Let me push up my hipster-douche glasses as I say that I’ve had a special relationship with the A Song of Ice & Fire series long before the popular HBO adaptations. For those of you who don’t know what the hell this “A Song of Ice & Fire” business is all about, let me further push my hipster-douche cred by explaining that A Song of Ice & Fire is what George R. R. Martin named the series that you probably know as Game of Thrones.
I first came across Game of Thrones back in 2005 or 2006, well into when the series began. But allow me the glory moment of sneering “I knew about A Game of Thrones before it was popular.”
Alright, you may now punch these hipster-douche glasses off of me as we move onto the actual review. The point is, I’m really excited about all things A Song of Ice & Fire related. I was hoping someone would find the gem that was A Game of Thrones and adapt it into a TV show. Lo and behold, someone at HBO saw the potential for some good cable TV in the midst of all that political backstabbing and incest. I did a private celebratory dance when winter finally came to cable TV last spring, but then I wondered about the potential for A Game of Thrones videogame. There was already A Game of Thrones board game… so why not take transmedia to the next level?
Enter Cyanide Studios with A Game of Thrones: Genesis. I never got the chance to play it myself, but Sam’s less-than-stellar review of it was enough to keep me away. After Genesis was released to a tide of ‘meh’, Cyanide Studios announced that they had purchased up the rights to make another Game of Thrones videogame, promising that this time it was going to be bigger and better.
I guess bigger and better was a bit ambitious, although altogether not a lie. Cyanide decided to tackle on a full 30+ hour RPG with Game of Thrones, complete with a deep and interesting story that matches the complexity and walls-of-texts of the original book series. The game opens with a compelling cinematic, but rather than playing to the strengths of a visual, interactive medium, Cyanide decides to opt for giant walls-of-text for the opening of every chapter.
No worries, the small text I’m forced to squint at, at the opening of every chapter doesn’t kill the atmosphere that’s been set by the awesome cinematics or anything. I don’t even think that it’s lazy storytelling on the writers’ parts for copping out and not revealing exposition through gameplay. After all, if you’re playing the A Game of Thrones videogame, then you’re probably a big fan of the books. If you’re a big fan of the series, then reading through just a few pages of text is nothing compared to wading your way through the tome that was A Feast for Crows, right?
After slogging through a wall of eye-killing exposition, you come to the character customization screen for Mors Westford, the grizzled, balding old guy you were introduced to in the brief cinematic. You’re first able to choose between three types of combat style that all vary between different types of tanky warriors. Then, you’re able to dump your characters points in for special attacks and weaponry skills—all fairly standard for a RPG. After that process, you come to what I think is the most interesting character customization option included in Game of Thrones that gives it a little bit of a table-top RPG feel.
You can choose to pick (or not pick) character traits to play with for your character. It’s an interesting mechanic because each of these character traits can have a negative or positive effect on your character. Picking a positive or negative character trait will add a number to the “balance” on your character in terms of being skewed to having too positive or too negative of traits. This means that if you want to have a good trait for your character, such as ‘Good leader’, you’ll also need another trait, or another number of detrimental traits that add up to the “good” points that stack up for your character to balance your character out.
After the character creation process is over, you come to… yet another cut scene. I have to warn you now. If you were looking to really be able to explore the world of Westeros through this game, I’m sad to say that you’re going to be quite limited in your view. Game of Thrones is very linear and cut scene-heavy. There’s about as much side content and cut scenes as the Uncharted series, so expect to spend most of your “playing” time with your controller on the couch.