It’s hard to mention Game of Thrones without saying “trend.” With that in mind, it’s also not surprising to see a game based on the popular story. If you’ve been a gamer for more than five minutes, you know that games inspired by cinematography are usually very terrible. I can’t really say that the Game of Thrones game is terrible, but I most definitely can’t say that it’s good. I’m not versed in the Game of Thrones lore—I missed the bandwagon a long time ago—but the sheer fact that this game made it off the chopping block surprises the respect out of me. It has a few good points, but those points don’t save it from what inevitably climbs over the Wall: monotony.
The tale begins a few months before the story delivered in paperback, and it lives through the lives of two men, Mors and Alestar. Mors is an old member of the Night Watch trying to recruit new members in dangerous times and Alestar is a Red Priest seeking to take back his birthright in the city of Riverguard. The first few chapters play out their separate ways until they cross with the introduction of a girl, and both Mors and Alestar have to protect her from that point onward.
We all have seen some great and some terrible games along the way, graphically speaking, but I’m having trouble finding a similar comparison in the PlayStation 3 library to how bad the graphics are in Game of Thrones. Surely, I haven’t played every game in the PS3 repertoire, but I know launch games that had better textures than what Game of Thrones has. The most detailed parts of the main characters are their pieces of shoulder armor; everything else meshes together in a sort of washed-out graphical tarp of wet paint. Really, shaded areas look painted and the textures are incredibly pixelated and undefined, which make the shoulder pieces stand out. Faces are hit-and-miss, where some hold a decent aesthetic while others use bad complexion tones and worse facial hair; I’ve never seen a person with a muddy beard before.
The only parts of this game that look decent are the environments, but those are incredibly uneventful. Snow looks all well and good, and even trees have an appropriate look—maybe it’s because the characters look so bad.
Dialogue is monotonous, but it’s decent. Some phrases come off inappropriately overbearing while others feel unnaturally, well, underzealous. Specifically, I remember one point where Alestar tries to stop his sister from engaging in an incestuous marriage with one of their cousins, but he spoke in such a way that’s found in small talk; either these things naturally come up in the world of Game of Thrones, or Alestar has seen far too much in his priesthood. Still, voices always sound like they belong to the characters using them, but many situations that would normally feel driving instead feel dull. Between the two main characters, Mors has the best voice actor between them, but I’ve always been a fan of those raspy voices in my protagonists.
The overall progression of the story spans sixteen chapters, and half of them have a side quest or two that are required in order to progress in the story. These are listed as side quests, but, really, they don’t feel any different from the rest of the game. In fact, I didn’t know that some of the things I did were side quests until I looked it up in the quest log. It’s great that the game requires side quests to proceed, but it’s equally odd that the game requires these missions to be completed for story progression. Perhaps it’s a way to label the main plot and side plots that affect it. It’s not terrible, especially since each side quest usually grants a Trophy, but it still sounds strange to require them when the term “side quest” implies something else entirely.
Mors has a pet dog that, because of the graphical standard covered earlier, looks like a grey box with legs and teeth. This grey box, however, can be used to track enemies throughout the story, where scents are visualized through different colors that depict different quests: orange mist for tracking quest and green for other quests. While using Mors’ dog, it can also maul enemies to death that allow it to get close enough without beating it. This extra function breaks up the overall experience fairly nicely, but even this different gameplay style wears out its welcome after a few plays.
Speaking of gameplay, the combat system is boring. Plain and simple: boring. It lets you queue three abilities at once and the attacks play through in their allotted time slots. Enemies are generally pretty idiotic, but they still have strength in numbers. Swordsmen find ways to surround you while archers prance off in a corner and pick you off from afar, and all you can do is try to speed up your combat abilities to take out everyone in front of you. When the system first showed up, I had a nostalgic feeling from Knights of the Old Republic. That soon passed, however, as combat moved slowly through the abilities I set out for it.
On top of all this is the atrocious mini-map—literally. The map identifies key locations and tracks current quests, but it doesn’t give any sort of rhyme or reason to the level makeup whatsoever. Many times, I had to figure out how to reach a checkpoint simply because layered maps didn’t have visual definition outside of actually looking for the objectives.
Gamers typically cringe whenever they hear that a movie or TV series is receiving its own videogame adaptation. What’s unfortunate is that, though the Game of Thrones series has become something of a phenomenon, this game still finds a way to land smack dab in the middle of the movie-made-video-game stereotype. It only has a few good points about it, but those points feel as washed out as the textures on the characters.