The Game of Thrones game, made with a lot of involvement from series author George R.R. Martin, puts players into the boots of two new characters in Westeros. There's Mors Westford, a grizzled Night's Watch ranger; and Alester Sarwyck, heir to a Lannister-affiliated house who left Westeros years ago to become a Red Priest. You customize them a little bit, choosing a fighting style and a couple of proficiencies and special moves for each, and then off you go.
The story switches between Mors chapters and Alester chapters, much like the books and their POV characters. The events of the game overlap with the first book (or the first season of the show), but the story's pretty much self-contained: you don't get to have much involvement with any of Ned Stark's doings. There are a few characters from the show making an appearance, with the actors providing their voices. Unfortunately, they're limited to Cersei, Varys, and Lord Commander Mormont. No Tyrion. No Starks of any stripe. Just them three. Qhorin Halfhand also figures into the game, but as it was developed well before the character ever appeared in the show, he neither looks nor sounds anything like his TV counterpart.Visually, the game's ... eh, it's okay. The graphics are a little rough at times, with the people generally looking and moving like plastic action figures, though the environments are fine for the most part. The very first cutscene in the game looks particularly unfinished, which doesn't exactly make for the best first impression, especially considering that it goes on forever. It's something like twenty minutes into the game before you even have to pick up the controller.
Combat in the game splits the difference between real-time and turn-based action, with you cueing up to three actions per character in your party. Then they just kind of swing their weapons in the general direction of whoever they're attacking, a lot like in the older-school RPGs where you pretty much have to use your imagination to picture the fight happening. It definitely contributes to the playing-with-action-figures vibe, and took a bit of getting used to.
And while the dialogue and voice acting can be a little clunky (I lost count how many times the phrase "game of thrones" came up, but it’s ridiculous), the story's actually really good. Getting past the interminable opening cutscenes, I found myself totally wrapped up in Mors and Alester's adventures and playing for much longer than I'd originally intended when I sat down. As a huge fan of the series, it was cool to play around in Westeros, while also getting more immersed in aspects of the world, like magic and the various religions, that the show's only brushed upon so far. Mors's ability to project himself into the body of his pet dog, for example, suddenly cast a new light on Bran Stark's whole Season 2 storyline.
While hardcore gamers may find better RPGs out there, fans of the series can find a lot to like in the Game of Thrones game. Though the decision not to include Tyrion is a bit of a head-scratcher. The best character ever, and we're skipping him? Really? Couldn’t get Dinklage, could you? Still, the game's got a good story to it, meshing well with the books and HBO show, and while it's in no way essential, it is a pretty cool supplement.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some Wildlings to fight while preventing my sworn enemy from marrying my sister.