A Game of Thrones the website has one of the best Flash introductions I’ve seen — granted it’s mostly to do with composer Ramin Djawadi’s theme song (from the HBO show), which now feels for me as much a part of the property as John Williams’ music does Star Wars.
I mention it because there’s a new trailer out for A Game of Thrones the upcoming roleplaying video game by developer Cyanide. They’re responsible for A Game of Thrones: Genesis, the PC-only real-time strategy prequel staged over 1,000 years of series writer George R.R. Martin’s world history. Genesis tried to upend the genre’s mob-rush tropes by essentially politicizing the gameplay, flavoring with subterfuge mechanics that ranged from bribery to backstabbing to seduction, but critics complained about the muddled combat system, the campaigns’ tedium and the need to micromanage systems that should have been automated.
Cyanide’s second license try — this time with a full-fledged roleplaying video game — looks to be a more mechanically straightforward tour of the mythology. As I understand it, the game takes place midway through events in the first book, though I’m not sure how today’s trailer fits with the series lore, because I don’t remember reading anything about a city of Riverspring (nor do I see it on either of the maps in my copy of A Clash of Kings — beside me because I’ve just started it in anticipation of the HBO show’s second season this April). The new game trailer highlights this Westeros-based town that’s also apparently the former home of a red priest named Alester Sarwyck, one of the game’s main characters.
The trailer explains that Riverspring was one of the region’s most flourishing towns 15 years ago (so think the timeframe of A Game of Thrones minus that), but says it’s fallen on hard times, made worse still by the death of Alester Sarwyck’s father, a lord and the town’s leader. In the game, you’ll control a member of the Night’s Watch and a Red Priest, no doubt tangling with as many political challenges as tactical ones.
Trailers like this leave me cautiously hopeful, with their focus on narrative concerns instead of showing us how many clever ways you can swing a sword or decapitate someone. Cyanide clearly gets that the books’ strengths aren’t their action sequences or latent magic-related miscellany, but the simple (and not-so-simple) human conflicts waged across the social strata, from peasant to throne. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire is really just a War of the Roses analogue, after all, and that’s what I hope we’ll see most of from Cyanide’s take when it ships for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 this May.