After the disappointingly boring strategy game Game of Thrones: Genesis, the same company takes a swing at making a full-blooded roleplaying adventure based on the currently ubiquitous dark fantasy saga.
Named simply Game of Thrones, nominally based on the similarly-titled TV show, and thus featuring the eerily static faces of Cersei, Varys and Lord Mormont, this in fact tells a new tale starring two new lead characters rather than revisiting the familiar saga of the Starks vs the Lannisters. The story occurs roughly at the same time as the events of the first series (or first book, if you prefer) and does find some clever ways of tying itself into the broader intrigue and skullduggery.
Mostly, though, it's the often tragic and even more often brutal saga of bitter Night's Watchman Mors Westford and fallen nobleman Alester Sarwyck. The first half of the game sees levels alternate between the two, though as former comrades-in-arms it's only a matter of time before they encounter each other.
Each stumbles upon conspiracies that seem to involve the highest levels of Westeros' ruling elite, as well as forcing them to face up to their own dark pasts. The tale starts slowly, but successfully builds into something nuanced, dramatic and even, at times, moving. That it succeeds in this despite what's often very poor vocal performances is very nearly miraculous. While troubled man of the cloth Alester generally holds his own, the chap voicing bloodthirsty jobsworth Mors struggles to be convincing until the later stages of the game.
Worse still, the vast majority of the background players, the lords, ladies, peasants, prostitutes and guards that litter this 20-40 hour game's low fantasy world, sound like they've been pulled in off the street to record their lines.
The game would have been far better off ditching some of its excess length in favour of a better grade of actor, but fortunately it achieves a compelling tale that's twisty, dark and amoral enough to feel fairly in keeping with the show/books whose name it bears. While the game is essentially linear, with a smattering of free wandering and side-quests, there's much in the way of moral dilemmas with later consequences. Some hard decisions are made which affect the game's later stages, and a particularly tricky choice awaits in the final act. As for the action, this too is surprisingly non-banal for a licensed title.
Rather than the perhaps expected hacking and slashing with wild abandon, it's a highly tactical affair. A pause-time system sees you cue up orders for your characters, with fairly complex combinations necessary to take down the ever-heavily armoured enemies you face. You're usually outnumbered, so a strong understanding of what does what is quickly required. Even if the combat can at times edge towards monotony due to the sparse range of enemies, the evolving abilities and challenge keeps it engaging most of the time.
There's a lot of superficial mess in Game of Thrones, and whatever budget it had hasn't always been entirely well-spent, but underneath that is a surprisingly strong and ambitious game. It requires patience, but stick with it and you'll find something that's smart and nuanced where other roleplaying games err towards melodrama or relentlessness.