It’s incredibly difficult to speak candidly about Telltale’s newest franchise, Game of Thrones, without giving away major spoilers. Well, maybe some of them aren’t exactly spoilers, but they’re dramatic and clever reveals all their own, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to wreck that for you. That being said, if you’re an HBO meathead looking to see dragons, gore, explosions, tits, gore, more tits and a couple flaccid penii…thiiiiis might not be the game for you.
Remember, Telltale’s first and foremost mission is to tell a sweeping story; hell, it’s right there in the damn name! so if you’ve never picked up a Telltale game before, take heed: they operate like a living Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, which means you’ll interact with lots of people, and your actions will have longstanding consequences throughout the story.
Also worth noting: your enjoyment of Telltale’s Game of Thrones will hinge dramatically on whether you love the show and/or books–if you’re not a fan of either, you’ll likely miss out on some of the more clever nuances of the story…but more than that, you’ll probably get bored in the middle and tap out. Yes, there’s certainly big chunks of action, but I’d hazard to guess that the first chapter is 1/3 action and 2/3 exposition–so prepare for lots of talking. After all, they’re literally introducing a whole new House from the GoT universe, House Forrester, who are Northerners and loyal bannermen to (IE sworn protectors of) House Stark. Hell, they only appeared in a couple sentences of book five: A Dance With Dragons…which means they have a LOT of ‘splaining to do.
Without giving anything away, the backstory of the Forresters is that they are almost single handedly responsible for the production of Ironwood, the near-impenetrable wood that comprises most of the North’s weaponry. As bannermen to the Starks, they’re one of the front lines in the “War of the Five Kings”…and they have an intimate knowledge of all things forest, which makes them invaluable to the war effort. It also should bear mention that Ironwood is the most prized wood in Westeros, and is often given mythical acclaim by its users.
The first chapter will have you playing as three different characters: Gared, a squire of House Forrester; Ethan, the young heir to the Forrester house; and Mira, the eldest Forrester daughter, sent to King’s Landing to be a lady-in-waiting to Margaery Tyrell, King Joffrey’s future bride. If you’re up-to-date on the show, you’ll notice that the events of the game are set approximately between seasons three and five.
Graphically, Game of Thrones is a mixed bag. On one hand, the character models replicated from the show are fantastic, and you’ll immediately know who’s who despite the sometimes overly stylized visuals. That being said, the “non-knowns” (IE Forresters) have a distinctly generic look about them, and tend to look like they were based directly off other characters (IE Lady Forrester is a semi-dead-ringer for Catlyn Stark, while Ethan is a Bran/Rickon smoothie). It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but they do kind of come across as Diet Stark.
The weirdest graphical thing for me, though, is the strange brush-strokes that permeate the backgrounds. When you’re not moving, the sets look astounding, as if they were lavishly-painted storyboards which have come to life. But when you start moving, the backgrounds get an odd flicker of “painty” rendering, which can be really distracting…especially when they’re happening during a particularly intense cutscene. Add to that, when you’re not pointing-and-clicking, your character moves with an odd hitch, reminiscent of the old point-and-clicks like King’s Quest IV; it just feels stilted, especially when the “non-explore” moments carry you along like a sudden riptide.
In terms of story elements, the first chapter in the saga of the Forresters had me pulling people in from other offices to re-watch what just happened—if you’re a fan of the show, there’s a damn good chance that you’ll be doing the same thing. Also, as a diehard fan of the book series, I felt like every single conversation option would literally decide whether I lived or died. I mean, George R. R. Martin is one of the most unforgiving bastard authors ever, so I constantly felt like saying the wrong thing (or suggesting the wrong action) would instantly lead to a cutscene of the character getting their face ripped off. Or set on fire. Or hung. Or stabbed. Or…
Thanks to all of the exposition (and minor interactions), you can’t help but feel tied to the Forresters, thus your decision-making has much more heft to it. And right from the get-go, you’ll be making choices that cement the foundations for the future…and second-guessing your choice will become commonplace. Luckily, the game offers four save slots, which means you can explore your choices a bit more, and plant four different seeds to see how they’ll grow throughout the storyline. It definitely enhances the replay value, and gives you a reason to approach the story from different angles.
All in all, even with it’s odd hitches, we heartily recommend Telltale’s Game of Thrones if you’re already a Game of Thrones fan. Even if you aren’t, it’s a clever take on an already-established universe…one that we can’t wait to return to.