Since 2013, Telltale Games has been one of the hottest names in the world of adventure gaming. When it was first revealed that the people behind titles like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us were working on a title tied to Game of Thrones, I had a sincere amount of doubt they could pull it off. Having done so well with their most recent efforts quelled a bit of my doubts, but there’s no ignoring the lofty expectations that would need to be met to satisfy fans of the biggest show on television. While the video game adaptation certainly won’t receive the heaps of praise it’s literary and televised counterparts will, Game of Thrones: “The Game” (the Telltale one), does a sincerely good job of separating itself from the pack. (NOTE: Since Game of Thrones is released in six episodic installments, this review has been broken into several sections. The content and overall score will continue to be updated until the series is finished.)
Right off the bat it’s worth mentioning this game should be played by people who have watched all of Season 1, 2, and 3 of the HBO show. The timeline for the game starts at “The Red Wedding” and the events leading up to it have serious significance to the plot of this game. If you have never seen an episode of the show but are interested, save this game for later and get the most out of it, you’ll be glad you did. If you don’t have any interest in checking out the television series you’ll still find the game has it’s merits, but much of the context and personalities of several non-player characters will be lost and may cheapen the overall experience a smidge. This review will contain no spoilers for the story elements of the game nor the show, so it’s safe to read on if you’re still unsure about it all.
In their recent past, Telltale has established themselves by taking on several popular licenses and dishing out episodes with the same “choose your own adventure” recipe that many gamers will find familiar. I tend to view their games more or less as casual interactive stories, and have grown quite fond of their basic but solid set up. That being said, gameplay is mostly choice based with a few quick time events, and a bit of moving about. The parts when you “play” so to speak are nothing remarkable, but are in line with the overall filmic feel. It’s something I see as a strength, because it is a very low-barrier for non-gamers to step in, and keeps the focus on the story throughout.
With regards to Game of Thrones, I was immediately surprised by the way they captured the mood and tension of the show. As the player, you are cast into the roles of several characters from House Forrester. The Forresters, who hold claim to Ironrath, are Stark banner men with the unique supply and ability to craft their strategic resource, Ironwood. In Episode One: Iron from Ice, you play as three members of the Forresters scattered throughout Westeros. Each with a unique conflict to face as perilous forces work against their family.
Visually, Telltale’s Game of Thrones, looks quite good. Though fans of the televised series will recognize a multitude of characters, some of the likenesses to the real actors can be rather jarring at first. It’s not something that ever really bothered me, but the faces of Tyrion and Margery always seemed a bit off compared to the adaptations of Cersei or some of the others. I didn’t go through the trouble of verifying whether or not each actor voiced his or her respective character, but the majority seem authentic which is more than I expected. All in all, they did a great job of transferring real people into the game and making it feel genuine.
In Iron from Ice, we are given the inaugural setup of who’s-who and what needs to be done. Facing choices that sometimes seem as though they have no real positive outcome. I kept getting the sense I’d be scrutinized regardless of my actions, and dreaded making political decisions that may cause long-term turmoil. It is, after all, very Game of Thrones. Characters with great prestige are capable of falling inexplicably at any given time. The seemingly unjust chaos is part of what makes Game of Thrones the most tense series of Telltale’s I’ve yet to play. I constantly reminded myself not to trust anyone, but given the desperate state of affairs, you are often at the mercy of Westeros when it comes to choosing allies. As such, you are in a position to promote a captain of sorts to your family by designating one of two family friends to the position of Sentinel. Both candidates have opposing ideals and substantial disdain for the other, placing you in the middle of their power struggle with only one golden ticket to the chocolate factory to hand out. It sets the stage nicely, and immediately becomes clear that either will have a huge impact on the trouble looming ahead.
Episode 2 - The Lost Lords: Lords Have Mercy
Episode two of Game of Thrones, picks up right where the first left you dangling. You can expect to meet some new faces as more Forresters enter, as well as some pivotal characters in high positions fans of the show will be glad to see. Much of what transpires forces your hand continuing to choose sides in situations where you incapable of forecasting consequences.
Aside from a few small opportunities, I found much of The Lost Lords felt like going through the motions during a transitional period. That being said, some very strong new prospects and personalities help momentarily brighten things up, if you’re feeling optimistic. You do visit some of the more famed places in Westeros that I was hoping to walk upon, all of which are great to see realized in video game form.
However, trouble continues to lurk around every corner, and nothing seemed to truly ease the amount of tension of the world that’s filled with insurmountable levels of danger. As a follow up to the first episode, I felt as though I was dug in deeper and more exposed to the brutal nature of Game of Thrones. It’s a bit heavy handed, but you’d be foolish to expect something lighter by this point.
Thus far, the Telltale adaptation of Game of Thrones has surpassed my expectations and successfully captured the magic that has made the show a breakaway success. The world is fully realized and a true fan service, but does hold some apparent visual flaws. Yet, much like the show, it’s not something everyone will enjoy. It can be a real kick to the stomach. While I’m not docking it for being utterly bleak at times, it does put a level of stress to the choice based system that isn’t as pressing in their other titles. On it’s own, Game of Thrones is a strongly delivered narrative that will satisfy those in need of a gritty tale. The choices seem worth making a second replay to see the results and add to the experience. Overall, Game of Thrones leans on the strong side of Coolguy Jones on the Game Awry Review Scale. If you’re a fan of the show, Telltale’s Game of Thrones is a no-brainer at this point and will momentarily scratch the itch until next season.