Game of Thrones review for Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3, PC
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Cyanide Studios
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1
Online: No

When you approach a group of enemies, you?ll enter a battle state, which allows you to queue up to three commands at a time. You can open a radial menu, which slows down time but doesn?t stop it, to choose from a series of skills to queue up. Certain skills work well together, like first sweeping an enemy?s feet and then landing a downward strike for increased damage, and exploiting that system is key to making combat work.

I actually had some issue with the game early on, as I found combat to be ridiculously difficult on the normal difficulty setting, until I realized my mistake. I had poured my scant few skill points into skills that were passive in nature, like increased critical rates, hit percentage and so on. But had neglected skills that actually performed actions, like the all too important abilities that allow you to interrupt opponent?s special attacks. I found it a bit odd that the game didn?t really push me to unlock these skills, and a little more guidance in the early portion of my character building would have went a long way in making the game less frustrating early on.

As you start to unlock additional skills, including Alester and Mors secondary abilities, the combat system really becomes more strategic than I originally gave it credit for. It can get a bit boring when you?re only facing off against a couple opponents, but things start to pick up in larger fights with four or more foes, and these encounters can lead to a number of nail-biting, tense scenarios that?ll see you just scraping by.

World exploration in Game of Thrones is limited to around ten or so important locations, but those locations can range in scope from small areas like Castle Black, to the more involved sections like Castlewood or King?s Landing. For the most part the main quest will funnel you to new locations fairly often, but the last third of the game does involve backtracking through a lot of familiar ground.

There are optional side quests to tackle in each chapter, some of which can be revisited for completion in later chapters. Side quests are actually interesting in Game of Thrones, and thankfully involve more than just going around and killing a certain number of foes or fetching materials for random townfolk. You?ll investigate murders, recruit for the Night?s Watch, and a whole lot more if you?re willing to seek out the optional material.

Besides questing you can explore every nook and cranny for loot, but the quality of said loot isn?t generally worth the effort. I feel like equipment in Game of Thrones is underutilized, and the currency/monetary system is poorly implemented as well. In the first half of the game, even with doing a fair bit of searching and side questing, you?ll feel remarkably poor compared to the asking cost of items in most shops you?ll encounter. However, in the second half when you can actually start to afford the overpriced gear, a lot of the equipment you get from completing quests ends up being better or just as good as what you can finally buy. And there?s no new game plus option that allows you to carry over your surplus cash into a new game, so most of the shop selections are pretty pointless outside of the much needed potion vendor.

Also worth noting is that this is a story-centric experience, filled to the brim with cutscenes and dialogue. Seriously, the amount of talking compared to the amount of action would give previously notorious titles like Metal Gear Solid 4 a run for their money. However, if you have an interest in the world of Westeros coming in, you?ll eventually find yourself pretty enamored with the overall plot. The dialogue and writing never quite match the level of prose featured in the novels, but the overall story is still pretty engaging and interesting. It?s also rife with the expected twists, turns, and general maliciousness that we?ve come to expect from this particular universe. It really, really pays off in later chapters, and ends up elevating an otherwise hum-drum gameplay experience into something a bit more interesting overall.

Still, I can?t quite say that you should rush out and pick this up, but it?s certainly worth a play through, whether that?s from a rental or price drop or some other future discount. It?s a fairly lengthy experience, so you?ll definitely get your money?s worth if that?s a concern, but it would have been nice to see the universe get a slightly better treatment than this entry. It?s a fairly ugly looking game, which benefits it a bit in that Westeros is a somewhat ugly place at times, but that ugliness comes from poor textures and character models and less so from intended art design.

I still enjoyed my time with the game though, and appreciate what it brings to the table story-wise. Whether any of the events featured here will make their way into the canon proper I?m not sure, but as a side story it?s certainly an interesting tale. And once you spend a little more time with the combat you?ll find a better experience than the first few hours let on. So yeah, if you?re a big fan or even just a fan from the T.V. show with little interest in the books, I?d say you should eventually give this one a look.

Grade: C+