A Game of Thrones: Genesis is one of the more remarkable releases in quite some time. Big time license (especially considering the release of the new book and the popularity of the HBO show), small publisher, mostly unknown developer here in the States that is tied to the release of Blood Bowl (for better or worse), and a release that happened in the dead of night like when the Colts packed up and left Baltimore for Indianapolis.
No marketing push at all. In fact, when I went to E3 to see Focus Home all they had to show was a running trailer on a TV screen. That was JUNE 2011. The game dropped end of September that same year and they had no code to show for E3?
That’s crazy. But not nearly as crazy as the interface limitations…
So the game comes out and it’s nothing like what people expected, which was a basic RTS with a license applied. In fact, the licensing in Genesis is rather weak. You have a few characters from the lore in the campaign but the meat of the game, the skirmish/multiplayer, is fairly generic stuff. Yeah, House Stark gets Direwolves. Woo hoo. But the castles aren’t even named so the Lannisters have Generic Feudal Home X and not Casterly Rock. The towns aren’t named. The Great Lords aren’t people from the lore — they’re just Great Lords. Sure, there is a Westeros map and various skirmish maps represent locations in the world, but for a game with the Thrones name, it’s a fairly standard game with only a sprinkling of licensing power. There are very few, if any, fan boy moments.
What really hurts this RTS is that, while there are a lot of neat and truly crazy ideas in this design, the interface can’t handle everything that it wants to do.
Hotkeys? Uh, no.
They’re terribly limited which is a killer for any RTS, especially a complicated game like this. You can’t even use a hotkey to queue up production. (
(Tom Chick just rolled over in his…futon)
It’s frustratingly difficult to tell the players apart in a skirmish game from one another. Some of the color schemes are very similar so you have to rely on the banners which are so tiny that you can’t tell if that’s a Lannister or a Tully. In an 8-player game knowing who is who is damn near impossible. The units are small, which also compounds this issue. (I have literally clicked on a unit before thinking it was mine when it wasn’t. )
As I’ve said many times — save checkpoints. *Facepalm*
There are not nearly enough game alerts. The mini map is a mess because it’s so small and it’s hard to tell where units are (both yours and your enemy). So when an envoy is at a town trying to talk his way into their hearts, you have no idea it’s going on until you hear the “we have lost an ally” message. If you managed to see the little colored dot hanging around your town you can try to send an envoy/assassin/rogue there to put a stop to it but on large map that is almost impossible to do effectively.
I was going to talk yesterday about the combat animations, but aside from the archers shooting their bows there really aren’t any. In fact combat, aside from the UI, remains a pretty big weakness in this game. The more I play it, the more I wish it had turned into a hybrid game where the agent/backstabbing/secret plan stuff was on one map and the battles on another. The fighting in the game just feels out of place compared to the rest of it.
Speaking of combat — next time I’ll talk about War & Peace.