Although Game of Thrones is a huge property, it's not always had the best of luck with video game adaptations. The series, based on George R.R. Martin's acclaimed A Song of Ice and Fire novels, has gained acclaim for its twisting plot and deep characters, yet games such as the 2012 action RPG adaptation of the same name have failed to bring that to light. Even the best of the bunch, Telltale's Game of Thrones, didn't quite live up to expectations of fans.
Enter Reigns: Game of Thrones, which tries to do something a little different. Building on the previous Reigns games of developer Nerial, the title is much more simplistic in nature, with a minimalist art style that attempts to capture the different settings of Westeros while also keeping the gameplay itself as straightforward as possible. Somehow, this has managed to capture the weaving complexity of Game of Thrones better than many of its fellow game adaptations.
Effectively, Reigns: Game of Thrones is based around binary choices as the player sits on the Iron Throne. Various characters, including some recognizable names, will come to visit the player as ruler of Westeros, and ask them to say yes or no to a particular plan of action. Depending on the answer, this can strengthen or weaken the ruler's relationship with a specific faction, be it the church, the military, or the populace, and there are ramifications for upsetting the wrong people.
As such, Reigns: Game of Thrones does a decent job of dealing with the dangers of being in such a position. Sitting on the Iron Throne is a tenuous place of power, and players will have to keep everyone on side. Something to complicate matters even further is the ability to choose from various potential rulers at the beginning of each game, such as Daenerys, Jon Snow, or Tyrion, which can lead to some interesting unique options.
A lot of time in the game is going to be spent being betrayed or overthrown, resulting in a game over and having to jump into the next attempt to keep order and rule fairly. With its permanency and quick turnaround of death and repeat, Reigns: Game of Thrones feels almost like a Roguelike at times, or like a brief and repeatable choose your own adventure novel. There's a moreish quality to the game, and so where it resonates with players there will be plenty of attempts to try and try again.
It also has a sense of authenticity to the show, in a strange way. Overall, the tone of Reigns: Game of Thrones is much more light-hearted and less dramatic than its television counterpart or original source material, but its subject matter feels closer than some of the heavy action seen in previous games. Politicking is an intrinsic part of what makes Game of Thrones interesting, and this manages to bring this to life in a way that previous games failed.
It's not perfect, though. Because the game relies on yes or no choices, there's a lack of nuance that came sometimes become a little jarring. Equally, the lack of autonomy means that the player is entirely reliant on the good fortune of receiving options at the right time to appease the right people. Although it does a good job of making the player suspend their disbelief, fans of the show would be asking why the ruler in question - knowing the upcoming unrest - would not have reached out to angered parties to try and appease them, rather than rely on a roll of the dice to have the option to do so.
What this means is that maintaining favor of the different elements is sometimes a chore, particularly when receiving a repeated request every couple of games. As such, some players may tire of the title quickly, although this is perhaps offset by the goal of unlocking new would-be rulers, so fans of the series may want to press on to complete their roster of loved (and not-so-loved) characters.
Overall, then, Reigns: Game of Thrones is a game that fans will likely enjoy, but one that's not without its flaws. Given the title's nature as a low-budget indie release, those issues are quite easy to overlook, however, and it's certainly useful to pass the time for an hour or two, or in quick bursts every now and again. Either way, it's something to keep people busy while waiting for the final season (and potentially divisive season finale) to arrive.
Reigns: Game of Thrones releases October 18, 2018 for PC, iOS, and Android devices. Screen Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this review.