If the best thing Game of Thrones does is its split narrative, its combat has got to be the worst. Throughout the game, you'll come up against guards, wildlings, and bandits, and each engagement is just… flatly uninteresting. The combat system is something of a melding of real-time and turn-based combat in which you cue up attacks to, for example, knock your enemy off balance and then hit him with a crippling blow.
Or I should say, "hit" him. The combat looks like an old-school MMO—the combatants don't really seem to ever touch one another while fighting, they simply wave swords through each other as numbers fly off and hit points deplete. It's all rather dispiriting, particularly when you're losing—rather than feeling tense and exciting, a nail-biter finish involves watching your health bar deplete and hoping that your enemy's bottoms out faster.
Story makes up the vast majority of this adventure. This is a good thing because the elements surrounding the plot can't reach the lofty heights of the story. Combat thrusts so many ideas at you early on that it's initially overwhelming. Attributes and percentages flood the screen, and though a tutorial spells out what everything means, there are so many things to keep track of that you fear you're missing something important. Which sword should you use against heavy armor? What does it mean when an enemy starts bleeding? These answers become second nature in time, and it's when everything clicks that it becomes apparent just how simple the combat system really is.
Especially in the early going, Game of Thrones often feels like a poor man's Dragon Age, from interacting with dialogue wheels to slowing down combat in order to queue up different attack actions. But while the most basic framework is available and functional, you might find some aspects of Game of Thrones lacking, but especially if you’ve invested dozens of hours into Bioware’s blockbuster. Comparisons solely to Dragon Age aside, many textures and character models are ugly. The world doesn’t feel so open and alive (and lacks an abundance of side quests and activities). Combat can become repetitive. The events are more linear. The mini-map is nearly useless.
The situation doesn’t improve on the battlefield. Combat plays similarly to the console version of Dragon Age: Origins, but with less polish (and remember Origins on consoles was already sloppy). You set up actions in a three-slot queue, then watch your commands get carried out in sequence. Apart from your basic attack, no abilities are mapped to any face buttons, so you frequently need to pause (though the action doesn’t stop entirely) and pull up an ability wheel to issue new orders. Your powers are cool, especially those involving Mors’ dog and Alester’s affinity for fire, but the stop-and-go feeling keeps fights from gaining momentum.
Even when you win, you won’t get any tactical satisfaction. Every enemy in the game is just a dude in some armor (with a single late-game exception), and they aren’t military geniuses. Archers often attack at point-blank range, stupidly trying to fire arrows while flanked by swordsmen. Guards stand oblivious while their comrades are slaughtered in huge battles only feet away. You can usually cruise through fights against these idiots without a problem, but the difficulty can spike unexpectedly, overwhelming you and leaving you with no way to grind out a few extra levels. In these instances, it helps to adjust the difficulty on the fly to survive the poorly balanced fights.