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Game of Thrones (Xbox 360) artwork

Game of Thrones (Xbox 360) review


"While there is magic in the world of Game of Thrones, the majority of it is in Mors' and Alester's respective dog and fire powers. Unlike Dragon Age Origins, there are no darkspawn, no dragons, no werewolves and no sentient trees. Hell, there aren't even any wolves, spiders or bears. You'll fight tons of barbarians, bandits, peasants and soldiers, though…and for all intents and purposes, they're all the same."



Much like the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series which inspired it, Atlus' Game of Thrones tells a good story. I read that George R.R. Martin, the author of the books, had some sort of consultant role, which makes a lot of sense. While the two main characters are original creations, they seem to fit perfectly into the bleak and violent world of his work. Those two guys start in different parts of the world and don't meet until about two-thirds of the way through things, so a number of the game's chapters focus on one of them and end in some sort of a cliffhanger moment, which I believe also is faithful to the source material.

Mors Westland is a respected former knight who is now posted in a frigid place known as the Wall as a member of the Night's Watch. Without delving too deeply into this world's mythology, when you're assigned to the Night's Watch, you're there for life…whether you like it or not. The game begins with you proving that to be true, as you hunt down and capture a deserter in order to execute him. Mors' depressingly hollow life of killing deserters and fighting members of a barbarian tribe doesn't last for too long in the game, though, as a soldier in the service of a high-ranking noble he was friends with in the past comes to the Wall with a mission of great national security. Which gets a lot more convoluted as time goes on, of course.

Much closer to the hustle and bustle of the world's royal family is the other guy you'll be spending a lot of time with, Alester Sarwyck. The son of one of the region's lords, he is back after what seems to have been a self-imposed exile of 15 years because of the death of his father. While there, he notices the family's holdings are suffering and vows to return things to their former glory -- a task made a bit more difficult because his younger brother is implicated in the death and his bastard half-brother, Valaar, is using his influence with Queen Cersei to take over the place. So, Alester finds himself attempting to supplant Valaar as Cersei's go-to enforcer, while also looking for clues concerning the death of his father and location of his fugitive brother. While this already might sound pretty convoluted, trust me…it gets a lot more so as time goes on. That's how things roll in the land of Westeros.

A few chapters into the game, you find out that Mors' super-secret mission involves protecting a mysterious young woman. Soon afterward, you'll realize that woman is the same one that Queen Cersei just ordered Valaar and Alester to *ahem* remove from the equation. Cue a seemingly never-ending series of betrayals and violent deaths as mysteries get solved and things progress towards what you know will be a depressing conclusion. If you know anything about the books (or the Game of Thrones TV show based on them), you likely know that Martin isn't overly fond of giving everyone (or perhaps anyone) a nice, happy ending when a surprise dagger in the back finishes them off just as neatly.

Mors and Alester have more going for them than just their stories, though, as Cyanide (who developed the game for Atlus) put some work into making the two protagonists handle battles differently. Each one can be given one of three disciplines, which determines their special attacks. When I played, I made Mors a brutal melee combatant wearing heavy armor and swinging two-handed weapons like they were mere twigs. Meanwhile, Alester used a bit more cunning, relying on poison and blinding dust to weaken his foes before running them through with his sword. Each guy also has his own special powers. As a warg, Mors can mind-control his attack dog to incapacitate foes; while Alester, as a fire priest, can access a number of flame-related powers. Those skills extend out of battle, as both characters use their special abilities to find hidden objects, as well.

In theory, this could have been a truly special game. Medieval fantasy that's loaded with plot twists where you really don't have much of an idea of what's going to happen unless you immediately adopt a "don't trust anyone" mindset. Unfortunately, much like the villainous Valaar is the bastard son of the deceased Lord Sarwyck, Game of Thrones is the bastard son of Dragon Age Origins. From what I've read, this game spent a good number of years in development and, well, it shows. A lot of things are pretty sloppy. During battles, it's very easy for the camera to swing in a way that you need to adjust it just to see what's happening. The graphics aren't particularly great and there isn't that wide a variety of places to visit, either. Mors and Alester will find themselves repeatedly traveling through the same handful of locations repeatedly -- whether it be the royal city of King's Landing or the tunnels of Mole Town, you will know these places like the back of your hand by the time you see the ending credits.

The battle system is the sort of thing that initially looks complicated, but winds up being simple. By tapping the "A" button, you can spam regular attacks, which is good for dealing with weaker foes. Against more durable opponents, you'll want to delve into your character's special attacks. By hitting the right bumper, you'll greatly slow time while calling up a wheel where you can select from special melee attacks and dog/fire abilities (depending on the character) or use flasks for various purposes such as healing yourself or igniting your weapons. At first, this seemed neat. Sadly, as time progressed, I found myself doing little more than using one ability to stun a foe and then picking another designed to cause extra damage to anyone who is immobilized. I basically found myself trudging from one battle to the next, using a minimal amount of strategy to get through each chapter.

I think a good part of the tedium was simply caused by how virtually every single fight was against random groups of armed guys. While there is magic in the world of Game of Thrones, the majority of it is in Mors' and Alester's respective dog and fire powers. Unlike Dragon Age Origins, there are no darkspawn, no dragons, no werewolves and no sentient trees. Hell, there aren't even any wolves, spiders or bears. You'll fight tons of barbarians, bandits, peasants and soldiers, though…and for all intents and purposes, they're all the same. Other than the two main adversaries, virtually all of the enemy forces are interchangeable. While a number of them are named, they tend to be one-fight "wonders" who appear, give a generic "we have you now" line and die quickly. They all blend together, as of the minor foes, only two of Valaar's lieutenants stood out as remotely interesting. Yohn helps carry the early-game plot, while you can overhear some humorous lines from Wex late in the game if you walk close to him while disguised as one of his lackeys. Everyone else blends together to the point where it seems like you're just fighting the same guys over and over and over again with next-to-no deviation from a simple formula.

Things like that bother me. Usually if I'm playing a game with the intent of reviewing it, I like to do things on the default (normal) setting. If on deadline and at a frustrating point, I'll drop it down to an easier setting to get past that problem and then go right back to the default. In Game of Thrones, I dumped it down to the easy level a couple chapters into the game and never looked back. I wanted to see what happened to Mors and Alester and how their quests would be resolved, but I really didn't want to actually play the game. I was sort of reminded of something a friend said when he was playing Metal Gear Solid 4 -- he loved the game, but thought the story was so stupid that midway through the game, he started skipping all the cutscenes so he could focus on what he liked. This was the exact opposite: I loved the story, but the game was forgettable slop where I trudged from one fight against generic soldier to the next. The strength of the storytelling keeps Game of Thrones from being horrible, but I'd rather play Dragon Age Origins any day.

Rating: 5/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 05, 2012)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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wolfqueen001 posted June 05, 2012:

Hm... That's disappointing this didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. When I saw this was going to be released on PC (and obviously other platforms, like the 360), I was excited as hell thinking it would be great. I may have only watched the series so far (which I love), but I could see just from that that the game could have had a lot of potential.

The world within the series is huge, and could be comparable to the Elder Scrolls given enough time and development. The fact that they just recycled a few key places is heavily disappointing, and it's even more disappointing that your enemies are largely the same as well. Admittedly, I did wonder how they would execute that since even in the show (and I assume the books, too) the main adversaries are in fact people, but developers always add random monsters and the like that could fit the mythology with cases like this. Even Lord of the Rings did!

I'm glad the story's at least worth it, though. I may still buy the game for that alone, but now I'm just going to wait for it to come way down in price. Thanks for reviewing this; you probably saved me quite a bit of money.

On a side note, you spell the Queen's name a couple of different ways throughout the review, so you may want to uniform that. I can't remember offhand how it's spelled, though. And, just a point of curiosity, does the one guy really have dog powers, or is it a wolf? I remember in the show the six siblings had dire wolves as guardians, so I would guess it would be the same here, but this easily could have changed for game purposes.

Nice job anyhow.
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Suskie posted June 05, 2012:

It's "Cersei."

I've also only watched the show, but I like it so much that I refuse to spoil it by reading the books. Even though pretty much everyone has been telling me to read them. Just to echo what WQ said, I see a lot of potential in a truly involving Game of Thrones RPG, so it's disappointing to hear that the game is mediocre, though the fact that they apparently nailed some key story-related aspects means I still might get around to playing it. Great job addressing everything I wanted to know.
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zippdementia posted June 05, 2012:

I love your reviews, Rob. They're never flashy, but they get the job done. Your reviews are the stolid blue-collar worker of honest gamer and that's not an insult. I like that you're able to tackle what could easily be a very tricky review and just "say it." You don't mince words, you get to the point and then you bow out. It's inspired me to finally finish my max payne review. I read this and I was like, damn... if Rob can cover Game of Thrones this well in this short a time, then I have to take example from that and stop sitting on my own reviews. Well done, sir. Well done.
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jerec posted June 06, 2012:

Been following this game's production for years. After the RTS turned out mediocre, I didn't expect much of this, either. Too small a company with not enough experience to do this justice. It's such a shame. I'll probably play this when it's a bargain bin title.
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overdrive posted June 06, 2012:

Thanks for the correction, Suskie. I hate names.

Thanks for the compliments, Zipp. I glad it LOOKED like it was easy to write. Took a while to figure out what I wanted to say and how to say it.

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