Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series is the latest episodic adventure / interactive movie from Telltale Games. As its name implies, it is based on George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of books — or more likely, on the HBO television series based on the books, as the game includes the faces, voices, and even the theme music from the show. This review is for the entire first season of the game.
In Game of Thrones, you control House Forrester, which unfortunately seems to be the one house in Westeros worse off than the Starks. The game opens up at the Red Wedding, where the lord of the house is killed and his squire barely escapes. Then playing as many of the Forrester children plus the squire, you try to keep the house from being obliterated by their avaricious neighbors, the Whitehills.
As has been the trend with Telltale, Game of Thrones looks like an adventure, but it’s not. There aren’t any puzzles, and there are barely any inventory objects. What you do in the game is navigate your way through conversations and then sometimes participate in an action sequence, usually a fight. The conversations are timed, but you only have to pick between 1-4 dialogue options. The action sequences require you to hit keys at the right time: the WASD keys to move or dodge, and the Q and E keys to struggle with something. If you’ve played any of Telltale’s games in the last few years, then you shouldn’t have any trouble jumping into Game of Thrones, as the controls are the same.
The writing for Game of Thrones is decent enough, but be warned that the game isn’t really self-contained. It appears that Telltale intends for the game to have multiple seasons, and so this first season is mostly set-up. You learn about the Forresters and the Whitehills, and you get a bunch of cameos from well-known characters from the series (including Tyrion, Cersei, Danaerys, Jon Snow, and Ramsay Bolton), but nothing is resolved. The first season is sort of like reading “A Game of Thrones” (the book) for the Starks. A bunch of bad things happen, but you have to wait until later for their happy endings — if they’re going to get happy endings at all. So if you want everything wrapped up neatly at the end, then Game of Thrones isn’t the right game for you.
The main problem with the writing, at least for me, is that the characters aren’t very interesting. The Whitehills in particular are just slavering one-dimensional villains, and they’re nothing compared to the likes of Tywin or Cersei Lannister. And because you end up controlling half of the Forresters, they’re mostly blank slates so you can play them how you want. The first season also has a problem in that it’s repetitive. You see an example of the Boltons or Whitehills being evil, you ask somebody to help your house, you learn that help isn’t coming, and then you repeat about a dozen times. After a while I realized that the game was just treading water, and that the season easily could have been concluded in four episodes — or fewer — instead of six.
On the more positive side, as Telltale likes to advertise, your decisions make a difference in the game. In their previous titles, these differences were less than huge, and that made it easy for them to create sequels and subsequent episodes. But in Game of Thrones, all sorts of people can live or die depending on how you play. That’s great, and it’s in keeping with Martin’s books, but I sort of wonder how Telltale can possibly create a second season given all of the different ways the first season can end.
And so, overall, Game of Thrones is a tough game to judge, simply because it isn’t really a stand-alone product. The graphics are nice, the voice acting is terrific, and the writing is acceptably interesting (although the Forresters mirror the Starks way too closely), but it only contains part of a story, and nothing much is resolved at the end of the final episode. If Telltale can figure out a way to weave together all of the possible branches in the story to create a second season (and beyond), then that will hopefully make all of the doom and gloom from the first season more worthwhile. But if Telltale has painted themselves into a corner, and this season is it, then I wouldn’t recommend the game at all, unless your idea of fun is getting punched in the face repeatedly.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Telltale Games
This review is based on a digital copy of Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series for the PC provided by Telltale Games.