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 Game of Thrones RPG

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Carabas
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PostSubject: Game of Thrones RPG   Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:35 pm

I've just finished the Game of Thrones RPG and after 25 hours I can say it's been the most dramatic and exhilarating CRPG I've played in a long time.

I won't spoil anything but the strength of the game lies in the story and more importantly in the characters who could definitely star in a novel or even a series. For once we're not playing kids but world weary and mature men who have been through a lot and have had some eventful lives. The game focuses on two characters, a veteran of the Night's Watch and a Red Priest.

Throughout the game we come to learn more about their respective stories and what drove them to take the black or embrace the faith of the Red God. The game somehow imitates the narrative of the books (and TV show) by switching back and forth between these two characters thus creating some sense of expectation which can sometimes lead to some tantalizing cliffhangers.

I won't comment much on the story for obvious reasons but all I can say is that it's a credit to the setting and received the approval of George R.R. Martin (yes, it's that good). At times it may seem linear but the game always provides the player with meaningful choices and opportunities to shift the direction of the story. You won't radically modify the outcome of events but you will have a say on how your character deals with these. It does a pretty good job at fleshing out these characters and the two main heroes (or antiheroes) are very memorable.

The game also makes the most of the setting. It was in production before the show was on the air so it looks slightly different at times (I really like the realistic look the game goes for when it comes to armours and some of the clutter) but the game does feature some well known elements (like for instance the Iron Throne from the show) and faces from the TV show and voice acting from the actors (only a few of them so you won't get to see Tyrion but you will recognize some of the big names).

There is an emphasis on the Game of Thrones (the story takes place at the time of the first book/season) so later events in A Song of Ice and Fire are not spoiled by the game (I'm still catching up).

The story is gritty, brutal and at times even grim. You can expect twists, backstabbing and violence reminiscent of the Red Wedding. Honour is a rare commodity in a world where everyone is a bastard.

From a technical point of view the game is not a AAA title and it shows (don't expect this game to look as good as The Witcher 2). Some models look really good but on the whole it's serviceable.

You may have to enable Vsync in the ini file because of the screen tearing. The FOV is a bit too close but that's something I've learned to accept after failing to edit that setting. There is some clipping if you mix different outfits or if you watch some finishing moves too closely (but that's true of Skyrim and most people don't hold that against it).

The music and soundtrack are competent and aptly support the action on screen. The voice acting is ok with some characters that really stand out (especially the first character) but some minor characters can be a bit off and forced (once again the same can be said about Skyrim).

When it comes to combat the game plays a lot like Dragon Age Origins (or KotoR). The real problem is the difficulty especially in the early game because at that point you simply don't have unlocked the most useful abilities yet and it all feels a bit like rock, paper, scissors...

Once you get some area attack and some stun effect and attack things start looking up but until you do the game can turn into an exercise in frustration unless you turn down the difficulty setting. Combat doesn't involve you as much as in other games because you can only give orders, you're not the one doing the attacking, the dodging and the parrying. That wasn't so bad with Dragon Age Origins but I can see how dated this can feel now after playing games like the Witcher or Kingdoms of Amalur (by the way that's not saying that the combat in a game like Skyrim is better or even particularly good).

It does work and it doesn't require much dexterity on the player's part but it also leads to some form of boredom as you sit back and watch your guy hacking away at some foes on auto-attack (unless things take a turn for the worse) which is pretty much how you could play Dragon Age Origins when facing regular mobs on average difficulty. Perhaps I was just being lazy but after a while facing another group of foes was more some sort of hindrance, some annoyance to be done with in order to progress through the story instead of a fun diversion.

In other words I kept playing despite all the combat and not because of it. Like I said it works but in the end it can be very repetitive because most of the time you use your best area attack when facing mob or simply try and stun lock your foe in a duel.

Character creation offers many different options and you can invest in different stats and unlock many things as you level up but the most interesting thing is getting some perks that reflect the way you've played and the choices you've made (which is something that reminded me of Alpha Protocol).

All in all I can recommend this game to fans of A Song of Ice and Fire and fans of the Game of Thrones TV show. It's not your usual fantasy CRPG so that could be seen as a plus for a CRPG fan.

The depth of the world is used to provide a colourful backdrop without alienating the player who may not be an expert. What I'm trying to say is that I haven't read all the books (yet) but I never felt like I was lost which is more than I can say of the beginning of the Witcher 2 which is rather confusing even for people who did play the first game (and probably a bad design choice because it becomes much harder to relate to what is happening if you have absolutely no clue regarding the action).

I can appreciate an in medias res start because it makes for a strong first impression but you have to provide enough background so the player can relate to what is happening on the screen. The Game of Thrones RPG does a great job of involving the player in the story and if you can stick through some of the most repetitive sections you will be rewarded with one of the most satisfying ending to any story even more so because that particular ending will be a direct reflection of some of the decisions you've made in the game. The story may force your hands at some points but you end up making the story your own as you can choose what role you want to play and more importantly actually play that role within the frame of the story.

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