Archives for posts with tag: review

George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire has become incredibly popular over the last few years, mostly due to the success of HBO’s V adaptation. Because of it’s critical acclaim, medieval fantasy setting and phenomenal popularity, it was only a matter of time before a development team started seeking out the rights to bring the story to games consoles.

As a fan of the series, both novels and TV series, I was in two minds about the news that developer Cyanide was working on an action RPG installment to the franchise (not least because of the critical slamming that the developer’s previous installment, an RTS based in the same world, received). After playing the game through to it’s conclusion, I remain in two minds. The game-play is, for the most part, utterly dreadful. The character models are bizarre and animations an be even more so. The voice acting is pretty poor but, as this is an RPG, you would expect a heavy reliance on narrative, and thankfully this is where the game really shines.

The plot centers on two main protagonists: Mors Westford, a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch, and Alester Sarwyck, long absent son of a Westeros Lord who has become a Red Priest of Rh’llor. Sounds confusing? Don’t worry; the game manages to induct you into the world quite quickly and with impressive little patronising. Players will take on the role of either of the protagonists, dependent on certain choices that are made and which chapters are being played. Each character can be created to use one particular fighting style, and each have their own unique special abilities. I found that the best way to keep things fresh was to give both characters dramatically different fighting styles, though thanks to the game’s sloppy mechanics even that may not be enough.

The game’s combat system is a half-heated mash up of other titles’, with the most noticeable styles being from Dragon Age: Origins and The Witcher 2. In any combat scenario, the player selects which target they are going to attack and which type of attack they are going to use. Unfortunately, there are only two standard types: attack and defend. You can use stamina to use special abilities, selected from a skill wheel while the action enters a very Witcher 2 style slow-motion. The problem is that most of the special abilities use quite a lot of stamina, so you will inevitably find yourself using two basic ineffective attacks for most of the game, until you can progress enough through the levels to improve your base stamina.

Both the visuals and the sound really let the game down. Graphically, the game looks like a title from the previous generation with only a few half-decent lighting effects to improve it. Character animations have been based on the actors from the TV series where possible and these characters look fine, but it looks as though the developer couldn’t be bothered putting the same amount of effort into original characters who, including one of the main playable characters, look simply weird. Locations have, again, been based on those from the TV series and are well enough designed, if a little simple in their layout. The music is fair, not standing out in any way (though fans will recognize a few of the themes). The final nail in the coffin for the game is the voice acting which is, across the board, awful. Both of the main characters sound bored, even during emotionally intense scenes. Needless to say, this takes away a fair amount of the impact that this well written story deserves. Also, characters from the series aren’t voiced by the actors that portrayed them and, whilst this didn’t bother me too much, it is certain to rile some fans of the series.

All in all, if you play games for a rich and immersive experience, Game of Thrones is not for you. There is definitely a gem here in the form of the game’s excellent story, but I can’t imagine that many gamers will be willing to wade through the wreckage of the game to appreciate it.

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Horror has been represented in video games in many different ways, from the action-based gore fest that is Resident Evil to the psychological nerve assault that is Project Zero. Despite the differences in the approach to the genre, however, most horror video games base the fear experience around the same thing: the fact that you are fighting the object of terror. The same cannot be said of free-to-play game Slender.

The game is based around the Slender Man mythology which was brought into being by the Something Awful forums, where a cryptic post showed old photographs which, in the background of each, featured a tall and strangely proportioned man with no features in a dark suit. It inevitably didn’t take too long for the internet to be filled with further images, stories and videos all depicting the Slender Man, all with a creepy tone to them.

The game itself is a first-person affair, and you begin by awakening in the woods. It is dark and you are armed only with a torch and a slight sprint ability. You have one goal: to collect 8 separate pages which are hidden on various landmarks throughout the area. Sounds simple? Sure it does. Sure it would be, too, were it not for the fact that you are being pursued by the Slender Man throughout your search.

The visuals aren’t amazing, but this is a fan made game. A free one, at that. The sound, however, is excellent. The sounds of the forest are quickly subverted by a terrible, layered pounding that rhythmically continues, making you think of large and heavy footsteps closing in on you. There are also occasional audio glitches which are the staple of any horror; a loud, high pitched sound akin to a malfunctioning radio. These all add together to create an excellent accompaniment to what is being shown on screen.

The sense of chase is where the game really succeeds and you will inevitably find yourself sprinting through the woods wildly, sure that the lanky antagonist (lanktagonist?) is right behind you. The fact is that you will rarely see Slender Man as, Amnesia style, looking at him causes damage to you and so you have to turn very quick and run, meaning that he is behind you. For the most part, whenever you do encounter him it will be as an ominous figure in the background who will appear closer each time you see him and he never moves whilst in your vision. The genius of this is that, as he is always static, the trees in the forest very quickly start to look like Slender Man, panicking you and making you lose track of where you are or where you were going.

The pages that you have to collect are, themselves, creepy as all hell. They all bear a childlike stick drawing of Slender Man and have some ominous messages. My two personal favourites are ‘Follows’ and ‘Can’t Run’. As there are only 8 of the pages, the game isn’t a long one, especially seeing as you probably won’t manage to get all 8. This is instead a quick and fast scare which relies on the threat of very imminent death rather than a gradual building of atmosphere.

I personally see this as a great piece of inspiration for game developers; you don’t need to arm your protagonist to the teeth and throw wave after wave of monsters at them to get scares. Give the player a sense of helplessness and of inevitability. Give them the unknown and you’ll scare the trousers off them. Slender certainly did that to me.