If you’re a fan of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, you’d be right to worry about a new Game of Thrones game from Cyanide. The first PC title, developed by a different dev house within Cyanide, didn’t exactly set the world ablaze. Although A Game of Thrones: Genesis tried and failed to find unique and fun twists on the strategy genre, this second game, an RPG, takes a very different approach: Mimic what works. The result is a game that doesn’t quite stand up to the latest and greatest entries in the genre, but tried and true gameplay mixes with a good story to make for an enjoyable enough romp through Westeros.
Especially in the early going, Game of Thrones often feels like a poor man's Dragon Age, from interacting with dialogue wheels to slowing down combat in order to queue up different attack actions. But while the most basic framework is available and functional, you might find some aspects of Game of Thrones lacking, but especially if you’ve invested dozens of hours into Bioware’s blockbuster. Comparisons solely to Dragon Age aside, many textures and character models are ugly. The world doesn’t feel so open and alive (and lacks an abundance of side quests and activities). Combat can become repetitive. The events are more linear. The mini-map is nearly useless.
But then, Game of Thrones nails some of the more important features that an RPG needs. For example, you’re given lots of options for character customization, including selections of multiple skill trees and plenty of stats to pump points into. You may not get to build a character from scratch, but you do have some good control over how the main characters play and evolve.
Unfortunately, you may never find much use for many of the abilities you unlock. Game of Thrones features a combat system that adds a bonus for using the right type of weapon (cutting, perforating or blunt) against the right type of armor (light, medium or heavy), but battles rarely get tough enough on the normal difficulty that you’ll need to keep this in mind. It’s easy to latch onto two or three skills to use in every battle with successful results – say, an ability that knocks an enemy down followed by one that does higher damage to fallen enemies – which negates any need to experiment. This leads to many battles become rote displays of the same combat animations over and over again.
Much of what it lacks in technical achievement and gameplay originality, though, Game of Thrones makes up for in story. Don’t expect to spend time chilling with the Starks or exchanging quips with Tyrion Lannister, though. The game begins at roughly the same point as the novel and show, but the events don’t really intersect.
Throughout the game you will control two primary characters, switching between them during each chapter (similar to how the book series changes points of view per chapter). Mors, a long-time member of the Night’s Watch is from the icy Wall, while Alester has spent the past 15 years as a priest of R’hllor, a god of light and fire. So, yes, you might say bards would spin their tale as a song of ice and fire.