Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming Preview – Lord of the Clicks

Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming Preview

Many, many moons after it was announced by Bigpoint, the game formerly known as Seven Kingdoms is now releasing as Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming. What we were hoping to be a third-person online RPG has morphed into a browser strategy game the likes of which we have seen several times before. It’s like Evony all over again, with more ‘my lords’ than you can shake a needle sword at.

Cutting straight to the chase, Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming is another game in a long line that fails to do justice to the acclaimed HBO television show. Having all these incredibly rich characters and reducing them to mere instruments of a game design that harks back to the early days of free-to-play is disappointing. But I can’t dispute the fact that Game of Thrones is the kind of fiction that would work wonders if turned into a full-fledged real-time strategy MMO game – this just isn’t that game.

Game of Thrones Winter is Coming Preview Kingdom

My Lord This, My Lord That…

Melisandre, the beautiful Red Witch from the show is initially reduced to the role of counselor, although she can later be recruited as one of the Commanders. She guides you, a new and ambitious lord of Westeros, as you try to develop your lands, stock up on resources and build an army to rule the kingdom. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though, as you will need a lot of patience and resources to repeatedly upgrade your castle and expand your reign.

And how do you do this? Through the classic means of clicking and waiting for the construction/upgrade time to end. The higher the level of your building, the longer it will take to complete. If you’re a seasoned player or at the very least have a reasonable knowledge of free-to-play games, you should know that this is the foundation of a pay-to-win game. As a heavily competitive game that Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming is, it will lead you down this initially alluring path until you find yourself hitting a paywall, seeing your troops being crushed to a point where further progress will be extremely slow or nigh-on impossible.

Sounds a bit harsh? Well, the truth is that it’s obvious that a lot of work went into making Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming look like a reasonably faithful rendition of the show. Your kingdom screen is quite beautiful, and the hassle of making 3D models of the Commanders is worth noting. I enjoyed seeing Sansa Stark, Robb Stark, Varys and others walking to the screen, although it will surely be a long time before you unlock other fan-favorites such as Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark, Jaime Lannister, Cersei or Margaery Tyrell, among others.

Game of Thrones Winter is Coming Preview Commander Robb Stark

But this is a game designed with obvious goals – despite being touted as a browser-based game, the plan is to release it on mobile devices as well, judging by the “tap anywhere to continue” message at the end of the battles. Apparently, there is a test version for mobile devices in China under the huge publishing arm of Tencent, but there is no official word if this version will reach the rest of the world. So, Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming is a browser-based and mobile game.

Moving on, you must construct and upgrade several buildings, including barracks, hospitals, warehouses, farms, mines and way more. You can only place one building in the queue, which means that you have to wait for the process to be over before you upgrade another one – ultimately, your goal is to upgrade your castle, but the trick is that this requires another (large) set of buildings to be upgraded, so even what apparently could be a simple task will take several hours to be completed. Unless… you speed up construction by spending diamonds. A nice touch is that you can ask your clan friends for help, shaving some time from the building process, but unfortunately this only represents a small portion of the overall time needed.

Barracks are crucial for the success of your kingdom. This is where you train your different soldiers, but before you can access better forces you have to go through the lengthy process of researching several topics. Of course, just as with everything else, this takes time and resources (gold, wood, stone and so on), so it’s far from immediate when you are a few chapters in the story.

Game of Thrones Winter is Coming Preview Battle

Brace Yourselves, Whales Are Coming

There is a hint of strategy to the battles in Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming, but as it happens so often, it is all wasted on an automated process that makes all player interaction worthless. Your best bet is to place your Commander cards in the ideal way before the battle starts – there is a traditional Rock-Paper-Scissors system at work, with Spearmen, Cavalry and Infantry specializations countering in this order, and the Bowmen just doing their own thing. Each Commander has a skill that could turn the tide of battle as well, but leave it to the AI to do its thing while you sit and wait.

Commanders can be equipped with a few pieces of gear, and they can be promoted and improved. As they see their level rise, their battle power also increases and makes them more powerful in battle. This is just another little detail in an intricate web, so make sure to keep upgrading your Commanders unless you want to stumble in battle.

 The whole game is about raising your power, protecting your kingdom with a large army and traps, and setting out to conquer other castles. But this is a ruthless game, one that is designed to appeal to the hardcore “players”, those who want to triumph at any costs, even if it requires shelling out quite a few dollars to get ahead. Leave the game alone for a day or two and you will probably return to empty barracks, your army devastated by other players and one of your Commanders probably being held for ransom. Try to rebuild your army – many hours are evidently needed – and upgrade your Wall, and eventually the next day, when you return, you will find that the same thing happened once again. Groundhog Day anyone?

Game of Thrones Winter is Coming Preview World Map

There are a few things that you can do to protect your kingdom, mostly joining a clan and helping each other. Repositioning your kingdom closer to your Alliance members could help you dealing with enemy attacks, at least in theory.

Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming is Evony revisited, a game that is as worried about being a digital recreation of HBO’s Game of Thrones as much as Blizzard is about Diablo Immortal tarnishing the reputation of the Diablo series. While the final release may see a few changes, it’s hard not to think of it as a heavily pay-to-win experience that is similar to several other browser or mobile strategy games released during the last decade.

If you are looking for an experience that is truly worthy of the Game of Thrones moniker, you will probably do a lot better with Conqueror’s Blade – with epic scale and battles, that is exactly what a true Game of Thrones MMORPG should look and feel like, minus the name.


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