Another Telltale Games graphic adventure has reached its conclusion. Episode six of their Game of Thrones series has been released, wrapping up one of many stories in the world of Westeros, as well as expanding Telltale’s collection of player-driven story-based games.
As a little disclaimer, I have very little knowledge of the events of the Game of Thrones books and tv series. Some research tells me that the Game of Thrones game takes place during the third and fourth seasons of the tv series, and playing it will very likely spoil these, if you’ve not watched them.
The game plays from the point of view of House Forrester, loyal allies to the more renowned House Stark, who purchase resources from the Forresters, and in return offer protection from the various assholes who live throughout the region. For reasons which are probably better explained within the tv show, the Starks stop offering assistance, and the Forresters are left with nothing but the valuable resource Ironwood, which they must sell in order to survive. Hah, good luck with that.
You control several members, not only of the Forrester family, but of the Forrester clan. You start off playing as Gared Tuttle, Squire to Lord Forrester, but as the game progresses you take control of as many as 5 different characters, in various locations. This works very much in the game’s favour, as it allows you to experience the large variety of landscapes in Westeros, and even the neighbouring land Essos. It also helps prevent gameplay from becoming stagnant, as you can spend one section navigating difficult conversations with political figures in King’s Landing, then quickly jump back to a more combat oriented character up on The Wall, never spending too much time doing just one thing.
As you might expect, the game taking place in a variety of settings means you see a variety of “familiar faces” from the show. The problem here is that some of them aren’t properly introduced, as they are supposed to be familiar faces, both to viewers, and characters within the game. I often just had to wait until I disappointed them, so it would come up with a message such as “Jon will remember that”.
Another problem with introducing characters from the tv series, is that their plotlines are already set in stone. You know your interactions with them can’t amount to much, you’re not going to become bffls, and you’re certainly not going to cause their death or anything like that.
This is sort of an overarching issue with the medium though, this knowledge that your decisions ultimately mean very little. In the first few episodes, you know your actions can’t have too much impact on the plot, otherwise Telltale would have to make two copies of each subsequent episode; one where you did some huge game changing thing, and one where you did not. That will never be the case, of course, there will instead just be some other character to come long and stop you from doing the thing, or perhaps do the thing in your place, instead.
As you get towards the end of the game, your decisions feel like they have more weight, and in fact, there are several different endings. That said, Telltale have confirmed there will be a second season for the game, so all the characters you manage to save, and all the decisions you make, will probably have to amount to very little in the long run. This is always going to be the case with branching story games, and to their credit, Telltale have still done a very good job. The way the plot unfolds is undoubtedly affected by your choices, and there’s even an element of replayability, (not that the second playthrough would compare to the first).
There’s more to the game than gameplay though, and Telltale definitely have a signature art style. Expanding on this, they’re included a lot of rather beautiful artwork to serve as scenery. Whenever you’re changing location, the scene will be set by what looks like an oil painting of where ever the next segment of the game will take place. This is certainly easy on the eyes, but it gets a little bit weird when you find out the oil paintings hanging up all over the place are actually windows. All the backdrops throughout the game are blatant 2d pictures, which don’t look natural at all.
There are a few graphical glitches as well. One particular example made me feel like I had turned off antialiasing, in favour of some kind of superaliasing. This led to a character in the game who walked around on a cane that was separated in the middle, like how a straw looks when you place it in a glass of water.
It also appears to be a game designed to be played with a controller of some description. I was playing on PC, using a keyboard and mouse for input, and found not only that navigating the main menu was rather awkward, but sometimes clicking on things in-game didn’t work as well as I would have liked. Mouse based quick time events felt very unnatural, as the cursor vanishes when you’re close to the thing you need to click on (a thing which is often moving, so it’s nice to know how close your cursor actually is!). Furthermore, when trying to interact with objects in the environment, I occasionally found my cursor couldn’t move far enough into the side of the screen to selection certain options. This was not hugely helpful, but didn’t ruin the game, at least.
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience with Game of Thrones. It certainly doesn’t beat the first season of The Walking Dead for me, but it has a much more interesting setting than most other Telltale Games games (a phrase I was hoping to avoid using). It would be interesting to see how well it ties in with the tv series, but it seems to have tying in well as a primary goal, so I would recommend it to any fan of the series, as well as those who enjoy the Telltale Games genre. If you’re not into story driven games, perhaps give it a miss, but otherwise it’s a very engaging experience that I expect most story enthusiasts could enjoy.