Licensed gaming has a storied history of ups and downs, with games that are both well realised and complementary recreations of their source material and others which, well, play like “the following game was actually based on a piece of shit and not that thing you love”. When the source material is movies the latter is almost always the case, with things faring a bit better when the source material is of the literary kind – ie, based on a collection of words printed on pieces of these things they call “paper”. You know, nerd stuff.
In the case of A Game of Thrones: Genesis, the source material is the literary work of George R. R. Martin which, for some, is a sprawling fantasy epic of unbelievable detail, scope and genius, and to others, a TV series starring Alec Trevelyan from GoldenEye 007. As a game, and one that touts to be a real-time strategy epic, the end result is most certainly the latter (ie it’s not very good), but more in a case where being too faithful can actually be a bad thing.
Those who watched the TV show prior to reading the books, or even vice-versa, will no doubt have spent the first few hours in this world like a uni student fervently taking notes at a lecture on things you thought you knew a bit about but really, you didn’t know squat. Things like the inner workings of medieval royalty, nobility, treachery, warfare, revenge, redemption and so forth. It’s kind of like “sure, the following game was based on these books, but we kind of got carried away and added way too many things. Enjoy!”
So, this not your traditional RTS. You know the type, the ones where sweet, sweet resources equal mucho units to take to battle and such. And even though there are armies to build and enemies to battle, in a sense this so-called epic strategy game is a very constricted, sometimes fun, but overly complicated game of nefarious diplomacy (which is quite faithful to the book series) and some light warfare which, unlike the book series, never really crosses over into “epic” territory - mainly due to the woeful boardgame-like animation.
And strangely those expecting to see famous characters from the first book to pop up like Eddard Stark, who would no doubt walk up to an enemy house and spill your entire battle strategy out to them in full whilst you madly try to take control of him with your mouse, yelling all the while “Shut up Stark! If you’d just keep your mouth shut and put your pride away for two seconds you’d rule the entire Seven Kingdoms instead of that Joffrey dip shit!” But alas he’s nowhere to be found as the game’s campaign mode strangely takes place over 1,000 years before the book series and the TV show by focusing on the early days of the seven kingdoms, with the only recognition coming from the names of the various houses you encounter.
So although it’s based on some hardcore nerd material to begin with, it strangely aims to please those that bothered to read through all the Appendices and savour every last drop of history present in the book series. Not that we’re counting but the sane reaction to this approach would be, strike two!
Either way the Lannisters are not to be trusted, under any circumstance. Red banners, blonde hair, green eyes and fair skin are not a trustworthy combination.
So at this point you’re probably wondering how it plays, what the overall objective is, and how do the mechanics work and so forth. Well, basically the game pits house against house (such as Stark vs Lannister vs Baratheon vs et al) who must work towards aligning various towns and villages to their side whilst also double dealing and spying on enemies, assassinating key people and shoring up some troops before the inevitable war breaks out. You may have just read over that last bit so here it is again, war is inevitable
, and so the game is one part being as sneaky and corrupt as possible and then another part having to fight it out after being as sneaky and corrupt as possible leading to war.
At its most basic level, sending an envoy to a nearby town with no affiliation will slowly persuade it to align itself with your house and provide some tribute in the form of gold and other goods. At its most complicated, you can send a spy to uncover an envoy whom has betrayed you in a nearby town you thought
was your friend, and then send an assassin to take him out or arrest him and force an opposing house to pay you his bounty, whilst he does the same thing to you. Or you could send a noble lady – ie, medieval temptress -- to marry the town’s leader to minimise the chance of being duped.
In theory a lot of what is presented could potentially work in a better title, as a strategy game built on a foundation of ‘no-one can be trusted’, is definitely a different and exciting approach. However, the execution just falls flat and consequently is just a little bit, well, boring. The game plays more like a real-time board game than one designed for in-the-moment strategy, with each location representing a node on the overall map with even your discovered spies and envoys automatically going back to your fort accompanied by an animation that screams ‘go directly to Jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200’.
Even the visuals seem disinterested with everything looking lifeless and devoid of any real colour or identifiable landmarks, outside of a few fan service cameos. Bland is probably the only word to describe how the game looks. But in the end this game will no doubt appeal to very small audience as the complex gameplay and tug of war style approach of treachery can become addictive when playing outside of the campaign or even online. That is, of course, if there are enough people out there to give this game more than a passing glance.
As it stands, the first game based on the epic fantasy series of books in the A Song of Fire and Ice
series will definitely leave most players out there cold. Winter is coming.