Game Rant’s William Case reviews A Game of Thrones: Genesis
There are a few out there that have yet to experience the beautifully envisioned world that writer George R. R. Martin has devised in his string of books.
Now with a syndicated HBO series, the cutthroat roots stemming from A Game of Thrones have reached paper, television, and fans’ hearts - as well as the video game universe. Hoping to introduce a new twist on RTS titles, A Game of Thrones: Genesis both exceeds and fails just as masterfully.
Trekking through the lengthy campaign comprised of the many historic Westeros battles and skirmishes (such as the War of the Ninepenny King), the stories attached are great for anyone that is ready to delve a little deeper into the Game of Thrones mythos. The trick is, players will have to deal with shoddy voice acting, clipping in the audio, and typos that a middle school child would recognize.
That same lackadaisical attitude follows the title all the way to the combat system: the core of the game. Where Game of Thrones: Genesis really makes its virtual mark is its ingenious way of incorporating full-time espionage into the gameplay. Interacting with the other noble houses, players have the ability to play dirty — and that’s the first thing you do.
Genesis does something unique in the fact that it asks players to try and win without brutish tactics, but instead using spies, bribes, assassinations, and other means to undercut or gain the upper hand over the other feuding houses. Other neutral towns play key roles by giving players areas to gain influence, prestige, and the ever-important gold for the uglier necessities.
But it’s not always about you: what one house can accomplish another can certainly tear down. Once players begin their subterfuge other houses can throw in curveballs, such as bribe town officials and falsify reports of impending invasion (or fake scouting reports) to keep players guessing. Rival houses can begin rebellion, burn crops and cut gold production to a standstill.
To fight against these tactics, players can send a maiden from one town to another — with a hefty dowry — to stamp a more secure alliance, post men at the gate, send spies to interact with your own men and find the plants. This type of gameplay in an RTS is a breath of fresh air and wonderfully balanced, which is hard to do for something that is genuinely complex in terms of espionage and subterfuge.
But then again, where developer Cyanide Studios excels in one aspect, they drop the lance in another. Eventually there will be a confrontation of arms, and even as this trailer points out, it’s massive and expansive. Unfortunately, it’s also woefully under controlled and poorly executed. Once the call “to arms” has been raised, all of the time spent on undercutting other houses and being secretive goes out the window, and is put on immediate halt - until the war is over. On top of that, most gold manufacturing is also put on standstill, save for a few pieces that are associated with the war effort.
Which is a major let-down, as each unit’s cost goes up incrementally after each purchase, meaning that if a player doesn’t have a lot of gold or food stored up, they will be quickly overrun. Even on top of that, there’s a pretty hefty cap limit on how many units a player can have out on the field at any given time, meaning that players wanting to have an all-out war will be sorely disappointed.
Disappointment will also be the Valyrian word of the day once combat begins. Units are woefully unbalanced and have the potential to stand around or break after losing too much morale. It honestly wouldn’t be as mad, if some of the espionage options were still open enough to allow players to come in and allow for assassination attempts on generals, search for deserts and recruit from enemy ranks, yet it instead becomes something more of throwing sticks into the ocean - and seeing which ones come back.
This is why the multiplayer options give players much more wiggle room to really experiment and play around with the environments - as well as full breadth of abilities. In fact, it’s entirely possible to take a battle online and finish it completely, without a single battle: only using subterfuge and intelligence. Plus with the wide array of maps and locations for players to enjoy, it’s somewhat enjoyable to just sit down and delve into Martin’s world.
All in all, A Game of Thrones: Genesis gives some enticing backstory, along with bringing some fresh ideas to the RTS genre. However, while Cyanide definitely got a lot right - they may have over-extended their reach - a little more attention to the finer details and Genesis could have lived up to his namesake.
A Game of Thrones: Genesis is currently available for the PC.