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Review

Game Of Thrones Review (PS3, Xbox 360)

You win or you die.

Game of Thrones RPG

George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series is some of the best fantasy fiction since Tolkien stopped producing his magical worlds. The brutal, unforgiving, mature world of Westeros and the surrounding lands is vividly imagined and shows more complexity than we could ever truly need from a work of fiction. But this isn’t a book review, we’re here to look at how that deep, intricate world has been translated into interactive fiction in the latest videogame from Cyanide Studio.

It’s not good news, I’m afraid.

Cyanide has shown a willingness to intertwine their story with the one that will be familiar to anyone who read the first book in the series or watched the first season of the Game of Thrones television show. There’s a very obvious love for the fiction and desire not to deviate too far from the elements that make Martin’s series so compelling.

This all adds up to a narrative that is expertly crafted, at least in the later stages. The story has elements that will compel and engross you, complete with a few of those shocking sharp turns that the series is known for.


Combat appears deep and tactical at first but is basically slow motion button mashing.
Unfortunately, the work required to pick your way through the lengthy game in an effort to uncover that extra narrative material is too much. Mechanically, this game is far too complex and fiddly for how ultimately unbalanced it is. It spends far too long trying to explain the intricacies of an overly complex combat system and the character building of the two pre-set playable characters (some customisation for fighting style, etc. is possible) and it delivers that fairly engaging story through the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard.

Characters are monotonous, mis-timed and completely devoid of personality. At times, it seems as though dialogue was built with spliced together lines from disparate passages read into a microphone in a rented lock up on a rainy industrial estate in some drab, grey town.

They probably weren’t of course,  Cyanide probably has a very professional studio set up and they probably paid good money for this abysmal delivery of their script. Which makes it all the more frustrating. That a decent enough script, expediting some really quite good, if a little slow in flowering, plot progression could be entirely ruined by such utterly terrible delivery is tragic.

Not only is the exposition delivered by emotionless automatons, much of it is behind loading screens that are all too common (and a lengthy, compulsory, progress-bar-filled install on PS3). Loading screens are often a necessary evil in modern videogames so we all kind of learn to live with them but when they only serve to load another terribly clunky piece of vocal work or an audio track that doesn’t transition so much as stop dead and loop back to the start again, patience is likely to wear thin.

The audio isn’t the only area in this game’s development that seems to have been rushed, it looks exceptionally ugly at times too. The problem with setting the game in a kind of semi-licensed set from the hit HBO translation is that people will already know what it all looks like. The scenery models and supporting characters here are often really awful to look at, although settings are varied enough and can occasionally look okay.

The major locations from the original literature are accounted for, in varying degrees of interactivity, from The Wall’s glacial splendour to the streets of King’s Landing. There’s also an entirely new location imagined in the run down town of Riverspring which acts as the hometown of one of the playable characters.

It’s a common, and almost always misguided, criticism of many sub-standard current generation games that they look like PlayStation 2 games. In certain instances though, this is true of Game of Thrones. Some character’s faces and in particular the dog you might have seen featured in trailers, are simply awful. Animations are also a bit wooden and jerky, so that it feels dated and clunky.

Added to that is the bizarre overacting of character animations so that during lines of dialogue they often pull odd poses like some unseen fashion photographer is instructing them to put hands on hips or shrug emphatically.


Main character models are much better than background models.
Repeating character models in crowded scenes – and even some uncrowded scenes – would be acceptable if it was masked more competently but some models aren’t just strikingly similar, they’re identical and quite close to each other in a scene. It feels shockingly lazy.

Stock animations for cinematic kills – a-la-Skyrim – would perhaps be a nice touch if there was more than one per weapon. It’s difficult to see where the years of development time went before this was rushed out to piggyback the TV show’s popularity.

The combat system appears relatively complex, at least for most console gamer’s sensibilities. It’s a kind of pause-and-queue, round-based system that should be quite familiar to fans of Dragon Age or multiple other, usually PC based, RPGs. You slow down (but don’t fully stop) the action by hitting a shoulder button and then you select a list of actions from a radial menu. You can switch between characters in your party to approach things from a more tactical angle but the system is hampered by lacklustre implementation.

It’s a little bit fiddly and feels very tactically complex to begin with but you’ll likely notice that most combat scenarios exist on repetition rather than tactics. You select the same set of moves in order to get through a situation and then the same, or at least a very similar, set is the best to get your through the next situation. There’s no incentive to adapt your tactics in most cases so it just feels like a decent grounding for the combat system was wasted by not having enough ideas to fill it up and tune it to the gameplay.

Pros:

  • A well plotted narrative that improves as it goes on.
  • Nice but unobtrusive ties to the best known section of the series.

Cons:

  • Looks quite ugly, plenty of poor models and animation.
  • Voice work is awful.
  • Music is forgettable, except for the inclusion of the excellent TV show theme.
  • Every good idea is killed in the implementation.

Game of Thrones and the wider Song of Ice and Fire could translate well into a videogame, and hopefully one day it will. That day is yet to come, though. This effort has a few interesting ideas and a reasonably accomplished plot, fairly well progressed but it stumbles mechanically over every good idea it has and douses it in some genuinely shocking presentation.

That professional actors, hired off the back of their great performances in the HBO series, could be made to seem so pathetically untalented, robotic and emotionless is almost admirable, if laziness and crushing mediocrity was ever something to be admired.

Score: 3/10

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25 Comments
  1. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    Bloody heck! I know games based on shows are usually bad but i wasn’t expecting GOT to be this bad considering it’s set in a fantasy setting and imo, should have been very easy to make a decent RPG out of it. Either they rushed out the game to meet a deadline or they made a colossal mistake and failed to correct it. This would have probably been right up my alley if it was any good.

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 09:09.
  2. LTG Davey
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Wow, guess I’ll be giving this one a miss then.
    Whilst on the subject of reviews. could you give us some idea when the Lollipop Chainsaw review embargo is? Surprised not to see reviews from yourselves, IGN, Eurogamer, etc yet.

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 09:18.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      Didn’t get a review copy. I’ll be giving it good bash over the weekend so review Monday-ish.

      Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 10:46.
      • LTG Davey
        andUandU
        Since: Aug 2008

        Ahh, ok cheers :) I have a copy on pre-order (couldn’t say no for £29 @ Blockbuster) it just would have been nice to read some reviews beforehand.

        Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 11:04.
    • Sympozium
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      It got 9/10 somewhere~~

      Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 10:58.
      • LTG Davey
        andUandU
        Since: Aug 2008

        Oh really? Awesome. I love Suda51 games so hopefully this one doesn’t disappoint.

        Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 11:05.
    • OneShotWook
      Member
      Since: Jun 2010

      Theres a ton of reviews linked on metacritic Davey,it’s safe to say if you’ve ever loved a suda 51 game then you’ll love Lollipop.I’m quite glad that even the less positive ones list the replayability as a plus because that was my only doubt after Shadows of the Damned.

      Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 12:06.
      • LTG Davey
        andUandU
        Since: Aug 2008

        Thanks :) Yeah, as much as I loved SotD the one thing that really held it back was it’s longevity.

        Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 13:26.
    • LTG Davey
      andUandU
      Since: Aug 2008

      Oh dear, 5/10 from IGN :(

      Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 15:51.
  3. Bilbo_bobbins
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    didn’t expect this at all lol
    Its on par with the actual tv series too.

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 09:34.
    • Joe
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      What, you mean the one that almost everyone is thoroughly enjoying?

      Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 10:33.
      • Bilbo_bobbins
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        We can’t be talking about the same tv series surely? ;-) Getting rid of Sean Bean ended it for me.

        Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 11:00.
      • Joe
        Member
        Since: Aug 2009

        haha but sean bean ALWAYS has to die in everything he does!!

        Comment posted on 14/06/2012 at 10:18.
  4. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Seen a couple of reviews of this now and it really does seem they’ve fucked it when surely it would’ve been easy to make at least a mediocre game. I dont really enjoy the tv show anyway but this could’ve been a great rpg based on the same lore. Shame.

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 09:40.
  5. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Oh dear. I did mentioning the ‘silly walks; animation in the preview. I think there is a good game here, it just needs a massive polish – odd considering its been in production for 5 yrs.

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 09:48.
  6. TolucaSurfer
    Member
    Since: Jun 2012

    So disappointed this sucks as I love the GoT books and TV show and it has the perfect premise for an excellent RPG. I might still give it a go once it’s a tenner.

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 09:54.
  7. fs
    Member
    Since: May 2012

    A real shame this. I thought I might be adding this to my collection, and I still might, but not until its a lot cheaper. I’ll never buy or not buy a game based on one review no matter how high I regard the site but unfortunetely as a consumer how are we supposed to accept poor voiceacting and graphics in this day and age? We are well beyond the days where the story sold the game because other elements of the game weren’t at a high level. Most games are very pleasing aesthetically now and usually the story is atleast engaging. Judging on this review GoT is horrificly poor in its presetation of a story which is’t too bad. As I say, its a shame because it did have potential.

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 09:59.
  8. giantwoman
    Member
    Since: Sep 2011

    I bought this last week and to be honest it’s actually better than I was expecting based on all the terrible reviews. Yes, it looks clunky, and yes the sound loop gets on my nerves. but as a massive fan of the books (not watched the series yet, still don’t think it can do the books justice) it is exciting getting to run around Kings Landing and maraud around the Gift stabbing people. I’m not a hardcore gamer, and I know that I’m in the minority here, but personally I have firmly filed this under the heading of “could be worse”.

    Plus it’s stolen three evenings of my life so far and I’m not bored yet.

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 10:29.
  9. Izorpo
    Member
    Since: Jun 2012

    thought I would be picking this up eventually – now it seems like not at all

    love the show, even sans Sean Bean (didn’t see that coming in season 1) and thought it would be a fun romp- maybe when it ends up in the 4 for £20 range at blockbuster (providing I can’t find another 4th title that is)

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 11:14.
  10. anyjungleinguy
    Member
    Since: Nov 2008

    Crap. The thing is, I now know what to expect, but as a fan of the books and TV series, I want to play it anyway.

    I guess this will be a rental for me, possibly a purchase when it really drops in price.

    Comment posted on 13/06/2012 at 13:57.

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