Winter is coming
Whether you're a new convert to the mega hit TV show or a seasoned fan of George R. R. Martin's best-selling series of fantasy books, Game of Thrones on PlayStation 3 is completely enthralling from the outset.
Rather than revisit the plot lines of the novels, the game introduces two new characters with their own stories to tell – Alester Sarwyck, a knight in the service of the Lord of Light, and Mors Westford, a disgraced former soldier and brother of the Night's Watch. Each man has his own unique history, personality and quest to pursue – and it's up to you to decide how they pursue it. The world of Game of Thrones is brimming with tough choices, morally ambiguous situations and brutal combat, and every decision you make has the potential to shape your character's destiny.
The focus on creating brand new stories filled with moral choices turns out to be an inspired move, allowing newcomers and diehard fans alike to experience the war-torn world of Westeros afresh. And because the plot has been developed in close conjunction with George R. R. Martin himself, you can be sure it chimes beautifully with his vision.
Welcome to Westeros
Game of Thrones avoids the pitfalls of many adaptations by remaining superbly faithful to the series that inspired it. Anyone with a passing interest in Westeros will be pleased to find the game as sprawling, immersive and addictive as the books themselves.
As you travel the Seven Kingdoms you'll come across a host of familiar characters. The game even features the voice acting talents of some of the stars of the TV show, including Lena Headey (Queen Cersei), Conleth Hill (Varys, Master of Whisperers) and James Cosmo (Lord Mormont, Commander of the Night's Watch).
The writing is excellent, the pace of the story perfectly judged and the many locations you visit in the course of your quest brilliantly atmospheric, from the golden halls of King's Landing to the smoke and stone of Castle Black. Intricate and varied, the world of Westeros has been captured in loving detail – and that means the barbaric bands of outlaws are just as terrifying here as on the printed page...
Ice and fire
The moral dilemmas presented to you in Game of Thrones are mirrored in the distinct personalities of the two playable characters. Both Alester Sarwyck and Mors Westford are men of virtue, yet their unique backgrounds lead them to approach the world in strikingly different ways.
Mors is a cold-blooded but honourable knight sent to the Night's Watch for disobeying the orders of Tywin Lannister, his liege lord. For 15 years Mors and his faithful (not to mention enjoyably vicious) dog have trod the Wall, a titanic edifice of ice that marks the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms and protects the land from the bloodthirsty 'wildlings' who roam the wilderness beyond.
Alester is a high-born knight who returns after 15 years in self-imposed exile to reclaim the family seat of Riverspring from his illegitimate brother. A Red Priest sworn to serve the eastern deity R'hllor, Alester knows some sorcery and boasts a magical affinity with fire – but while his intentions are pure, his integrity is flexible. He soon finds his principles challenged, and is forced to find out how much he will sacrifice in order to protect his people and serve his family's interests.
A storm of swords
For a role-playing game of such size and intricacy, Game of Thrones is superbly easy to get to grips with, and is equally welcoming to role-playing veterans and total newcomers alike.
There's a fantastic degree of choice right from the off, as you customise the playable characters' strengths, skill sets and combat style in a satisfyingly simple menu system that ensures every enhancement is paid for with a corresponding weakness. Combat is also inspired, as you slow the action down while chaining together attack and defence commands. Once your tactics are mapped out, it's time to sit back and watch the murderous melee unfold.
With so much of Westeros available to roam and explore, you're never far from new experiences. Everyone you meet has a story to tell or a favour to beg, and the differing traits and abilities of Mors and Alester ensure that things stay fresh. One moment you're conjuring flames to devour evildoers in the sunny southlands; the next you're knee-deep in snow as you send your snarling hound in pursuit of a cowardly deserter. Such richness and variety in the action is the perfect complement to the compelling characters and spellbinding story – and once you start playing, you'll find it hard to tear yourself away.