The appeal of the game, then, isn't about hacking, slashing and re-enacting the sort of deliciously gory death scenes the series is known for. For one, letting players split a man's head horizontally would've gotten developers Cyanide a nice red exclusionary 18 certificate. And, despite internet-famous clips of legs being axe-lopped and brains being boulder-smooshed, inventive deaths aren't what the series is really about.
It's about political intrigue, incestuous scandal and desperate grabs for that tetanus-liable throne. "When you play the game of thrones", says royal slapper Cersei Lannister, "you win or you die." The show is a drama first and a gore simulator second, and by sidelining the combat - or at least lowering the kill-count - Cyanide themselves are quite admirably attempting to play their game of thrones, their way.
This involves a lot of talking. That's bad news for gamers after the more immediate thrills of Dragon's Dogma, The Witcher 2 and Skyrim, but if you're one of the millions gripped in the war between Stark, Lannister and those big dudes who ride horses, there's just enough story to distract from the hollow combat.
It curbs close to the show. Cutscenes share the series' trademark for ornate language and rich, expertly weaved dialogue. "Those boys still smell of summer," barks Jeor Mormont upon arrival in his perpetually frostbitten Night's Watch. A handful of dialogue options - happy, angry, dryly ironic - give you the chance to snap back. Granted, there's not much opportunity for branching lines, and most quests and plotlines will carry on regardless of how cutting your witty retort, but it's a crucially close step to actually playing with, and impacting, a fascinating universe previously locked behind page, screen and board.
Combat is painfully uninvolving, but if your Game of Thrones fandom stretches farther than its gruesome kills, there's enough here with which to find favour.
- A stunningly rendered, well-observed Westeros.
- Beautifully crafted language the show is known for.
- Combat's comparatively slow, but the hardcore will like it...
- ...everyone else will find it uninvolving and unsatisfying.
- Dialogue-heavy gameplay can confuse and bore.
- At times it becomes bogged down in lore.