Game of Thrones First Impressions

Being a pretty big fan of author George R.R. Martin?s A Song of Ice and Fire series for a number of years now, I?ve been looking forward to checking out the first console game based off of the fantasy novels and HBO series. I?m currently working my way through the game for review, but being both an RPG and receiving a review copy just this week, there won?t be a full, detailed review up until next week. So I wanted to take a few moments to gather some thoughts on how the game seems to be shaping up in its early chapters, to give interested readers an idea of what to expect if you?re thinking about picking up the game this week.

To put it mildly, I?m not too impressed so far, and that?s really disappointing. Again, I?m a huge fan of the source material, and have really fallen in love with the live-action series that?s currently in its second season. But so far, the video game of Game of Thrones is really failing to impress me, despite how enamored I am with the series as a whole. Even the promise of new story content and the ability to play through and explore familiar set pieces like Castle Black or King?s Landing is doing little for me at this point.

To be fair, I?m not that far into the game, and there?s plenty of time for things to improve. I?ve just finished up chapter 4, and from a story perspective there hasn?t been much in the way of exciting revelations or developments. I?m just now getting a taste of the game?s combat systems, which have some promise, and I?ve not done much in the way of leveling up the two main characters of the story, nor have I come to a point where their tales intersect, like I imagine they will.

On the positive side of things, the options given when starting the game are more involved than I would have suspected. The two main characters, Mors Westford and Alester Sarwyck, have a number of classes that they can start off as when you first gain control of them. The classes you choose seem to dictate that options you?ll have in their individual skill trees, which also expand to secondary skill trees when you get the ability to use Mors? skinchanger abilities, and Alester?s fire-element skills that accompany a Red Priest of R?hllor. There?s a pretty interesting mechanic to the character building that gives you optional skills that provide bonuses, but also need to be offset by negative attributes if used. So you could increase your chance to land critical hits by two percent, but to offset that you might choose to increase the amount of time poison affects you by three seconds.

The most disappointing feature of the game, so far, has been the poor animation work during cut-scenes and dialogue, which you?re subjected to a lot early on. Seriously, there?s a lot of talking in the game, which is to be expected, but watching these scenes play out has been hardly exciting. The voice acting has also been pretty average, and while you do get some recognizable actors reprising their roles from the T.V. show, they seem to be relatively minor characters overall at this point. Also, the visuals in general aren?t up to snuff when compared to current console titles, even from the same genre. Texture work is pretty ugly, with some really sub-HD looking stuff that comes off as flat and borderline early-gen in appearance.

Still, again, I?ve got a ways to go with this one. There?s definitely room for improvement, and I?m certainly hoping that it does. Combat so far seems to be the best aspect of the game, which involves the ability to queue up to three attack commands, and use special abilities on the fly, along with the ability to switch between different characters to also queue up their abilities. There?s a rock-paper-scissor mechanic when it comes to weapon types and enemy armor that could prove interesting, so we?ll see how that evolves as the game advances.

At the moment though, I?d strongly advise at least renting or demoing the game in some fashion prior to dropping $60 on it. I?ll have a more in-depth look at the game for you next week, but I?d certainly hesitate to call this a quality title based on the few hours I?ve spent with the game so far.