Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series

 

Genre:   Action Adventure

Developer & Publisher:  Telltale Games

Released:  December 2014; February, April, May, July 2015

PC Requirements:  

  • Processor: Core 2 Duo 2.3 Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Video Card: ATI or NVidia card w/ 1024 MB RAM

 

 

 

by flotsam

 

Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron From Ice

You might not have been aware of the novels, but I doubt there is anyone that does not know of the epic television series. You might not have watched it, you might not like it, but you will certainly know about it. It was probably inevitable it would get a gaming treatment, and given the plot lines have left me gobsmacked more than once, it certainly suits the Telltale ďchoicesĒ approach.

If you are an adventure gamer you will be equally familiar with that approach, but by way of quick overview, at numerous points in the game you have choices to make, some mundane, some less so, and those choices affect how the game progresses, how other characters feel about you, and even whether they live or die. The choices are generally realistic within the context of the plot or event, and the overall impression is of being a completely active participant in what is occurring, as opposed to an interested observer.

While the episode starts with a bang (and be warned if you arenít about three series in that there is a potentially large spoiler right up front), on the whole it takes its time, pacing itself, introducing the protagonists and setting up the various story threads. Much like the source material itself. As a result, as a single episode it may feel a little ďemptyĒ, which is not to say that nothing happens, but rather that its main focus is on setting up what is to come. It teases, titillates, and then invites you back for more.

It also does an excellent job of establishing the fear and mistrust that permeates the books and the television series, where you continually dance to avoid your own demise. There are physical fights, but the more dangerous jousts are often the verbal ones; say the wrong thing and suffer terrible consequences. The game of thrones is one which is played while constantly looking over your shoulder, and you know from the get go that not everyone will survive.

Many of the prominent television characters are present, in both visage and voice. I went to a literary event where Lena Headey spoke and answered questions about the series, but it was even more thrilling to confront her character Cersei Lannister ďin the fleshĒ, and survive to talk about it. Which is more than you can say for the poor individual that crossed paths with Ramsay Snow.

While the characters and events of the series are present, at least in this first episode we are playing alongside them. House Forrester may be a lesser house, but it controls the Ironwood forests, a natural resource much in demand. The house has long been loyal to House Stark, which inevitably means it is as precariously placed given the Starks are engaged in battle across the length and breadth of Westeros.

While we have a story line embedded in the House, the game uses multiple perspectives to tell its tale. Garred is the squire to the campaigning Lord Forrester, Ethan Forrester is the son who must rule in the lordís absence, and Mira Forrester is a handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell, another prominent cast member currently located in Kingís Landing. Each has his or her own tribulations, and each faces their own perils in this episode.

There are more than a few keyboard-pecking action scenes, and you may die once or twice while you become familiar with where to peck. Much of this first two hours though will be spent feeling your way, getting ready for what is to come. The tension is ever present, and you canít help feeling it wonít end well. Who ultimately gets to the end of the last episode however may very well depend on what you do here.

Episode 2: The Lost Lords

The Forrester travails continue in The Lost Lords, and if it takes a little while to get going, it leaves you with a feeling that something is indeed about to come monumentally unstuck. Given almost no one is sacred, the anticipation is the thing.

Proceedings start with Asher Forrester, and he wasnít at all what I expected. He is plying his trade as a sellsword in Yunkai, and a violent one it is. House Forrester is feeling the iron boot of the Boltons, and the Forrester clan is trying to do what it can to improve the lot of the House. There is a sense that try as they might, nothing might end well, but who can say at this stage.

While we like the familiar characters, and who doesnít like John Snow, I felt this episode unhitched itself from the need for those characters. Or at least unbuckled the seat belt. John and Tyrion are here, but I did think it shifted events from being on the margins of the events we all know, to being the events we are primarily interested in. 

There are obvious links and parallels, and nothing is going to happen here that will upset the tv goings on. But while we are paddling in the same pond, and while the journey of Gared Tuttle perhaps too closely mirrors that of John Snow in the tv series, I did think we were starting to forge some interesting agendas of our own.

But its still a waiting game. The pieces are in play, but the dice are yet to be cast. We know it is unlikely to end well, whatever that end might be.

And I could of course be completely wrong!

Two hours or so should see you through, and if like me you waited, you can now go straight on to Episode 3.

Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness

Episode 4: Sons of Winter

Episode 5: A Nest of Vipers

Well, despite what I said after Episode 2, I actually waited for all these then played them through to set up the final episode due shortly.

It remains the best way, particularly with such a many threaded beast as this tale. Apart from the action sequences, gaming really is all about your dialogue choices, and staying on top of what you have said to whom and who is playing you and vice versa is easier and more complete with a lack of distance between the particular events. More than any of the previous Telltale sagas, that holds true here.

While you have a limited time to make each choice, and while they can come reasonably frequently, lest you were unaware the space bar will pause the game, giving you ample time to think about how you want to answer. That they do come frequently ensures you feel more involved, rather than simply clicking to progress.

The writing really is the thing. Anyone playing will have a familiarity with, if not an intimate knowledge of, one or the other or both of the book or tv series, and the game in no way fails by comparison. I am just as invested in the trials and tribulations of the protagonists, moreso in some ways given I can influence how they unfold. While there are some obvious signs (I saved this person not that one) how much my investment actually determines the course of events will only be known on a replay, and I will certainly play through making deliberately different choices to see what results.

In that regard, given you can have different profiles at the start menu, you can play through simultaneously taking different paths. I havenít, as I confess I might confuse things even more, but itís an aspect that not all episodic games provide, and warrants a mention.

Whether it was the episodes themselves, or that they were played as a whole, or that we set up the pieces in the beginning and now we are moving them around, or perhaps just the way I made choices, the somewhat disparate though related threads really started to pull in a cohesive way. I found myself for instance making choices for Mira in Kings Landing influenced by what I was doing with Asher in Mereen. Each playing character had however become a well-developed persona in their own right, and I enjoyed the counterpoint of the characters themselves and the events they were involved in.

That we play with central characters that look like and are voiced by their tv actors, alongside the major events that occur in the literary or tv world, just adds to the whole thing. It remains anchored in familiarity, while being different enough to be something else.

I was also struck at one point towards the end of episode 5 by just how good the artwork is.

The keyboard pecking ebbs and flows across each episode, but is present in each to some extent. Thoughtfully, while you canít save at will, the game will often save at two or three points during an action piece, ensuring you donít have to get through the whole sequence in one successful go. I reckon each episode took between two and three hours.

I wonít tell you any more about the progression of the plot, or who is alive or not, or where we might end up. That really is the substance of the thing. I can say however I am eagerly waiting for its conclusion. 

Episode 6: The Ice Dragon

And so we reach the end Ė sort of Ė and despite the title there were no dragons in this episode.

I have to say upfront that Episode 6 was somewhat of a letdown. Not so much in what did happen (although some of that was disappointing) but in what didnít.

Not surprisingly, lots of people are dead. People I didnít think would be dead, people I tried to save, others who were just careless or cavalier with their lives. It wouldnít be Game of Thrones if you didnít have a death watched by loved ones, and then the loved ones die too, and a head or three gets lopped off out of vengeance or simply because someone else has to die. Plenty lose their lives in this episode, and not just bit players either.

It is a callous and unfair realm, the Seven Kingdoms.

Having done some googling, just who is alive really will depend on your choices. Chances are though that House Forrester will, regardless, be a whole lot worse for wear, although perhaps not everything is lost.

I didnít see one death coming, and it was the least satisfying outcome among the lot. While a simple choice at the end apparently could have stopped it, the scheming and conniving that had been done to that point all ended up being seemingly completely irrelevant to how things played out. Yet perhaps that is the way it is with scheming and conniving.

While the series has ended, the end was no more conclusive than any of the other episodes. It stopped, rather than resolved the various story arcs, and if there isnít a series two, it will be an extremely unsatisfactory conclusion to say the least.

There are battles aplenty in this episode, so the finger pecking gets a workout. As always, failure just results in another go.

My statistics at the end revealed that most of my choices across the episodes were in the minority, and apparently I had proceeded with strategic cunning. Given the carnage around me, and only the barest glimmer of hope, it must be a very cunning strategy indeed.

I will go back and play it all through again, making different choices to see how it plays out. It remains a strength of these games.

Looking back on the series, the parts were probably better than the whole. I enjoyed each episode, but, accentuated by the way that it ended, the Forrester lot pretty much just went downhill from the get go, and then simply stopped halfway down. Nothing came together, some things that were elaborately set up fell flat, and other significant threads were not heard of again. Some of that is undoubtedly because we are playing alongside a continuing TV series (we canít be getting ahead of ourselves with the mother of dragons) and I get the need for reasons to come back for another series, but it didnít feel satisfying.

I am a fan of the TV series, have enjoyed the books I have read, and as I said, will play this again and I will certainly sign up for any series two that might eventuate. As a series though, Game of Thrones didnít reach the same heights as some of Telltaleís other outings. Which doesnít make it bad by any stretch, just ultimately not as good. The final grade is coloured by the end, but you canít ignore that last taste in your mouth.

Full Game Grade: B

I played on:

OS: Windows 7

Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz

RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz

Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB

 

 

GameBoomers Review Guidelines

April 2015 - January 2016

design copyright© 2015 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index