No, I’m not about to describe A Song of Fire and Ice or HBO Game of Thrones, I assume if you ended up on this page, you’re probably already familiar with that stuff. Obviously I like it (what’s not to like about it anyway?).
I started with the HBO TV series. Then I tried the game of the same name, the RPG, not to be confused with the RTS one. I actually tried both but the second one is not worth mentioning at all. And finally I started reading the novels.
The novels are fine. Like JRR Tolkien stuff, it cannot compare to Ken Follet‘s or CJ Sansom‘s works, seems to me less polished, but I guess it’s probably unavoidable when writing heroic-fantasy: lenghty descriptions to describe the world we know nothing about beforehand; tons of anachronisms probably because historic consistency is not really considered in first place, etc, plenty of things that are not really flaws, but make the overall (a bit) less immersive to me.
The TV series is well done. The Pillars of the Earth series is dull and World Without End is total disaster. If there was no HBO Game of Thrones, I would have considered that maybe impossible to make a better TV series than it is out of such dense books. Well, HBO does it very well, so it is possible. Ken Follett works, on the other hand, have been butchered. There are many many important events that occurs in his books. They are credible and surprising because of all the things that happen in between. In the series, you only get the events, no time for anything else. As result every event seems completely out of context, dumb, out of place, out of timeline. It’s even worse than the Lord of the Rings movies (Do I need to develop? Legolas kite-surfing, Gimli being a clown like a Disney character instead of a fierce warrior, the 11th September style event and speeches of the second movie, etc). So, clearly, HBO did very good in this regard.
The video RPG is great too (and currently, but not for long, at cheap price on steam). It’s based on Unreal Engine 3, same as Borderland 1 & 2 or Mass Effect 1, 2 & 3. It’s probably not the most innovative and polished one but eye-candy wise it’s not completely outdated. The overall gameplay feels clumsy (you frequently get blocked but bushes, the environment is a pain in the arse especially if you are familiar with Skyrim; in fights you end up clicking too many times, it’s not at all easy-coming like in The Witcher 2, and difficulty is not really über-consistent), you can easily fool the game and find some characters standing still because of a broken script.
So how come I consider the game to be so great? Because the game’s story is well written and complements greatly HBO TV series without spoiling it at all. With the same look’n’fell as the TV series (same voices, music, etc), it’s overwhelmingly consistent. In addition, there are plenty of clever ideas: you don’t play with only one character but two (three different classes available to each), so you travel at the same time in different places and see the same story from different perspectives. It’s almost like an extra episode of the TV series, except that you’re more or less allowed to move freely within, to set the pace. Obviously, it’s a semi-open world with very directive quests, but that’s part of the game: your story and choices cannot be inconsistent with the books so your freedom must be somehow restricted, you cannot go rampage, killing Jon Snow and assfucking Cersei Lannister. No, you have to follow an already defined path, it’s more like Metro 2033 than Dragon Ages. Nonetheless, the replayability of the game is good – I’m happily playing it for the second time, noticing stuff I missed the first time. I also know now that classes are ill-balanced, so I take no shame into lowering the game difficulty for some fights because I know at some points some classes are way to weak by comparison to others at the exact same level and time in the game. Yeah, fine game, I like it.