Well, I am in the process of playing through the game, and a review will be forthcoming as soon as I am done, but I wanted to give you some quick impressions, as it’s clear you are interested, and the game isn’t exactly what it seems.
First and foremost, the game isn’t really a traditional RTS. In fact, it is far more like a real time German board game, complete with a deep rule set, complex gameplay, manuvering and countering, etc. It is actually really easy to see how this game could be turned into a real board game, and I fully expect it to be so in a year or two.
A large part of the game has to do with claiming cities through alliances, secret pacts, etc. Certain pieces can be used to counter others (e.g. if an envoy is blocking your envoys from entering a city and creating an alliance, you can send in an assassin to take him out and then send your own envoy in).
The military aspect of the game is pretty simple. It’s the traditional rock-paper-scissors RTS model we all remember from Age of Empire. Bowmen beat horsemen, etc. Where this game differs from a more traditional RTS combat-wise is the inability to really micromanage your troops. You can set them up, but once the fighting starts, that’s pretty much it.
On a presentation level, the game isn’t very impressive so far, but this was obvious based on the early screenshots and videos. The graphics make it look like you are playing with miniatures, furthering the board game comparison. In some ways, the graphics remind me of the more recent Settlers games.
Also the sound is problematic thus far: the music is decent, but the voice acting is mostly non-existent. Units do not say anything when you click on them, or tell them to do an action. During the campaign story events there is some voice work, and when you capture a territory there is an audio cue, but apart from that, the game is oddly silent. It’s a minor thing, but one that could have made the game far more immersive.
Finally, the tutorial is dense, attempting to explain only a portion of the game’s complex systems, but it really isn’t necessary. The campaign mode (which starts with the player playing Nymeria leading the Rhoynar on their great migration to Westeros) is basically a much longer, drawn out tutorial, with story bits. The writing isn’t anything approaching the genius of George R. R. Martin, but I am enjoying the game quite a bit so far.
Main point to take away here: this is unlike any other RTS you have ever played, but I am curious to see if the connections to A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) really hold up, or if the license was really secondary to the core concept.
Hope this helps! Look for a full review in a few days.
(Update: After playing the game again on my new computer, it seems that the ambient sounds, including unit voices, are now working. I don’t know if this is due to the game being patched or if my old computer just wasn’t up to snuff, but this complaint has now been extinguished. The game’s units are sufficiently chatty.)