'Game of Thrones' screenshot

Fans may find it tough to get behind Alester Sarwyck, one of the playable non-canonical additions to the "Game of Thrones" universe. (Atlus / May 30, 2012)

'Game of Thrones'
Xbox 360/PS3/PC
Cyanide
Rating: 2 stars out of 4

It's never easy to adapt popular source material to a video game, even when the starting points are the best-selling books of George R.R. Martin and their successful HBO television version. While “Game of Thrones” the role-playing game makes an earnest attempt at interactive fan-fiction, it lacks the technical prowess of a good RPG and most of Martin's unforgettable characters to set it apart.

The game borrows the show's signature theme music and includes a few actual character faces and voices (notably Varys and the Old Bear). They are little treats for fans, along with brief allusions to other elements in the books that prove the developers are Martin disciples.

The difficulty for Cyanide in adapting “Game of Thrones” to a character-based RPG lies in two key areas. First, the series isn't finished being written, and likely won't be for at least five years. It's hard to avoid altering the canon or retreading established stories without the full arc to work with. Second, the universe is so vast that it would take a full-scale MMOPRG (unsurprisingly already in the works) to include a meaningful swath of the world the books take place in.

However, even if you're giving devotees of the series a universe they love (or introducing a great story to new fans), the execution still matters, which is where “Game of Thrones” falls short.

Combat is turn-based action, similar to the “Knights of the Old Republic” series. However, the pacing isn't quite right, and the player is often more of a bystander than a participant in melees. The game features an interesting slowdown feature to perform special moves in combat, but the effect is lost in the clunkiness of the combat and general interface.

The strong point of “Game of Thrones” is the plot development, which comes as you move through the events leading up to the first book as a Night's Watchmen and a Red Priest returned to rule a Lannister-sworn household. Dialogue is executed through selecting from a wheel of thoughts versus words, a nod to Martin's own use of italicized internal dialogue for his characters.

The intrigues, mystery and tension of “Game of Thrones” are the only elements that come close to doing the source material justice. Unfortunately, you need to slog through stretches of mundane combat, confusing exploration and tedious menus to unearth the good stuff.