So I've recently picked up this game because I'm a sucker for any fantasy strategy game. Thought I'd post a sort of mini-review of the game.
I guess technically the game is real-time, but since you can pause any moment you want to I have a hard time to think of it like that.
-There's quick, sort of complex fundamental game mechanics behind it. The game is marketed as the player choosing diplomacy, subterfuge or conqueror - and I think that they've really succeeded in making those feel different and fun. It's a little confusing in the start, because there's all these basic units like spies, rogues, assassins, noble ladies, envoys, guardsmen and so on that interact in different ways with each other, and with the victory locations in the game (you basically form alliances, or control, towns around the map). It feels a bit like playing settlers 7, if you cut away with base-building completely. You win games by amassing "prestige", and that is gained by whoever is in the top in four categories: number of towns controlled, total gold income, enemy units killed, and controlling a sept. Each game starts out in a time of peace, and it can end there as well depending on how you play. Some games go from peace to war, which changes a lot of the game mechanics and put more focus on fighting with military units instead of handling diplomacy.
-There's a heavy focus on strategy and since its realtime, that translates to micro of your units. Some games do it bad, some games do it good (like SC2). While the micro isn't in any way comparable to SC2 in terms of how you play it, I'd still say its got good micro in terms of what you can accomplish if you're paying attention.
-The graphics are nothing special, I'd say they're a few years behind games like Shogun 2. Units are quite ugly, and fighting is lackluster to look at as they're mostly swinging in the air.
-The single player campaign is highly scripted, and it has two main flaws. First, the game teaches you all the mechanics and so forth, but very few missions actually use them - 6 hours into the campaign and I was still wondering when the game was going to begin (then it ended). Second, the story is impossible to appreciate unless you've read the books and really put some thought into the "lore" of the world. For an average gamer, it's terrible - the game touches down on significant events in the world history, but only for a few missions. So you never really get to know any of the men or women in the game. Instead its just one revolution after another, one area after another that needs conquering. In the end they just give up on trying to introduce leaders, you just get generic "commanders".
-It's not fantasy. If you're read the books, you should be fairly familiar with this style of writing where the real fantasy elements take part in the background, and often you aren't really sure if there was anything at all mystical going on. In this game, if you held up a thumb over the dragon (which appears in all the promotional screenshots, but only a few of the missions) the game is pure medieval, no fantasy at all.
-The sandbox is fun to play, but bad UI and zoom options keeps you from getting a good grip on what's going on. Since the information you're getting isn't always accurate by design (for example, towns you've conquered can be secretly helping someone else - so can your own units, for that matter), it is even more crucial that we can get an overview of everything so we can assess the false information. Particularly on large maps, the lack of waypoints makes the sandbox extremely tiring. You sort of end up either just giving up on doing all the micro, or having to pause the game every 30 seconds to spend 30 seconds issuing the next set of orders.
Summary: A fun basic game design never reaches its full potential due to barely being used in the single player campaign. The story is difficult, if not impossible, to grasp unless you've read the books. Poor UI and controls keep the sandbox from being enjoyable. I'll admit it's pretty awesome the first time you load up Westeros in sandbox, and see the 8 houses start manoeuvring against each other on different levels, the War ticking closer as their actions break up the peace. Unfortunately, the few good moments are vastly overshadowed by everything bad.
Conclusion: This game is absolutely not worth spending your time on, and I'd be hard pressed to recommend it to even the most hardcore fans of A Song of Ice and Fire books.