Having read every book in the series-in-progress “A Song of Ice and Fire” from George R.R. Martin and being an avid watcher of the newer television series “Game of Thrones” which accompanies the series, I was excited to see something new pertaining to Martin’s world. At the same time, I was apprehensive to play the game for fear that the developers might have skewed the storyline or ruined something that I had grown to love.
Upon firing the game up for the first time, I was somewhat relieved to see that the game is set long before the happenings within the books, and covers a section of history that isn’t laid out exactly within the timeline. What this has allowed Cyanide Studios to do is to take a few liberties and freedoms that would have otherwise angered fans.
After allowing myself to put my fears aside and dive into the campaign, what we have is a basic strategy game with a few innovations and twists that lovers of similar games may or may not enjoy. Rather than having the focus on combat and conquering enemy territories, the game is largely focused on using diplomacy, subterfuge and secret alliances to gain ground. Of course, there is still the element of combat, but the presence and need for raising large armies is dulled by the upkeep of keeping your own territories afloat and under your own control.
While I played, I was sending out envoys to enemy territories, spying on illicit deeds that caused my own people to turn against me, inciting revolts, and assassinating enemy troops. There is a large focus on the element of stealth and surprise which didn’t exactly mesh with my typical play style. Had I been given the choice, I would have much rather raised my armies and simply taken the world by force, but therein lies the problem – I wasn’t given the choice. While my armies stood ready and willing to obliterate other attack units, I found a good deal of the diplomatic units simply immune to my wrath. I won’t lie – it bothered me that I could effectively surround a territory with tons of troops but was unable to take the land without bringing in an otherwise useless unit to barter through diplomacy or incite a revolt.
I agree that the game has a focus that differs from the norm, but this isn’t always a good thing, especially when it takes away from the immersion. That said, the game would have a different pace and difficulty if it simply became a battle of armies. The most important thing about a game is that it causes a player to have fun while playing and enjoy the time they’ve spent, and I can’t truly say that this game did that for me. While players who are more focused on strategy and diplomatic gains might have a great time with the intricacies of this system, it lacked the battle element that I enjoy most.
Once you are able to raise armies versus simply hiring small bands of mercenaries, the game seems to disappoint even further. Armies are comprised of just a few simple units, and not the large, powerful group you might expect. I can safely say that I got more enjoyment out of the assassin game unit than I did a large, mixed army of troops.
I experienced a frustrating time with strange issues as well which forced me to become defeated immediately. Twice during my play I was simply given a defeat screen that stated my “main character” had died, but this wasn’t the case – she was still alive and well. Moreover, this character isn’t even controllable, which is another gripe I should mention. If I am to protect this unit, I simply am forced to keep troops stationed around her because establishing a perimeter in a game with such a large stealth focus is next to impossible.
While some might compare this game to other RTS greats, it is actually more comparable to capture-the-node play style. It lacks the action that I’ve grown to love within the series it’s named after, and whether you are a fan of the series or not, I still wouldn’t recommend this purchase.
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