Game Review: Game Of Thrones (Xbox 360)


So you’re going to make a game based on George R.R. Martin’s amazingly detailed Song of Ice & Fire series? It’s going to be an adult orientated RPG? It’s will take place during the period of the first book, Game of Thrones? It will star 2 new characters, 1 from the South & another from the North but they will meet & interact with characters from the book?

It sounds too good to be true…

So I’m a big fan of a Song of Ice & Fire, enough so that I’m pretty protective of the series & get a bit frustrated with people who declare that they love ‘Game of Thrones’ but poo-poo the idea of reading the series. When word came to me that an action RPG existed based on the series I envisioned a game on the scale of The Witcher 2 or Kingdoms of Amular, I even hoped for another possible Skyrim, I should have known better.

The world of A Song of Ice & Fire is huge & extremely detailed. To create an RPG based in it would take years of work & a momentous amount of effort & money; it’s not a project I can see many developers/publishers funding. It’s the kind of series that if you are not going to do it right…don’t do it all.

So here we are, Game of Thrones…the game.

The game takes place in chapters, alternating between playing as the Red Priest Alester Sarwyck, and the skinchanger Mors Westford.

Alester’s side of the story takes place in the South as he returns to his family’s land of Riverspring to attend the funeral of his father. Turns out his brother, Gawen is up for the murder since he was disinherited but he is now missing. In the absence of any lord of Riverspring, Alester’s sister has been betrothed to his bastard brother, Valarr who is supported by the Crown.

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Alester must solve the murder of his father, find his brother & win back his lands.

Mors Westford’s side of the story begins on the wall where he has hunted down a deserter of the nights watch.

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While hunting down others he runs into wildings & engages in a fierce battle before being saved by more men of the nights watch. Upon returning to Castle Black he receives a message from the Kings Hand, Jon Arryn asking Mors to protect a girl who has been sent to the North. A lot of people want her dead including the Queen….

Mors must solve the mystery behind the girl while honouring his promise to Jon Arryn & his vows to the nights watch.

Eventually both characters stories will cross-over as well.

I’ve been deliberately vague with the story description above as I don’t want to ruin to much of the games strongest point…the story. It’s well done & feels like it fits within the world, it has plenty of twists & turns & an outcome that may not be as obvious as it first seems.

Sadly I can’t offer the same amount of praise for the rest of the game.

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Let’s start with how it looks…it is an ugly game. Textures are rough & they pop in & out when they please. Characters float on air, walk through walls & stand inside coffins even when they are sealed. It’s lazy & unacceptable for a game that is on the X-Box 360. Truthfully it doesn’t look like an X-Box 360 game at all & in cut-scenes it really falls down. Your characters will wear the armour you have dressed them in except for the helmet unless you toggle this option on.

So you can be wearing you helmet during a cut-scene & characters will still interact as if you are not. Receiving the kiss of life? Watch as they lean through your helmet as if it wasn’t even there! It’s so stupid I can’t understand why they gave you the option to have helmets on.

Locked doors…Don’t worry I’m not about to say you can just walk through them. Well…not at first. Once they open it is as if they aren’t even there. Seriously, once it begins to swing open you can walk through them as if there not there & they remain that way all the time they are open.

The characters just feel slow & sluggish when controlling & every battle starts with a brief frame freeze before the action gets underway. Speaking of action…the combat. It’s repetitive & boring with every battle playing out the same way. Run forward, draw weapons & swing them back & forth. You can bring up an attack radial where you special moves are hidden (time slows down for this) & depending upon who is in your party you can get them to assist you.

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Every battle goes like this…the only difference tends to be the number you are fighting & what uniform they chose to wear. Oh some are more powerful then others & there are ‘boss’ style characters but the battles all play out the same.

In fact certain learned moves later on in the game make battles a joke as they are so over-powered.

The levelling up system is fairly straight-forward & clear to use although beyond setting attribute points to special moves there doesn’t feel like much progression. Your characters never feel like they are getting stronger. This is as much because there is no weapons & armour that can only be used at a certain level, without that you are as powerful as the weapons & armour you can find.

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The weapons & armour do have indicators of which are more powerful & what drawbacks certain heavier armour will have but they seem so irrelevant. That you can wear an entire set of enemies armour, appear in cut-scenes wearing it & no-one will bat an eye-lid is frustrating. I would have liked to see reactions to what you wearing & complications that arise from wearing them. You know, like Game of Thrones?

Admittedly Mors & Alester do have their differences in combat though with Mors having a dog as an ally & Alester being able to call upon fire from the red god. It adds a bit of variety to the boring battles but not enough to make you care. You will quickly find yourself avoiding battles just so you don’t have to watch the same stuff over again.

Oh & strangely enough you & your partner’s (if you have one at the time) health & special move meter will fully regenerate after every battle. Far too easy….

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This brings me to final rant & the most disappointing thing about Game of Thrones…the lack of exploration. It’s not here; the map areas are minuscule with a few off branch paths that lead you to blocked ways & other variations of the main path. An early visit to Kings Landing should have brought out the explorer in you, wandering the streets taking in the sights & talking your way out of trouble. Instead what you get is a tiny set of streets that all look the same.

There are many different paths but most lead to an impassable wall or door. Stairs that you should be able to climb are blocked off by boxes or horses & carts. This is a re-occurring theme & might have been forgivable had the same style not presented itself while wandering the lands of the North. You’re outside for goodness sake!

Voice-acting is so-so with some just down-right awful (listen to the woman speaking the rules for a trial by combat section – it is awful) but the main characters do a good job of it. Also certain TV cast members do not voice their characters & sound quite off.

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It’s retains the adult nature of the books & show albeit with a lot less sex although you do visit a lot brothels. The game is fairly lengthy, story-wise with the occasional side mission to drag things out but it is all very linear & you will be shocked by just how small the world you can explore is.

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They really missed a chance here to create a Game of Thrones master-piece. One that could rival the Skyrim’s of the world. Instead we got an RPG that shames the name with the lack of exploration & customisation. The world in Song of Ice & Fire has so much going for it that they could have created a series of hugely successful games from it but with the failings of this game I can’t see anyone taking a risk on another game anytime soon.

The only reason this game doesn’t score lower is because of the excellent story that may confuse at first but will have you gripped by the end.

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Game Of Thrones
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