Swipe left to assassinate?
Reigns: Game of Thrones takes the fantasy world of George R.R. Martin and places it into a video game with the mechanics of Tinder. Wait, what?
Originally released on mobile, I picked up the Nintendo Switch version while it was on sale. It’s essentially the same game on both platforms, right down to the fact that the core gameplay interface is proportioned to fit a phone, while a background image fills the empty spaces on the side. Would have preferred to see the game’s interface reworked to take advantage of the aspect ratio.
In any case, Reigns: Game of Thrones is a quasi choose-your-own-adventure that takes a notable external influence for its gameplay mechanics. Playing the role of one of the franchises key characters, such as Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and Tyrion Lannister among many others potential heirs to the throne, the game is mostly played through a series of mini scenarios that require you to make a binary decision. For example, the Unsullied are causing a ruckus in a nearby kingdom. Do you leave them alone? Swipe left. Or do you fight back? Swipe right.
Every decision has layers of consequences. They may impact any combination of your military strength, religious favour, domestic popularity, or state wealth. All of these are represented by meters at the top. You’ll know which meters are affected by the decisions you’ll make, but you won’t know how they’ll be impacted. While your heart may want to defend against the Unsullied, doing so may lower your military strength to a dangerous level. If any meter hits zero, you get killed and your run is over. From there, you can pick a new leader or continue with the same one from your previous run.
As simplistic as the mechanics are, I found the experience of playing it to be rather jarring. Most of the time, the story doesn’t seamlessly flow from one card to the next. One moment, you’re being asked to weigh in on a military conflict in another kingdom. Then immediately after, you’re being asked a question about religion. Sometimes story threads will continue later on, but it can be really hard to immerse yourself in the tale when it’s scattershot mature makes it difficult to understand how all of these disparate moments fit together.
Even so, I still found some moment-to-moment entertainment making choices as they arose. However, what ultimately broke the game for me was its progression system. When you start the game, you only get access to a certain number of story cards that can be drawn. By completing specific objectives, you unlock more cards. Having a background in the show helped early on, as it helped me deduce what I was supposed to do based on the vague objective description. Eventually, I hit a wall where My only recourse was to refer to a guide, or painstakingly go through a trial-and-error process of testing every character and every decision in hopes of triggering it.
I do think there’s something interesting to the way that Reigns: Game of Thrones plays. I probably played this way more than I would have otherwise because of how easy it can be to take on scenarios from that franchise in quick succession. Sadly, I was put off by the randomness of its storytelling and frustrated by the way it gates content through vague objectives that can leave you spinning for hours. Sorry, but I don’t think this one is worthy of the iron throne.