The literary world is full of fans of George R. R. Martin‘s fantastical A Song Of Ice and Fire series. Mixing political intrigue with dark creatures, dastardly plans and war, the books have cemented themselves as part of the genre’s elite. As a result, it’s no surprise that executives from other mediums saw the mature intellectual property as a great fit for their television and interactive designs. After all, that’s how HBO‘s audience was blessed with the incredibly well-made and hard-hitting Game of Thrones television series, which is based on Martin’s work. Not only that – it’s for that very reason that the gaming community will be receiving a lengthy and authentic role-playing game based upon, and titled after, that same novel. It’s destined for release on May 15.
What some may not know about Atlus‘ Game of Thrones video game is that its development began approximately seven years ago. At that time, the books were looked upon as a fantastic inspiration for interactive swordplay. There was no television show to go off of, so the written word became king. Still, both the publisher and Cyanide Studio‘s development team decided that it would be best to create their own storyline within the fantastical world. The result is a game that introduces new characters, switching between its two main protagonists on a chapter-by-chapter basis, while mixing in some familiar faces. That storyline development was showcased at a recent PlayStation Canada Spring Showcase event, where I got a chance to take on the role of two of those new characters.
If one were to compare this release to anything else on the market, Dragon Age Origins would be at the top of that list. Both games are involved RPGs that combine mature plot lines with slower-paced combat. Though, you should not consider Game of Thrones to be a clone of BioWare‘s past success. Atlus‘ upcoming release is very authentic, which is noticeable right from the start, and its gameplay mechanics focus more on turn-based combat. A myriad of different foes will take up arms against players, who will be tasked with using a time slow-down effect to aid in ability slotting. Providing that enough energy is available, up to three different abilities can be selected for the in-game protagonists. Though, keep in mind that they won’t be doled out immediately – one must wait his turn.
Being a fan of the aforementioned book series and television spectacle, I’ve been excited about this project for a while now. That’s why Game of Thrones was the first game I stood and watched before moving on to look at the other titles. Seeing it in action was impressive, bringing on a feeling of authenticity. Playing it was also an enjoyable experience, providing a chance to try out a combat system that I ended up enjoying, despite having gone in worrying that its slower pace wouldn’t be for me.
Most of the pre-release screenshots we’ve seen from this game haven’t done it justice, because they’ve been quite dark. Although cellars and dungeons will play their darkened role, the employed visual engine handles their lack of light quite well. In action, this iteration of Game of Thrones manages to capture not only the dark themes of its source, but also its beauty. The environments I saw (and sometimes walked through thanks to a Dualshock 3 controller) were both detailed and colourful, with a lot of the latter pop coming from flowers.
As I watched and played, the amount of choice made available to fans became noticeable. Conversations could be altered based on selected responses, greatly affecting their results. For example; upon finding lawbreakers, I was able to decide whether to be forgiving or ruthless. By choosing to not let them get away with their misguided deeds, a combat situation was created. However, that’s just one time where choices affected gameplay, as several others were noticed. I don’t want to get into too many specifics though, because spoilers suck. Just know that the straight-forward conversation system of yesteryear is not employed here, leading to a more personalized experience.
After spending time with Cyanide Studio‘s latest Game of Thrones project, I find myself excited for the full thing. Fans of George R. R. Martin (who was involved with the development process) will surely be impressed with the work that has gone into this game. It surely is a passion project, which will last upwards of thirty to forty hours for those of us who like to explore and complete side quests. Let’s just hope that winter will hold off while we do so, as I’d rather not lose a hand to a White Walker.