conversation to battle over and over again.

As mentioned, the story is good, so good that I approve of it as a supplement to the official canon. However, the manner in which the story is delivered isn't up to standards. So much of what is said is unnecessary, and I found myself skipping through each line's delivery just to get to something really interesting. Luckily, you get to make some really interesting choices that impact what kind of character you are from a gameplay and story-based perspective.


Game of Thrones isn't very difficult, but you won't know it until a few hours in. There's initially a lot to soak in; what attacks work in which situations, which weapons work best on which armor types, and so on. However, once you get a few levels under your belt, you will gain access to skills that turn the odds heavily in your favor. Enemies tend to hit rather hard, so besides having flasks of milk of the poppy handy, a better defense is a better offense. Stop them from hitting you, and you'll win every battle. Unlock and use as many interrupt attacks as you possibly can, and you'll escape each enemy encounter with life to spare.

Finding where to go isn't terribly unintuitive, though most of the mini-map occupying a corner of the screen is useless. No roads or paths are outlined; only things to interact with and objectives are highlighted. Locations can only be fast-traveled to; there's no open world to speak of. This might diminish the sense of scale that the books and television show work so hard to establish, but it's not that big a deal.

Game Mechanics:

Game of Thrones has a combat system that is interesting in a few ways and uninvolving in several others. It's yet another of those systems that allows the player to inflict a certain amount of damage per second. In between these swipes, you can queue up a series of special attacks, provided you have the energy. Some attacks are best used in sequence; one that causes bleeding might be best followed by one that causes more damage to existing wounds. What I particularly like about the combat system is how opening the radial wheel containing your skills does not pause time. However, the combat lacks impact and isn't much fun to watch.

Character customization is minimal, but interesting. You can't alter your appearance, but you've got control over the classics: strength, intelligence, endurance, and the like. You can also divvy out specialization points to the weapons you want to use. Speaking of which, you can customize two weapon sets to switch between as you need. There are also special strengths and weaknesses you can choose between when you "create" your characters. Each strength and each weakness carries a numeric value; you cannot add a strength without adding a weakness. A numeric balance must be met before you can start the game, but you will earn strengths as you progress.

Each of the two playable characters has a special ability that can be used outside of combat. Mors has a trusty dog at his side. That would be helpful in and of itself, but what I didn't mention is that Mors is a warg, a skinchanger. He can become his dog and do things that dogs do: track scents, search for buried treasure, and thin out groups of enemies via stealth and throat gouging. Alester is a red priest of R'hllor; if he needs to find where to go or locate objects of interest, all he needs to do is consult the flames.

If you're looking for anything to supplement your Song of Ice and Fire experience, or if you simply can't wait for The Winds of Winter and the third season of the popular HBO adaptation, you would do well to check Game of Thrones out. It's not an impressive game by any stretch of the imagination, but it tells a story that is worth experiencing.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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