Middle ages are filled with chivalry, knights and heroes but there is also a darker side. Plots to overthrow the throne, sellswords killing people for a few coins and vagabonds lurking in the woods for their next target. Game of Thrones shows the grim side of that era and does it with amazing attention to every aspect of politics and bloodlines than any other game to date.
Game of Thrones is a medieval-fantasy 3rd person action roleplaying game. The game is set in the vast and detailed world of Westeros created by George R. R. Martin in his 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series of books that was later made as a hit HBO TV-series, Game of Thrones. The game is filled with politics, brutal executions, torture and backstabbing. The game is very brutal and unforgiving in the sense of storytelling; you'll witness the deaths of certain characters that most games would keep alive until the credits roll. There are also some unforeseen twists in the plot that you never saw coming.
The game is split into chapters and our story begins when Mors Westford, a sworn brother of the Night's Watch (a group of deserters and killers sworn to protect the northern lands of Westeros from rampaging wildlings) is sent out to investigate recent wildling sightings. The mission goes terribly wrong and soon Mors finds himself in the midst of a plot that shakes the very foundations of Westeros' royal bloodline. Once the first chapter is complete, the player gains control of the other main protagonist, Alester Sarwyck, as he returns home after 15 years to pay his respects to his deceased father. He quickly finds out that his father's death wasn't natural and that his own little brother is accused of murdering his own father. Alester then sets out to discover the true killer of his father and quickly gets caught in the same web of politic powerplay as Mors. The chapters with Mors take place in 'present day' and when playing with Alester, you're taken to few months in the past. This makes the story very interesting since the player is always aware of what is going to happen but doesn't know the events that led to them. The game is over in about 30 hours and has few side quests on each chapter which are totally optional.
The story of Game of Thrones is very well written, I haven't seen better writing in any game since I started my gaming 'career' back in the 80's. This does have a downside since most of the time you're listening to endless ramblings about the politics of the game world and trying to figure out what to answer. The game is heavily dialogue-driven and the choices you make during these long and tedious discussions affect the world and it's events directly. Most of the battles can be passed by paying close attention to your replies. The depth of these replies are nowhere near Bioware's equivalents but they still make you feel like your actions really have an impact on the story and how it plays out. Unfortunately, the sound actors are awful. Especially Mors sounds like a bad imitation of Solid Snake. The character models also show no emotion making the game feel like a low-budget indie movie. The dialogue also features some very excessive swearing, with 'horseshit' being the most popular word. Some developers do anything to get 'M' on the game box.
The game plays much like World of Warcraft, you move your character around the (very few and small) areas by keyboard and select objects with your mouse. You can move the camera with the right mouse button but you can't zoom it. This is very annoying since most of the areas are very cramped and maze-like. Once you encounter an enemy, battle commences. The battles are fought real-time and can be switched to slow motion. Slow motion looks very cool and helps you with selecting abilities and potions to aid you. The abilities are very handy and especially the ability to knock down an enemy proved to be the superweapon of the middle ages. The enemies you come across are a very welcome change to your basic goblins and ogres found on any other fantasy RPG; since the game is a 'realistic' medieval-fantasy game, the only enemies you encounter are humans. This offcourse means that they aren't very varied and even the models are copied over and over again. They must've invented cloning in the dark ages. The target selection is mostly done automatically but it doesn't work half the time; usually your character just stands there taking a beating. Same goes with your companions, they're always rushing toward the closest enemy breaking your effort to stealthly go past them just to stand next to them. Very irritating. Some battles end with your character doing a bloody finishing move on the last enemy but these look ridiculous; your character just swings his weapon around the enemy and blood splatters all round.
During your travels you collect loot which includes weapons and armor. Each weapon type is strong against a certain armor type; cutting weapons do extra damage against light armor, perforating against medium and blunt against heavy. Luckily you have two different weapon sets so you can easily change between them when facing different enemies. The armors in Game of Thrones are also done little differently than in other games. Instead of having a fixed number representing armor class, the armor in this game directly affect your characters hit point. The better the armor, the more hit points you have. The selected weapon also affects skills you can use, some skills can only be used with a two-handed weapon for example.
Once you've accumulated enough experience, your character(s) gains a new level and your given few points to distribute to your attributes and skills. The attributes are familiar to anyone who's ever played roleplaying games before; there's Strength, Agility, Luck, Endurance and Intelligence. Each attribute affects a certain aspect of the game, strength for example directly determines how much combat damage your character does. It's nothing like the similar system in Fallout 2 but it does make you think twice before spending your hard earned attribute points. Skills are categorized in several different categories; there are general skills (weapon and armor spealizations, like axes and heavy armor), stance skills (these include special abilities like poisoned weapon and massive area attacks and the stance is selected at the beginning of the game), special skills that depend on the main character (Mors has a dog as a special companion that can learn new abilities and Alester, being a priest of the Fire God R'hllor, has abilities that allow him to deal fire damage for example) and then there are strengths and weaknesses which remind Fallout's Perks; you can select any amount of these at the beginning of the game but they have to be balanced. You'll also gain these during your adventures based on your actions. When you reach level 7 you can choose a specilization class for your character. You can either select one that supports your beginning stance or select a completely new one and try a totally different style of play.
The special skills of the main protagonists can also be used outside of combat. Alester's Vision of R'hllor can be used to find hidden switches and loot and Mors' Skinchanger ability allows him to directly control his dog. Playing with the dog is fun and makes the game a lot easier; with it, you can kill isolated enemies with a simple, mouse-thrashing minigame. If you manage to click the mouse button fast enough, your dog will rip the throat of an unexpecting victim. The dog can also be used to follow scents of a certain character or to find a hidden stash. The dog controls are very lousy and the viewpoint moves like it's on steroids.
The game uses UnrealEngine 3 so you'd expect great graphics that run on just any computer out there. Too bad Game of Thrones is the expection that makes the rule; the graphics are ok, especially the various armors in the game look great but some textures look like they're from the 90's, not to mention the visual settings are limited to Game and Texture Quality. The game ran good but sometimes there were some stutters with camera; when turning it, it suddenly swinged from one side to the other. The game also has an awful lot of technical clitches; during finishing moves the sound played and the blood splatters were displayed correctly but the characters just standed there doing nothing, guards walking around carrying invisible weapons and characters dropping in from the sky during dialogue. The camera is awful and most of the time you'll be staring at either the wall or the backside of your character.
Game of Thrones shows modern games (and any other game for that matter) how to write an interesting, deep story. I could write the plot here but Felix would have my head for filling the GD servers with medieval politics. Unfortunately the combat and gameplay really bring this jewel down along with it's multiple technical problems that show their ugly face on every corner. Most of players might be turned away by the sheer amount of dialogue but if you're into a deep, compelling story and don't mind half-baked gameplay, Game of Thrones is a gem. Especially the fans of the books and/or series should give this a go.