Apr 17, 2013

Postplay : A Game of Thrones - Genesis

About a week ago I said goodbye to my family and started my journey on The Kingsroad through Westeros. The journey only took me 5 hours but I believe I've seen enough of the scenery to tell you about my travels.

I've been playing 'Game of Thrones - Genesis', a strategy game developed by Cyanide Studio based on the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.
I wasn't sure what to expect so I jumped in the tutorial before anything else. About an hour later I came out the other end feeling a bit confused but interested in the mechanics of the game.
The first time you play GotG the sheer amount of mechanics and tactics might seem frightening. This feeling is enhanced by the unfamiliar nature of many of those tactics within the strategy genre.
I'm not overly familiar with the strategy genre, so I could be wrong here, but I don't think most strategy games involve marrying noble ladies, hiding bastards  collecting ransom for prisoners or starting riots in towns in order to win the match.
Fans of the novels will certainly recognize many of the mechanics that are part of the game, here are just a few :
  • Mercenaries flee when combat seems lost
  • It helps to ally septs and having the seven on your side
  • You can lose prestige when one of your bastards is discovered
  • Using spies to create false pacts
The military approach is mostly a last resort in GotG, something that I found very refreshing.

With the tutorial out of my way I ventured on and plunged into the campaign mode.
If you are a fan of the novel series here's where you'll find the story content you're looking for.
The story starts with the arrival of Queen Nymeria of the Rhoyne, 700 years before the iron throne is even forged.
You assist her in conquering Dorne but also in marrying Mors Martell.
For those unfamiliar with these names, they are characters that appear in the 'songs' of Westeros, the Song of Ice and Fire equivalent of legends and myths.
You play through the history of Westeros following different historic figures, like Aegon I Targaryen (the Conqueror) or Daeron I Targaryen, ending up with Eddard Stark.
The game is also packed with smaller references to the books such as assassins saying "I'm so sorry" before making a kill, letting you know that they are Sorrowful Men or being witness to the initial destruction of Harrenhal.
If your only reference to the world of Westeros is the TV series though, most of the story won't mean anything to you and without knowing the source material there might not be enough to keep the campaign interesting.

Although the campaign certainly has its fun moments, the gameplay doesn't always shine.
Many of the tactics that you learn in the tutorial aren't available during the first hours, withholding the game to take full advantage of its unique set of tools.
This is needed to ease the player into the mechanics for sure, but many times I was just following orders given by the game, making for a slow-paced grind towards new story content.
I can only assume these limitations disappear after playing a few more hours though, so this would've been fine if it was the campaigns only shortcoming.
Sadly enough, it isn't. The orders you are given by the protagonist at the time are often confusing.
In one instance I was ordered to check up on a town with a spy. When I did though, nothing happened.
Only after trying another town Mors Martell was satisfied, even though he had never specified what town he suspected of treason.
These types of confusing situations lead to having a harder time to get to grips with the games basic mechanics even with the gameplay  limitations in place.
It took me about three hours before I started feeling confident about my actions and every now and then stuff like this made me doubt if I had missed something.

But it was neither the gameplay limitations that drove me away from the campaign nor the confusing commands of my leader, it was a game breaking bug that halted my journey through the history of Westeros.
At one point during an already boring escort mission all AI stopped working. I could see enemy units standing in place while I swooped in one my dragon (yes, there are dragons) and burned their cities to the ground.
This swooping and burning was the only thing I was able to do because both food and money income had halted as well, leaving me totally resource-less.
After several minutes of swooping, burning, going back to the Red Keep, resting, swooping and burning again all towns were defeated but the victory conditions didn't trigger and I was forced to start the mission over.
With only 1 more hour left to hit my 5 hour goal I decided to leave the campaign behind and try one of the house vs house games.

House vs house is were all the little parts of the gameplay come together to form an interesting strategy experience.
Even though I only played one game against an easy AI it was clear that this mode is where most of the fun is to be had.
I was finally free to experiment with all of the systems the game has to offer and I could see that with some practice and experience many different approaches would be possible to try and overcome your opponents.

As far as the multiplayer goes, it might be fun, but only if you have some friends that own the game as well.
I tried joining a match, only to find out that not a single person was playing the game online.
So if you don't bring your own party, you're going to have a bad time in the GotG multiplayer lobby.

So to round things up.
Game of Thrones - Genesis surely has its strong points.
The campaign offers some nice inside into the history of Westeros giving the fans of the fiction something to enjoy.
The house vs house games give fans of strategy games a refreshing set of rules and can provide for many hours of scheming, marrying or straight up killing for glory.
The pity though is that none of the modes seem to succeed in combining these two elements into a solid experience everyone can enjoy.
If you own the game and you have an affection for the books or for strategy games by all means give it a go.
But if you don't, I wouldn't bother buying the game because there are way better things to spend €24,99 on.


Alex Vanden Abeele said...

So what's next?

SimoensS said...

Next up is 'And Yet It Moves'. The preplay for that is coming soon.
You can view the entire line up here :

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