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Game of Thrones Genesis

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As a part of the Game Completion Challenge I’ve taken on this year, I have decided to take on the additional task of reviewing all of the games I complete. In my infinite generosity you will be spared the pure torture of a bad game or perhaps be inspired to enjoy a truly great one. The first title on the list is A Game of Thrones: Genesis. Does this game live up to the incredible book and TV show franchise, or does it turn out like so many other-media franchise games and leave us wanting?

Let me start off by putting my nerd cred in jeopardy with this confession: I have neither read nor watched A Game of Thrones. It’s not because I have anything against the series, far from it. But they are a time commitment, and one that’s best saved for when I have a month to completely absorb everything. That being said, I have a fair grasp of what A Game of Thrones is: a political drama situated in a fantasy world.  It fell onto the developers at Cyanide to find a way to not only capture the essence of these political dealings, but to find a way to make them an actual, exciting game. Did they succeed? Not at all.

game of thrones genesis 2The basic gameplay feels stilted in a number of ways. It maintains the resource management found in many RTS games (you need to manage gold to purchase peasant and mercenaries, and food to raise armies), while capturing objectives with envoys and defending them with a combination of spies, guardsmen, and noble ladies. On the offensive side, you can send in assassins, rogues, mercenaries, and, of course, armies. On paper, it seems like it could be an interesting tug of war as you try to outwit your opponent through a chesslike mastery of unit tactics. The goal is to constantly counter anything they throw at you while trying to destroy their resources. It’s a sort of advanced rock paper scissors, which actually sounds a lot more interesting than the game ended up being.

One major flaw in AGoT:G is how incredibly, frustratingly slow it is. Playing this game actually feels like you’re wading through sand. None of the models move across the map with any degree of speed, and everything feels like you’re just waiting for ages before you can proceed onto the next step. There were times where I questioned whether or not we would reach the heat death of the universe before I would actually complete the main campaign.

The single player campaign takes this slow pace and brings it to a place where snails would be Ferraris in comparison. What functions as a cutscene in the game is the privilege of watching units move back and forth, which is especially painful considering how slow the units tend to be. The individual missions are a study in tedium as well. There is no internal consistency within the levels. They all feel like they arbitrarily end (You just raised 1,000 gold! Not that you’re going to spend it. That’s just the end of the mission), or they arbitrarily force you to lose (Oh, so what you mean by “don’t let this envoy die” is to not let him get hit once by the archer that suddenly appeared behind my front line. Thanks).

There is, technically, combat in the game, but it never actually feels adventurous, nor does it even mean anything. Units meet and proceed to stand there with either dull movements or none at all, much in the fashion of a middle school co-ed dance. The only indications of a battle taking place is the seemingly eternal decay of the unit’s health bar as it is slowly whittled away while the last vestiges of my humanity wither and die inside me.

Adding to the eternal frustration I had in emotionally dealing with this game was the game’s own instability. Periodic crashes in the middle of arbitrarily tedious missions only served to make my blood boil and convince me that the game was invented as an advanced form of torture. That, or I’m a closet masochist, but that’s a whole other article.

The plot of the single player campaign was barely held together. The developers decided to focus on the entire history before the timeline of the GoT books even begins. Individual characters barely had any focus, and instead it felt more like a highlights reel of the time period. You see monarchs and nobles rise, then suddenly move on down the line of history, hearing about their conquests but barely witnessing anything. The epilogue texts in the individual missions thoughtfully tell of battles that would have been far more exciting and interesting than what they forced me to slog through. The campaign had more wasted opportunities than not.

Even the script lacked any sense of life to it. While GoT is full of fascinating characters and plenty of wit (Tyrion. Enough said), everything the main characters in AGoT:G uttered felt completely dull and lifeless. I didn’t care about them at all; they were no different than any of the other bland characters in the game. Nothing differentiated one from the other. Adding to the drudgery was the terrible voice acting that seemed to oscillate between bad Cockney, bad upper class British, and bad Scottish. Considering how very few British voice actors there are in the world, it’s not surprising that Cyanide had to make do with a couple guys from their IT department doing their best to recall the accents of Bond villains.

game of thrones genesisOutside of the single player campaign is Skirmish mode, which is actually much more fun than the campaign missions. In Skirmish mode you control one house among a series on a map, and instead of arbitrary endings and scenarios, your goal is to be the first to obtain 100 “Prestige Points”. While having the largest army, killing the most units, and controlling the most territory might help, it is by no means the only way to win, and in that way it does actually feel a lot like a legitimate Game of Thrones style game. I can’t help but think that if they had allowed more of that spirit to shine into the campaign, this would have been a much better game overall. Sadly, even this play mode isn’t enough to save the game from itself.

In the end, the term “arbitrary” is probably the best way to describe A Game of Thrones: Genesis. The combat, scenarios, stories, cutscenes, and missions all felt incredibly arbitrary. The gameplay moves at a glacial pace, and the most exciting events to happen in the story are discovered in text instead of actually being playable scenarios. It’s clunky, and the system crashes only increased my displeasure with it. In the end, I can’t even recommend this game to die hard Game of Thrones fans, as there was no involvement from the characters they’ve come to know and love. If it’s the story you’re after, your time will be better spent reading the Cliff’s Notes of the game rather than playing through it. Sadly, this is yet another game that fails to actually accomplish anything and is closer to being a blemish on the franchise instead of an interesting exploration in a new medium. Do not buy this game, even for the $20 Steam pricetag.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.