reviews\ May 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Game of Thrones review

I have to admit, as an avid fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones (based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice”), I had high hopes for Atlus’ video game adaptation — especially since adventure games were taking a turn for the better between The Witcher 2 and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.  And with Martin himself on board writing the story, we figured that it would be better than most licensed fare on the shelves.  But after playing through Game of Thrones, we’re left wondering… why is it that the developers at Cyanide Studios couldn’t have put in the same effort as Martin did?

The story revolves around two different characters whose stories don’t quite intertwine, but still manage to entertain, just as other tales in Games of Thrones have.  The first involves a red priest named Alester, making his return from the East after a 15 year sabbatical to find a number of changes in his village.  On the other side of things is Mors, a skinchanger who works alongside the Night’s Watch crew, the loyal guards who keep tabs on a huge wall of ice.  Both of them run into a number of characters over the course of their journey — some allies, and others that simply cannot be trusted.

Martin’s handiwork is noticeable throughout Game of Thrones.  The story has several twists and turns that will keep you intrigued, just as episodes of the TV show and chapters in the book have done.  It’s good to see that Atlus got at least this portion of the game right.  Unfortunately, not much else really is.

Let’s start with the gameplay.  The battle system is deeply flawed, working on a timed system with a three-slotted set-up.  You’ll constantly open up an ability wheel to slot new attacks on your opponents, and that slows the game up so much that you’ll lose pacing entirely, wondering what the point really is.  What’s more, very few enemies actually pose a challenge, between their dim-witted actions (archers can’t even shoot straight) and your character’s strength.

What’s worse, there’s very little reward for your actions, save for the story.  There’s no real way to add rewards to your character to make them better, nor do you feel any motivation for your efforts.  It just drags along until the next story sequence unfolds, and some of you may even question if it’s worth it… unless you’re die-hard fans of Martin, in which case you already know the answer.

There are even more noticeable flaws in the presentation.  The graphics are downright ugly, resembling a first-generation development effort rather than something released in this day and age of gaming.  Even Fable II, a game that was released years ago on an older engine, outshines Game of Thrones in every way.  Some of the character models are okay (eagle eyed fans of the series will recognize Martin as a maester), but the environments are bland, the animation is shoddy, and the in-game bugs could’ve used some ironing out.

The in-game dialogue is even worse.  Some of the actors from the show have been brought on for voice duty, but all of them sound like they’re merely calling in bland performances, rather than “feeling out” their characters.  That’s too bad, because the sound effects are pretty good, and the main theme from the show is present and accounted for.

Really, Martin deserved better than what Atlus and Cyanide Studios delivered in Game of Thrones.  The game’s big saving grace comes from the author himself, a story so well-told that some people will want to see it through to the end, alternative paths and all.  But nothing else holds up — not the battle system, not the weak gameplay, and not the dated graphics and audio.  This Game was over before it could’ve even began.

Below Average

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