The One Hour Play Test: Game of Thrones

When a franchise shift more than 15 million books and spawns a successful TV series, inevitably a video game spin off will follow at some point – and sure enough Game of Thrones recently hit the shelves of our favourite games vendors.

I make no bones about being a massive fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire books, and the subsequent TV series A Game of Thrones, and so I duly undertook the duty of carrying out the latest one hour play test.

I’m unsure whether my love for the franchise is a blessing or a curse however. I’m already immersed in the world of Westeros, so require little in the way of ‘back story’ to get up to speed, but equally my own expectations where high as I loaded the game for the first time.

A major obstacle for Game of Thrones is entering a genre which has some dizzying standards set by the likes of Skyrim and Mass Effect, as well as a notoriously fussy audience – with RPG fans very particular about what they want from their experience.

The pressure placed on Game of Thrones from a certain Elder Scrolls instalment does not simply come from sharing a genre though, but also the comparisons between the two franchises thanks to common themes such as dragons, magic and fantasy worlds of epic scale.

And perhaps that is Game of Thrones biggest problem. A fantasy RPG entering the market after the bar has been set rather high by Bethesda’s behemoth had to hit the mark, or at least get within striking distance of the target.

Simply put, after an hour I just wanted to play Skyrim.

Whilst every effort has been made to use the same actors as in the TV version, in both voice and facial mapping, it is hard to take things too seriously when half of Sir Joer Mormont’s face is off the bottom of the screen during one of the lengthy opening cut scenes…

If your going to open with 20 minutes worth of cut scenes at least make them slick and worth watching!

Sadly, this is indicative of the games visual style as a whole. With graphical standards ever increasing, Game of Thrones simply doesn’t come up to scratch. While millions have been spent on making the TV series a visual treat, little seems to have been spent on the digital equivalent and the word ‘clunky’ springs to mind

That said, some games have redeemed themselves from slack graphics by having some serious substance to make up for the lack of style – unfortunately Game of Thrones isn’t one of them…

It feels text heavy, but doesn’t integrate the conversation trees and cut scenes as smoothly as some of its rivals, making things feel disjointed all too often.

Turn based combat has always been a little niche, and in Game of Thrones it feels particularly unwieldy in a way I have rarely experienced in RPG gaming. It just doesn’t feel *right* and is sadly part of a wider game mechanic which feels outdated at best – I’m not sure how one of the toughest members of the Nightswatch is unable to climb up a small snow bank for example? He can wield a giant two handed sword but he cannot over come this small step? He needs to go all the way around to use the ramp? Ok then…

All in all it was a particularly disappointing experience from a game which could have added a welcome extra story arc to an already multi faceted fantasy world, but falls down in it execution.

It’s hard to see where Game of Thrones fits in to the marketplace – I’m not convinced it has enough substances to appeal to non GoT fans, whilst lovers of the series (either book, TV or both) will likely find themselves disappointed by such a lacklustre effort.

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