Perhaps the first tie-in to be officially sanctioned by George R.R. Martin himself, Game of Thrones is actually a prequel to the first book.

Telling a story of two war heroes, who once participated in King Robert’s Rebellion over Mad King Aerys Targaryen, the game meets up with them fifteen years later in two very different situations. Mors Westford has become a brother of the Night's Watch, giving up his wife and daughter to freeze his butt off in the North with only his unnamed dog for company. Alestar Sarwyck is a former noble who has traveled across the world, returning to his town as a Red Priest. He comes back after hearing news of his father's death, partly to claim control over the town, partly to spread the word of his inflammatory (ahem) new religion.

We first meet up with Mors as he’s meting out justice to a deserter of the Night’s Watch, and soon find out that he’s a tough old bastard with very steadfast views on loyalty. Heading out from Castle Black on a trip to a nearby fortification which had presumably been attacked by Wildings from over the wall, you find out that he’s not just an amazing fighter known as “The Butcher” to his enemies he’s also a skinchanger and can see the world through the eyes and nose of his dog. This allows you to find loot and hunt down various people by sniffing the air and following the scent that hangs in the air. Mors can also direct his dog to attack enemies in combat and later on can even level him up with abilities that let him disarm opponents, scare them, or knock them to the ground.

After a chapter with Mors, we meet up with Alestar, who has a few tricks of his own. His new priesthood has not only left him with nifty red robes and a solemn-yet-vengeful persona, but he controls fire. He can cast sorcery during combat to set foes aflame, heal himself, and even raise his companions from the dead. Alestar is having some trouble after returning - his sister isn’t too happy to see him come back after so long just to see his dead dad, and it turns out that their step-brother has plans to marry Alestar’s sister in order to take control of the town with Queen Cersei’s full approval (of course!). Even worse, Alestar’s younger brother is implicated in his father’s death.

As Mors makes his way down South, and Alestar starts to unravel the mystery, the chapters alternate between the characters until both meet up and you finish their lengthy quest together.

The story is remarkably compelling, so much so that you won’t be able to wait to get to the next dialogue scene, the next cut scene. And how many games can say that? The only problem is that the main reason that you won’t be able to wait is because the actual gameplay is so boring.

The combat plays out like Dragon Age or Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic, in that you’ll give orders to your characters and watch them play out. You can give up to three orders at once and generally are fighting with one companion, although sometimes you’ll have some extra help. There’s a handful of abilities for each character but the animations are stilted, the combat feeling even less interactive than those other games. Since you’ve only got a couple of characters there’s not much in the way of tactics to plot. There’s also the fact that these guys are constantly being attacked- they kill more people than anyone in the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series. The limited character customization doesn't help.

The level design is also some of the worst we’ve seen. Every location is a maze. For instance, getting from one side of King’s Landing to another requires you to take one long, twisty path that leads you up and down stairs and around poorly-mapped alleys. You’ll have to do it multiple times and soon tire of your character’s slow pace, as well.

But even though getting around is a slog and the combat isn’t all that, it’s to the story’s testament that you’ll want to keep playing. How else can we explain that we played through 30+ hours of gameplay, relishing every decision we made and eagerly anticipating every new plot twist? The voice acting is incredible, aided by the likenesses and voices by three actors from the HBO show - James Cosmo (Lord Commander Jeor Mormont), Conleth Hill (Lord Varys), and Lena Headey (Queen Cersei).

Should you play this game if you’re not a fan of the books or tv series? Absolutely not- you’ll get nothing out of it. But, if you can push through the lackluster combat and ignore a goofy cameo by George R.R. Martin himself (playing a Maester who’s late on producing a series of books- don’t groan too much) you’ll find a worthy side story to A Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones: The Game ($60) was developed by Cyanide Studios and published by Atlus USA for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. This review was taken from 30 hours with the Xbox 360 version with a copy provided by the publisher.