Game of Thrones is a big name these days, with a TV show and the “Song of Ice and Fire” book series both making big waves. Now, somewhat inevitably, there’s a game.
It’s probably a good idea for me to point out before you read any more of this review that I’m not familiar with any of the source material. We don’t get the TV show here in the UK and I can’t read, so the books are completely out. I’m also blind, so I can’t go on the Internet to order the DVD.
It might seem silly for me to review the game, but at the very least I hope it can provide a different perspective on the game. If it’s a good enough game, then surely it could be worth getting regardless of backstory knowledge. I know a few people, for example, who loved Metal Gear Solid 4 despite not knowing a thing about the franchise.
Not that I’m comparing the two games, mind. A Game of Thrones – Genesis is a real-time strategy game, for starters. There’s a lot less story, too.
The game works differently to most RTS games, and requires much more of the “strategy” part than “real-time” action. The only building you own at the start of a game is a castle (or other Lord’s building depending on location), from which you may recruit units. The rest of the buildings in your kingdom are completely independent from you and need to be persuaded to ally with you. The “Envoy” unit does this for you in most cases, and once a village (or other building or settlement) is allied with you you gain money from trade and expand your kingdom.
Stay with me, because it gets more complicated. Spies mean you can secretly ally with your enemy’s allies- so you get the benefits of friendship without the enemy Lord knowing that you are allied to a given settlement. That is, of course, until he puts a spy unit near it, and all is revealed.
You can from blood pacts by marrying your daughter to someone in the settlement, making it a much more permanent friendship. However an assassin could kill the daughter, or a rogue could start a revolution. It’s a fairly complex system when there are a lot of settlements to keep an eye on but it’s much easier to understand than it sounds.
The maps generally work around the idea that two or more Lords are wrestling for control in a given area. The maps aren’t set up like most RTS games- firstly because there is no “full” fog-of-war (it’s always revealed, you just can’t see the units in enemy territory) and secondly because they are split into a grid. Each settlement controls one section of the map, as seen in the bottom left corner. It’s about as close to turn-based strategy as real-time strategy can get.
The mechanics are interesting enough, and there’s plenty to busy yourself with- crank up the difficulty and there’s a complex game to be found. The problem with A Game of Thrones – Genesis, though, is that it’s just utterly boring.
It’s not that the game is particularly bad. It’s just that there’s very little to keep you interested- the story is so completely insignificant that it plays out in help boxes that you have to click through, and the gameplay is slower than a tortoise in reverse. It might be because the mechanics are better suited to turn-based strategy. You’re essentially doing stuff that could be done in that genre, but then you have to wait for units to walk around the play area (fucking slowly, might I add).
The story was apparently written under supervision of the book’s author, but the way it’s told just makes it completely flat- just grey text boxes to click through and read. If you’re desperate for more ‘Game of Thrones’ lore then maybe it’s for you, but there’s nothing here for non-fans.
The only thing that stands out as being seriously bad, as opposed to just lacking, is the visual style and interface. There’s no flair, the textures look terrible and worst of all it’s flat and lifeless. The game is just utterly ugly in every way. It’s about as bad as graphics can get these days before being a joke.
A Game of Thrones – Genesis is an alright game. That’s all I can say about it, really. It’s got some interesting mechanics and unit types, but is let down by being completely dull. At a stretch fans of the series might enjoy it, but I couldn’t recommend it to anyone. It’s not particularly bad- it’s just, well, ‘meh’.
+ Interesting ideas
+ Gameplay works well
+ May be worth a look for series fans
– Graphics are awful
– Risk of death (from boredom)
A Game of Thrones – Genesis was released for PC on 29th September 2011. It was developed by Cyanide and published by Focus Home Interactive. The review copy was provided by the publisher and played on an AMD Phenom X4 system with 4gb RAM and a Radeon HD 5850. The single player mode was not played to completion because it was duller than listening to Dave talking about pumping weights. The reviewer felt, however, that enough was played to gauge the quality of the game. Unfortunately the multiplayer was not tested due to technical difficulties.