A Game Of Thrones RPG would never work

Game Of Thrones Battle Of The Bastards

The appeal of a Game Of Thrones RPG is obvious, but a video game adaptation of the hit tv series and novels would never work.

Game Of Thrones is coming to an end (thank God), and naturally there are articles about which video game company would be best suited to adapting George R.R. Martin’s material. Xbox has teased something related to the TV series, but a video game RPG would never work.

The HBO TV series has dominated the land of television for nearly ten years. However, thanks to the abhorrent season 7 and the now insultingly dumb season 8, it’s become crystal clear that the show’s leading duo, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, are hack writers who are now unable to hide behind Martin.

Benioff and Weiss have ruined Game Of Thrones by making it succumb to all the typical fantasy tropes that the novels purposefully rejected. Everyone now has plot armour, years of story-building and lore has been ignored because the writers wanted to subvert expectations without any logical reasoning, and fans can now telegraph almost everything that’s going to happen.

Rather than still being a heavily political tv series with historical influences and morally grey complexities in a world with fantasy elements, the tv series has now become a dumb mainstream product on par with Dungeons & Dragons. And a video game would just do the same.

A Game Of Thrones RPG would never work

Game Of Thrones Night King

The appeal of a Game Of Thrones RPG is obvious. Someone's AAA video game which allows you to create your own character and swear fidelity to a house of your choosing (or join the Night’s Watch) would – in theory – be amazing.

Plus, the open-world would be incredible thanks to the sheer size of Westeros and its plethora of locations (Winterfell, beyond the wall, the Iron Islands, King’s Landing, Dorne, etc.). This would be a huge undertaking for any studio, but – if done right – it would be the most visually impressive and diverse landscape in any video game.

All of this combined with sword-based combat is – again in theory – a mouth-watering proposition. The problem is that Game Of Thrones is supposed to be intrinsically political and anti-fantasy, meaning a game where you’re the hero who overcomes death a bajillion times wouldn’t be true to the source material.

Unlike The Witcher 3 which had politics you could ignore, a Game Of Thrones RPG would have to constantly be in-your-face about politics because the property is about ideologies, backstabbing, and the iron throne. Back when the show was good, it was about people playing the game of thrones and the dastardly deeds and sacrifices they would make to end up on top of the series’ now non-existent ladder. Even more so for a video game than the TV show, it would be very difficult for a studio to balance the core politics with the anti-fantasy setting and subplot.

And would gamers want to sit and watch a dozen politically heavy cutscenes? Most would just rather storm off into battle against armies and the White Walkers so they could mindlessly hack-and-slash and overcome overwhelming forces. This would also be untrue to the source material as – at least before season 6 – Game Of Thrones was never heavy on heroics, and characters were always punished or died for the mistakes they made.

Telltale found out how difficult it was to adapt Game Of Thrones, and any studio would face the same difficulties. Game Of Thrones was (I keep saying “was” because the show’s no longer the same) about difficult choices and the ramifications for mistakes. Robb Stark acted with his heart rather than his brain, and he was slaughtered by the Freys. Jaime Lannister saved Brienne and lost his legendary sword fighting hand. Theon tried to capture Winterfell and he lost his manhood. Jon Snow saved the Wildings at Hardhome and was killed by his Night’s Watch brethren. And Oberyn Martell had the Mountain beat, but ultimately had his head crushed because of his need for revenge.

It would be impossible for an RPG to replicate the severity of these consequences as players would need to survive until the very end. There could be four or five different endings to the game, but that wouldn’t spare the player from being cloaked in plot armour. 

Rather than an RPG, the only sort of game that could capture the spirit of Game Of Thrones is something aching to Heavy Rain; a narrative-driven adventure-style title where numerous protagonists can die at any time and therefore drastically change the story. This wouldn’t be as appealing as an open-world RPG where players can wander about the entirety of Westeros, but it’d be truer to what the novels and the series’ early years were about.

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