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Television tie-in games? Usually rush jobs, pumped out to capitalise on the current popularity of a show. Game of Thrones, according to French developers Cyanide, is going to buck the trend.
Back in 2009, the studio secured the rights to the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series of books by George R. R. Martin and development began. By the time HBO launched the Game of Thrones TV series in 2011, production of the game was already well underway - so although the books remain the main inspiration, cosmetic changes have been made to match the visuals of the show.
Those include characters like Master of Whispers Varys, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch Jeor Mormont and Queen Cersei, all instantly recognisable, as the actors have provided their voices and likenesses for the game. A raft of locations from across Westeros have been faithfully recreated in a similar fashion to the television series too, though Cyanide have run riot in other areas - so much so that when George R. R. Martin was first shown the size of the game's recreation of the Wall, he said he "wrote it too big."
The story runs parallel to events in the first book and TV series, and follows two new characters created specifically for the game. First up is Mors, a ranger of the Night's Watch, faithful dog at his side, which you can take control of using Mors' 'skinchanger' ability (more on that later). The second new face is Alester, a Red Priest who has the power to cast magical fire spells. Both can be customised extensively, as you'd expect, fine tuning their attributes, abilities and skills.
Like the books, the game is broken down into chapters, and like the show, each chapter ends with a cliffhanger. Initially these alternate between Mors and Alester's stories, though later on the two come together and join forces. Players who haven't read the books (or even watched the TV series) shouldn't feel too out of place, as each chapter begins with a recap. There's also a codex, the Westeros encyclopedia, which collates all the information you need.
Dialogue options have been streamlined from the traditional RPG model, so rather than presenting the player with a selection of choices to rattle through one after another, conversations flow naturally with just the occasional pause to make important decisions. Every one of these decisions carries weight and causes the story to branch. Cyanide reckon whole chapters will play out differently as a result of these decisions, eventually leading to one of four distinct endings that Lead Game Designer Sylvain Sechi assured us are "not colour changing endings - they're very, very different. [They aren't] Mass Effect franchise endings."