Nice review, I plan to check the game out eventually, sadly this is about what I expected out of it
A Very Meme-ingful Review for Game of Thrones: the Game
Release date: May 15, 2012
I don't know if I can call myself a huge fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin. I've read the first book, and I loved it, but I've yet to pick up another or watch the HBO series. That didn't stop me from wanting to pick up the game from the moment I heard about it, and I have to admit that the lackluster reviews the day it was released were a huge disappointment to me. One thing I've learned in all my years gaming, however, is that IGN and I don't mix, so regardless of their negative opinion of the game, I decided that I was going to see for myself just how bad it could be. After all, it's an RPG set in a fantasy world that has already been set up by some critically acclaimed books... there's no way a game based on that could be bad, right?
The plot is well written, and could very well be straight out of the books- the South is fighting for the throne like ants while something mystical and terrifying is gaining strength in the North. Game of Thrones (the game) hyper-focuses on just a brief time period and one specific story, and as such is a microcosm of the struggle going on throughout Westeros- the main continent in the Ice and Fire series. The game is set during the first book, also called Game of Thrones, and runs concurrent to the events of the book. While players will encounter characters from the books in their play through, they are not dealing with events in the book, the story is completely original and stands on its own, even to people unfamiliar with the world. If you've never read Game of Thrones (or if it's been a while), the names and tidbits of info that are dropped to help you place the game into the timeline of the books won't make much sense, but the story gets its point across even with that slight confusion.
In Game of Thrones, you play as Mors and Alester, two silver foxes who spend the basically whole game avoiding the consequences of decisions they made 15 years prior. The chapters alternate between Alester's story and Mors' story, until they converge, roughly midway through the game. These are extremely flawed characters, who have made a great deal of mistakes in their lives, yet they are brought to life skillfully enough that you will care about them by the end of the game. Unless you're dead inside- then you care about nothing, and this game can do nothing to change that. Actually, to be honest, you're better off than the rest of us in this case.
When I first began reading the book Game of Thrones, I was told by someone who loved the series, "the best thing you can do is not get too attached to anyone in the book; there's no guarantee that they'll survive to be in the next one." That was excellent- if cryptic- advice that I ignored, to my own sadness (which probably contributed quite a bit to the fact that I have not read the rest of the books). The game's plot is in the same vein. Regardless of how well written it is, this is still one of the most depressing games I've ever played, and at times it seems almost intentional, as if the goal was to weigh players down so much that it would take them a long time to shake the feeling that the game inflicted on them. During the 15-20 hours you'll spend in Westeros, you'll witness beheadings, infanticide, forced sodomy, necrophilia, rape of children, young women and old women, and 8000 forms of murder (rough estimate). Most of these atrocities are simply alluded to, or happen while the camera is looking in a different direction, but others are things that players witness and can do nothing to stop.
Depressing as it is, the plot is basically the pay off for the game. If you don't like the books, don't like the universe it's set in, and don't like the premise that the stories are built on, don't bother picking up the game. As far as an RPG goes, without the name Game of Thrones and the story to go with it, Game of Thrones just doesn't stand on its own. The game is very linear, with no real exploration allowed. Side quests are sparse, averaging one very short side quest per chapter. Combat is insanely boring and frustrating, it's basically the same as Dragon Age: Origins, but slower. The in-combat action menus lack any intuition or cohesion, and since the game does not pause in the action menu, flipping through them to find what you're looking for can cost you health.
Most enemies wear armor in Game of Thrones, and each armor has a weakness to a specific weapon type, so the most effective combat uses several different types of weapons. However, when you create your character, you choose a fighting "stance" that grants bonuses to specific weapons, and essentially renders strategy useless. Combat comes down to just equipping the weapons you're strongest with and beating the enemies senseless, regardless of what he is weak against. Leveling your character doesn't provide many customization options, you're basically following a set track, and it takes a long time to get to anything worthwhile.
For the first half of the game, money is pretty scarce, and buying armor and weapons isn't possible, so you have to make do with mostly crummy loot that you find on your dead enemies. Luckily, the weapons and armor in shops isn't really much better than the drops, so by the time you can afford the best equipment in a shop you'll most likely have picked up better equipment anyway. Besides weapons and armor, each character can carry up to 4 flasks or gourds (that you buy a few of and find the rest), which hold 3 or 4 doses of a potion, poison or oil. Potions heal, poisons kill enemies, and oils have special effects on the characters. After a few hours, I discarded any poisons and oils in favor of potions. Again, strategy was out the door, in favor of a hack and slash (and heal) method. Combat had become something to just suffer through to get back to the story.
Besides the lack of fun in combat, the gameplay was largely plagued by bugs. Characters floating in the air, getting stuck on walls, and blocking the way happened frequently. While I didn't have any freezing problems, I did have to reload a save a few times, because I was chasing a character for an achievement who got stuck in a barrel. If I hadn't had multiple saves in each chapter, I may have had to start the game over entirely just for the one achievement. The lesson here, folks, is save a lot! But not too often, there are only a set number of save slots available, and at the end you'll need a few different saves if you want to get all the achievements in a single play through.
Graphically, this isn't the worst game that has ever come out, but it's not the best either. The characters aren't pretty, the world is grainy, dirty and generic, and everything is rough around the edges. None of the charm that exists in the stories translates into the games. Even some of the most horrifying scenes are somehow lessened in intensity due to the unrealistic way they're portrayed. The mediocrity of the graphics is why nearly all my visual aids for this review are memes. Also, memes are hilarious, and I need some palate cleansing after the game!
To illustrate my point...
Another mediocre element in Game of Thrones is the voice acting. None of the characters are outright terrible, but only a few are anything resembling good, and those are mostly from the HBO series. The music isn't terribly memorable, either- even the scores taken from the show, and the whole game can be played muted without missing anything important. I'm a sucker for gruff tough guys, though, so I did enjoy Mors' voice actor.
From beginning to end, the whole game is around 20 hours, but that doesn't include time lost when you die in a sparse auto-save period, or having to completely redo a chapter when you realize you completely missed a side quest and have to go back and do it before you can move on. Every achievement can be obtained in a single play through, which is good because there's a large chance that you won't want to go back to it again when you're finished. There are 4 different endings, and you'll need 2 of them to get both ending achievements, but by the time I was done, nothing on heaven or Earth could persuade me to go back and do the final fights all over again just to check out what would have happened if I'd have chosen the other options. There's just not a lot to do outside of the main story line and the couple of side quests. That includes exploring the towns, it just isn't worth the time.
TL;DR WRAP UP!
While the story is pretty phenomenal (albeit super dark, and a bit spirit crushing), and really showcases how much room there is in the Ice and Fire universe for spin-offs and side stories, it's not enough to overcome the lack of attention paid to developing (or even copying) a successful combat system and polishing the graphics. Yes, the story is a payoff, but only the most die hard fans of the series can walk away from this game feeling satisfied. For the rest of us, this game delivers a "Lost: Via Domus" experience, and leaves us feeling sad for what could have been!
LENGTH/ REPLAY VALUE: 6
FINAL SCORE: 6.5/10