Reviews// Game of Thrones

Posted 11 Jun 2012 11:03 by
This second attempt at an A Song of Ice and Fire game from Cyanide is certainly an improvement over the much maligned A Game of Thrones: Genesis. However, it is hindered with more issues than a pox-ridden whore found in Mole Town.

A Game of Thrones (The RPG) weaves its own story through the narrative set down in the first two books of George R R Martin?s epic saga of war, intrigue and incest. It lightly touches upon events known to fans. But never directly interferes.

You take controls of two separate characters: Mors Westford, a brother of the Nights Watch, is a scarred warrior who sounds almost as ugly as he looks. The second character is a Westerosi lord turned Red Priest named Alester Sarwyck, who returns to his home of Riverspring to attend his Father?s funeral and take up his mantel of lord once more.

The game features a few familiar faces (and voices) in the form of Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Nights Watch, and Lord Varys from kings Landing. What is weird is that the game was apparently in development before the HBO series began and one can only assume that the likenesses were added in later.

It can be baffling to see other major players in The Great Game who look nothing like their television alternatives: Queen Cersei Lannister stuck out like a sore thumb for me because of how familiar I am with Lena Headey?s work in other shows; having Cersei?s voice and face completely replaced was jarring.

Voice acting is something this game struggles with. Not because it is lacking but because it is lacklustre in its delivery. A single cut-scene can last upwards of twenty minutes. What it lacks is interest, with bored sounding actors who read their lines like a child reading in front of the class, it can feel like an hour in-between game-play sections.

Game-play itself is a mixed bag, there isn?t much exploration and whilst places like Riverspring and King?s landing can feel large in scope it is mostly down to winding streets and awkward level design. Areas outside of cities tend to be small and uninspiring.

Entering in to combat in a game based on this franchise should be a visceral, intense experience, sadly, this is not the case. When you spot an enemy you enter a thinly disguised menu-driven battle system where you queue up attacks that rely on a replenishing energy resource. Your character then performs the action desired and number crunching under the hood of the game decides if you manage to stab something other than thin air.

If that sounds incredibly dull to you, then you sit in the same camp as myself and will find yourself leaning on one elbow, slouched on the sofa mashing the attack button and occasionally selecting the special attacks and then waiting to see if you can finish off an opponent before it becomes necessary to use up a portion of potion.

It does at least try to be clever at times with its combat mechanics; different weapons are more effective against the various types of armour enemy combatants come dressed in. Being able to Skin-change with Mors and step into the role of his faithful, but incredibly ugly, hound to track down scents for treasure and story line progression can be amusing, especially when you sneak up on people and maul them to death.

During character customisation you get to choose character perks that give you bonuses for attack, leadership and other things, but in an interesting and novel move you then have to balance things out by choosing several disadvantages that lower things like poison resistance and critical hit rates.

It all hints at what tries to be a thoughtful and methodical approach to combat, but for all its clever posturing it still fails quite miserably and the potential for having to handicap yourself doesn?t feel like it actually impacts game-play.

Looking at stills of the game you could be lulled into believing that it looks pretty darned good, but as soon as any of it is set in motion the illusion crumbles and you are left with stiff animations that make characters look like someone has made a crude mechanical puppet and stretched highly detailed skin over the rough, jerky frame.

One particular example came about when I was told to follow a NPC who then proceeded to half slide, half stumble across the floor following a pre-determined path that moved at sharp angles around street corners, I had to stop playing whilst I wiped the tears of laughter from my eyes.

Another painful thing that recurs throughout cut-scenes is that characters bob and weave as if drunk or fidgety whilst talking to you, it is probably to lend more life to stiff featured character models, but it just looks appallingly amateurish in comparison to other role playing games that this has to directly compete with.

The music has been ripped straight from the television show and thus is amazing, but this only goes so far as to point out the failings in the rest of the sound design. Swords clang, flesh thuds and blood splatters, but it all rings hollow and lifeless.

The voice acting as I have already mentions, but it bares mentioning one last time, is terrible, and is even more terrible when you consider the class and vigour brought to the show by talented actors, even those borrowed from the show sound tired and bored.

If only one of the many failings has to condemn this game to execution or exile to The Wall, it is the lousy presentation of the narrative.

Pros
+ Excellent music.
+ Nice texturing on character models.

Cons
- Dull combat.
- Worse Dialogue delivery.
- Unacceptable character animations.

SPOnG Score: 5/10

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