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Xbox 360 Game Review

Game of Thrones


Format: Xbox 360
Cyanide / Focus Home Interactive..
RRP: £39.99
4 020628 998899
Age Restrictions: 15+
Available 08 June 2012

The game takes place 15 years after the rebellion that saw Robert Baratheon take over the Iron Throne. Events run parallel with those of the first book, Game of Thrones, and throughout you will interact with characters from the book/TV series. As with the book each ‘chapter’ focuses on a different character and the story progresses alternately between Mors Westford and Alester Sarwyck.

The game opens with Mors Westford banished to guard the wall as a member of the Night’s Watch after refusing one of Lord Lannister’s commands during the rebellion. He is soon called South at the behest of the Hand of the King.

The other playable character, Alester Sarwyck, is a Lord who was also involved in the Rebellion but when it was over he abandoned his hometown and left to become a Red Priest. His story opens with him returning to Riverspring for the first time in 15 years to attend his father’s funeral. He finds the town under a peasant uprising and his sister due to be married to a bastard.

The game begins with you quashing the uprising using diplomacy to avoid combat and these sections are the game's strongest point. The storyline and dialogue are some of the best I’ve seen in video games. Decisions made in these sections truly alter the way characters react to you and ultimately how the ending plays out. There are four different endings dependent upon decisions made throughout the lengthy 30-hour campaign. All dialogue is spoken, and although some of the acting is laughably bad, it’s generally of a high standard. This is one game where I haven’t reached for the skip button and I’ve actually been drawn in to the unfolding drama.

A certain level of character customisation is available although RPG veterans may find the options somewhat limited. Both character's physical appearance and name are fixed, although their clothes and weapons will change as the game progresses. The inventory offers a clear uncluttered interface and it’s easy to compare weapon and armour stats. With each level up, points can be spent on the usual attributes such as strength, luck, stamina and these effect weapon damage, diplomacy, health, etc. Points can also be spent on weapon types - double points being awarded for picking the type matching the combat style chosen. So, whilst offering freedom, the game is steering the player towards specific builds.

With each initial character creation you get the choice of picking character traits, each perk or trait being awarded points and these positives/negatives have to balance. At certain points through the story experience may reward additional perks.

To begin, both characters are offered one of three combat styles - melee, defence/stealth or ranged. This choice dictates preferred weapons used and special abilities that will be available. It’s a good idea to choose melee here as I made the mistake of choosing the ranged Archer class for Alester only to find it was useless in combat. The battles all seem to be close range and although enemies can be spotted from a distance, weapons cannot be used until combat is initiated and this means getting in close to trigger it. The fighting style is represented by a stance with which special abilities are linked. With Alester I ended up fighting with a stick and unable to use my special abilities.

Combat in Game of Thrones is similar to Bioware games such as Dragon Age: Origins. Battles are fought in real-time although rather than directly fighting, the right bumper can be pressed to slow down time, assign commands and queue up abilities. It isn’t implemented as well as in Dragon Age: Origins, each ability uses up energy so you’re constantly trying to run to space to try and replenish energy. The whole experience feels very detached and clunky and is the biggest let down in the game.

The world of Westeros is recreated faithfully, although a lot of this is only alluded to in dialogue, with only small section explorable by the player. The graphics are incredibly dated with a lot of texture pop in and terrible character animation. They simply don’t match up to modern standards and look more like a release title than one coming this late in the console’s life cycle.

Fans of Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire series will still get a lot from this game’s campaign as it further fleshes out the world of Westeros. But it will take a lot of perseverance to overlook the many flaws and get through the 30 odd hours of campaign. It’s a real shame that the bad graphics, creaky combat and frequent and long loading times in the end spoil what could have potentially been a Game of the Year. It’s a cut above the usual movie/TV/book tie-in but with so many awesome RPGs out at the moment it’s unlikely to find an audience outside of Game of Thrones's diehard fans.


Richard A Bennett

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