Thursday, June 14, 2012

The leap

There is a definite difference between 'not good' and 'bad.' Games are 'not good' by way of comparison to other games, all games fitting somewhere on a giant sliding scale with (insert you favorite game here) on one end and Barbie Horse Adventures on the other. It is quite possible for a game to be 'not good' and still be quite enjoyable. I enjoy most shooters even though most of them are not very good when compared to Half Life 2 and Call of Duty: The Next one. It is not a crime to be not good, it just means that there was not enough time and/or money to make it to the next plateau.

Being bad, though, is grounds for abuse and mockery.

Up until last night Game of Thrones was simply not good. It does a great many things that were done by other western RPGs, borrowing most heavily from Knight of the old Republic and perhaps Dragon Age. It doesn't do anything as well as its victims, but everything worked just well enough for me to ignore the shadier bits and enjoy the morally bankrupt characters stabbing one another in the back. I did wonder why it kept the two main characters apart for so long, filling the parties with throw away red shirts or bad asses who will undoubtedly betray you for the smallest amount of coin.

Ten chapters in the two finally met, with Mors having an eye burnt out for his troubles and Alester finding out the younger brother he thought was dead was not and then seeing the same brother murdered. Neither were in a very good mood, so being tasked with fighting their way out of a dungeon was suitably cathartic. For the first time my original idea of a tank with ranged support was going to go into battle. I chose to keep control of Alester, poisoning and igniting and being a general nuisance while Mors and his dog took all the abuse and did most of the damage. It did not take long for me to notice that Mors was not using any of his abilities, instead blandly swinging his sword and whoever was in front of him while getting murdered from behind.

Other characters in your party have no AI. They will not do anything that you do not tell them to do. In KotOR and and Dragon Age (and every other turn based/real time RPG ever) NPCs in the party could be set to a few different presets, allowing the player to control his character and intervene only when necessary. Game of Thrones forces the player to control both of them at the same time, and with a move queue of only three that means jumping back and forth every five seconds or so. It's incredibly lazy. It's bad.

Game of Thrones made the leap from 'not good' to 'bad' and it did it with authority. It did it with intention. I had been suckered in by its so so looks, abusable combat and well written but poorly voiced dialogue, so I was not prepared for everything to go to shit all at once. I must soldier on, as there isn't much yet, but I have nothing else nice to say about this game.

Aside from a rather amusing cameo from George R. R. Martin as a healer with quite a bit to say about a book he is writing that he will never finish. It tries to be funny, so I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that it is.

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