|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Release: May 15, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language|
by Sean Engemann
Strike while the iron is hot. That seems to befit the uprising of Game of Thrones, a series that has exploded into many different mediums since the unbridled success of the HBO show that launched last year. Now we have a pen and paper role-playing game, a card game, comic books, a board game (actually released back in 2003), a strategy video game released last year called A Game of Thrones: Genesis, and no less than three more video games on the way. So yes, a phenomenon is a plausible way of describing it. The cult fan base certainly won't think twice about cramming their rooms full of more goodies from George R. R. Martin, the author who brought the kingdoms of Westeros to life.
But will that be enough? We must take an undeniable truth into consideration, and that is that a brunt of the fans (not all mind you) are not gamers, but rather non-gaming fantasy aficionados. And RPG gamers themselves may brush the upcoming title, simply called Game of Thrones, aside for various reasons. There's the quick development time, which usually signals a lightweight game in terms of content; the fact that it is pulled from novels and a television series which also tend to fare poorly; and that other giants in the RPG field such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning already have them hooked.
Game of Thrones has but one hope to succeed in the field and separate itself from the pack, and that is to deliver a story that matches the level from the books and the television show. Aesthetically, the game has the same gritty grayness of the HBO broadcast, so those who've watched the series will feel an instant connection. However, the storyline is taken more from Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series as a whole rather than the adapted TV scripts, so don't expect any familiar faces or voices.
In the third-person action/RPG, you'll shift roles between a member of the Night Watch named Mors and a Red Priest named Alester. As Mors, a lifetime of guarding against the denizens of the north has honed your scouting and tracking skills to their peak, which will be put to good use in the gameplay. Having left a life of family and comfort to service, Mors now receives a letter from the Hand of the King, one that has him questioning his position and future. Alester, on the other hand, returns to his hometown of Riverspring after a fifteen year departure, the reasons for which he has no intentions of divulging. Now donning the garbs of a priest of R'hllor, many troubles are being unearthed in his homeland.
Along with The Wall and Riverspring, Castlewood and King's Landing will be the two other major areas of Westeros to explore. While there seems to be some breathing room as far as venturing down the beaten path, I wouldn't expect a completely free-roaming experience like in an Elder Scrolls game. But this may be to the advantage of this particular game. If the political intrigue and intense rivalries permeate through the characters and plot, it would be better to have a linear progression rather than wandering aimlessly with inconsequential side quests. Even so, you should expect about thirty hours or so to complete the game, which, if as gripping as the novels and show, will be worthwhile despite any gameplay shortcomings.
Not to say that it will be dull and tedious to play; I will reserve that judgment for when I actually get my hands on the game. But the trailers do show some rather familiar and overused styles, commanding your actions and watching them unfold in battle. To keep you from relaxing, instead of pausing the action to issue orders, time simply slows down, giving a bigger window but still requiring some quick strategy, especially when every encounter plays differently. Your decisions both in combat and in conversations will shape the outcome of the game, and if enough diversity is given to this aspect, will greatly increase the replay value.
The graphics seen so far look very outdated, and are sure to be a lowlight come review time. Character models in particular look rough, like something we may have seen nearly a decade ago. On the other side of the spectrum, the voice acting sounds on par will the tenacity given by Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage, and the other great talents from TV series. Hopefully, this will be blended with some great musical scores and we can expect an audible delight.
It is hard to expect greatness from Game of Thrones, at least the greatness we've seen from the other mediums of the series. But, at the very least, it looks like we'll be presented with another chapter in a great world with dark plots and intriguing characters—just more fiction for fans of the series to bask in.
Date: February 9, 2012