Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall (not the TV Series episode) is a mobile strategy genre game developed by Behaviour Interactive. Here you take control of the Night’s Watch and try to defend the Wall from all sorts of different enemies. The player has the ability to recruit a lot of iconic characters from the books and the TV show who will aid them in their defensive efforts. A good addition is the ability to create a new unique character as well.
The game has recently stepped into open beta becoming available in Australia and New Zealand as well as the US and offers a different, and arguably interesting, take on the world of Westeros.
Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall takes place way before the actual events unfolding during the books or TV series. 48 years to be exact. Despite this fact, funnily enough, the game’s store page is full of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s art as well as their characters inside the actual game. You even get to play with Jon Snow at the start of the game for a bit. This story aspect is justified by the existence of a Dark Souls-esque legendary event where the timeline is convoluted and heroes from other timelines are thrown into the playable ones. This is not the most compelling argument but how else HBO licensed game set half a century before the vents stick iconic characters into its gameplay? I am unsure why this game doesn’t just take place during the events unfolding in the books. Although, it is the creativity of the developers at hand and they may have something more up their sleeve for future additions.
The main story revolves around the disappearance of the Lord Commander Brynden Rivers, the Bloodraven, thus giving you – the player – command over the Night’s Watch. You get to do your job by recruiting heroes that fight for you against the menacing horrors of the world beyond. It’s interesting how Daenerys Targaryan is putting away all of her aspirations to unite the Seven Kingdoms to just go back in time and help fight some wildlings. Also, what can she doe without her dragons anyway? Pretty sure Khal Drogo wasn’t training to fight with her. These weird interactions make the game feel a little bit distant from reality and break the immersion but who am I to say it’s not like I’ve made any proper games in my life anyway. The game follows closely this narrative which just doesn’t sit well for me.
The graphics are quite nice considering that this is a mobile game. The cartoony looks can be justified if the game is interesting. Look at now closed Telltale games and their great titles like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and even Game of Thrones. The animations are a bit on the awful side though.
The story of the game is broken up into two different parts. The majority of story-related content the player is going to be seeing is going to be animated cutscenes, which don’t look bad at all. Quite the opposite actually. The art direction the developers took for these animated scenes is gorgeous. The game is still in Beta and I strongly believe that wonky animations can still be fixed.
The second part of the gameplay is the actual fights that take place in a turn-based old Might and Magic style gameplay on a map with grids where your characters move and fight in using their turns. There are few details visible on such battlefields thus the actual characters are fine to look at although the animations are still quite a bit wonky in my humble opinion. The attacks are starting and ending way too quickly making this look like some kind of battle on crack cocaine with waiting times between turns breaking the action. When the character is performing their ability the animation is becoming zoomed-in outlining the stiff animations. The effects aren’t something from Crysis 3 as well but I digress they aren’t that bad. On the contrary quite playable. The player has no ability to adjust the graphics so the performance is going to be heavily dependent on the device you are running it on. My OnePlus handled it quite well without any FPS drops though.
To be fair, the gameplay is quite repetitive. There is a huge tutorial which could’ve been much more concise in my opinion. It got boring quite quickly. A lot of times Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall is very similar to other games on the Play Store like Fire Emblem Heroes for example. Everything is heavily dependant on the type of character you have and newsflash most of the good ones are hidden behind paywalls. Not only just that but loot boxes. This means that the player is expected to keep throwing money at the game until they receive their desired character.
The biggest chunk of the gameplay is going to be player moving through the story. The first two chapters are quite good but from the third one the developer is basically putting up a wall in front of you demanding a payment to advance. Each character can be leveled one by one meaning that you have to spend days on leveling up just one time one character and then start the very same waiting period for another one.
The story is cut up into different missions which are then set up on a map and the player is free to move around and throw their units into different battles to achieve this or that milestone. However, the grind is becoming a huge part of the game, and people who do not like repetitive content will not be enjoying this game much.
Each mission starts by the player choosing their team and then trying to get to winning condition which is more than usually just defeating the enemies on the grid-battlefield. Some of the missions have a story segment set up in front of them or at the end but most of them are just quick fights here and there. The latter is rather uninteresting to be fair. The game becomes a huge chore once you have more than 2 heroes at hand. The micromanaging side of the team is becoming a tiresome endeavor quite quickly. On the other hand, there are daily missions to give the player an incentive to come back to the game. However, this does not brighten up the experience due to the fact that these missions are extremely repetitive nonsense that will keep only hardcore lovers of the game.
An interesting addition to the game is auto mechanic which turns each match into an AI vs AI battle. The player also has a fast-forward option which makes me ask if the developers themselves know how boring the whole experience is. The AI is by far not the most clever one meaning that the auto option is going to be only viable for very easy and nonsense battles and for bosses, you will still have to get your hands dirty. In reality, everything comes down to what your team can and cannot do. If they do not have physically enough points to fight the battles then it is not going to end well but if you do then a potato is going to be doing exactly the same job as a human player. There is not much strategy involved to be fair.
This is a prime example of a game that could but never did. There was a huge potential here to offer something interesting. The story is compelling at the start but quickly bogs down to uninteresting chore. There are way too many free-to-play and pay-to-win aspects integrated into the software to make it look like a game. There is no game here, to be honest. There is so much attention put into the payment methods and the game prompting you to start funneling money into it that it’s incredible. If developers put half of that attention into the actual game then it would’ve been at least worthy experience.
It is very apparent that monetization is the whole point of this “game” rather than offering a compelling story and gameplay to get the players hooked. The target audience is people who invest money into it and then continue to do so due to the fact that they have already started paying and do not want it to go to waste. There are in-app purchases for as much as $99.99 per item with three different types of in-game currency divided into daily, weekly, and monthly cash. The shop deals are not unique to you as much as the game makes it out to look like everyone is getting the same thing.
In conclusion, this game while looking good from the start quickly shows its claws. It is painfully obvious that this was made as a money-grab in mind. The iconic characters are sitting there for fanservice purposes and have no good story explanation. It has an aggressive monetization strategy while offering nothing valuable in return. Any Game of Thrones fan is going to find themselves feeling like they’ve been lied to. This is not Westeros, it is just a theme park to make us dish out money.