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The Name of the Game: Lucrative franchise branding can’t salvage Game of Thrones lack of innovation 

First in a series of novels, Game of Thrones has been through the proverbial entertainment media ringer.

click to enlarge gameofthrones_screens_launch_04.jpg
First in a series of novels, Game of Thrones has been through the proverbial entertainment media ringer. It's been a comic book, a board game, a card game, an HBO series and, finally, a video game. The books were a hit, the HBO series is doing well, but the game… well, it could draw comparisons to Dragon Age, The Witcher or Elder Scrolls, except that it just doesn't measure up to the standards set by either.

The setting is the land of Westeros, and while that seems a decent enough environment to base a game – and it is wonderfully envisioned by the developers, Cyanide – there are only two story threads that the game tracks. The first is the story of Ser Mors Westford, a knight of the Night's Watch working from Castle Black in the shadow of the Wall. Mors is a foul-mouthed veteran with a gruff appearance and demeanor.


There is really nothing appealing about the character and nothing that draws the gamer back to his story, aside from the story itself. It begins with the rape and beating death of a recruit and moves into a tale of hostile infiltration and pending civil war. The second story follows Alester Sarwyck who is returning to Riverspring to bury his father. As it turns out, Alester needs to claim the title of Lord of Riverspring and try to save his homeland.

 

Like most RPGs, there are class trees to climb to refine combat styles. Mors can become a Landed Knight (sword and shield plus heavy armor), a Hedge Knight (two-handed swords, ranged weapons), or a Magnar (melee brawler, dual-wielding with medium armor but some agility.) Alester can become an Archer (ranged), a Sellsword (blade, agility and medium armor) or a Water Dancer (sword, fast with light armor). Points can be allocated to the various areas after leveling up through experience points gained.

Game of Thrones (the video-game) is a low-fantasy tale with a storyline that’s new to the franchise. While the game allows conversation choices, it forces players into a somewhat linear storyline with only the two characters from which to choose. The control scheme is on the cumbersome side and that hampers the game enjoyment. The narrative for the game, including the dialogue (and voice acting) is based off choices the player makes during conversations and, leaves something to be desired, as well.

THE GOOD:

Graphically, the game is pretty solid, and the menus – though cumbersome in combat – are easy to navigate. This is the kind of game you can jump in and play right away without having to consult instructions or much of anything else.

THE BAD:

The combat is simply not very good. The game uses the model where you can pause and queue up actions, as well as jump from one character to another, but it feels cumbersome. The dialogue choices are presented on a wheel menu, with several choices available (like the Dragon Age games, or other popular RPGs), but the dialogue also feels slightly out of place and aimed at being rough and aggressive instead of cutting simply to the heart of the matter.

The story is linear, and customizations are limited.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Players who launch into this game expecting an experience on par with BioWare's Dragon Age, leads to disappointment. The potential for the title was evident in the wealth of background material and the story world, but the storylines, dialogue and characters are simply too limited to make this a game worth investing a lot of time.

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