If there’s one downside to the scope of George R. R. Martin’s literary A Song of Ice and Fire series, it’s the overwhelming amount of characters found within it. Sure, it’s to be expected that such large-scale fiction will include a grandiose assortment of humans and/or other fantastical creatures, but the tale that’s better known as Game of Thrones is pretty much in a league of its own in this department. That’s a great thing for those who love to obsess over minute details and create either family trees or in-depth fan fiction, but those of us with bad memories are put at a bit of a disadvantage.
Hammering this fact in even more than the books already did is Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, an episodic video game that is in the process of releasing its debut episode across multiple platforms. Here, the main characters aren’t Starks, Baratheons or Lannisters, but Forresters instead. However, despite its existence as a minor house in the lore’s canon, Telltale has worked hard to build a rich and engrossing experience around its members’ fictional lives. Well, that’s what they’ve promised, anyways.
Since we’ve only had the opportunity to play through Iron From Ice, the first of six planned episodes, there’s no possible way that we could give the developer either a passing or failing grade at this point in time. That will have to wait. Still, the first two hours of the game’s fantastical plot line are certainly no slouch, which is a promising sign.
Another point-and-click adventure game from the guys who made them cool, this interactive take on the Game of Thrones license begins during the events of the Red Wedding (from the third novel). On the nearby grounds, we find our first playable character, a young squire named Gared Tuttle who’s forced into action after sniffing out an attack plan.
After being too late to save his master’s son, Rodrick, Tuttle races back to warn his liege, Lord Forrester himself. Things don’t go as planned, though, and it isn’t long before the Lord sacrifices himself to save his young helper, entrusting him with a secret message and his personal sword in the process.
Gared’s storyline takes him home to Ironrath, the Forresters’ keep in the Wolfswood’s ironwood forest. It’s not an easy trip, though, because a major coincidence sees the young lad approach his pig-farming family’s home just as bandits are in the process of murdering his beloved father and sister. Events that transpire after this first encounter end up setting the tone for the rest of the episode, and place the remaining Forresters in serious jeopardy.
Over the course of the debut’s two hours of length, three playable characters are used to set the table for what will likely be a very engrossing storyline. Gared is, of course, the first, and he’s joined by both Ethan and Mira Forrester. The former is a young, teenaged lad who’s thrust into lordship after the sudden deaths of his father and brother, whereas the latter is entrenched in a role as Margaery Tyrell’s handmaiden in the important hub of King’s Landing.
As was the case with Tales From the Borderlands, players only control one protagonist at a time, and switch between them at different points. Each one has an interesting part to play in setting the table for what will come, and the choices that they make look like they’ll end up greatly affecting how things play out in later episodes. In fact, while this is definitely the most wordy series that Telltale has created (at least, out of the ones I’ve played), it’s also the one that will likely allow for the most player influence. The amount of (seemingly) major choices that I made during the first two hours ended up being both daunting and impressive at the same time, making me anxious to find out just what it is that I’ve done.
Telltale have become experts at creating games that revolved around players’ choices, and this one looks to be no different. As such, it’s important to be smart, especially when you’re making game-altering decisions, such as who to save or which person to align with. And, in this case, you’ll want to have a plan of attack when you’re dealing with that evil bitch Cersei Lannister and her cunning brother, Tyrion, both of whom play important roles. It’s a stressful way of gaming, but it makes for a better and more engaging experience in the long run.
At the end of the day, dialogue and player choices are king in Game of Thrones, just like they were in The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, as well as the first episode of Tales From the Borderlands. You’ll do other things, but most of the gameplay revolves around picking what to say or choosing what to look at, collect and/or explore. Don’t expect grandiose, melee sword battles or anything like that, because what swordplay there is is handled in quicktime fashion. The only new thing you’ll really get to do involves grabbing things and pulling them towards you with a face button and a joystick – a mechanic that is also used for cleaning blood off of a sword at the beginning of the game.
What all of this means is that Game of Thrones suffers from the same issue I criticized Tales for having, that being a lack of gameplay evolution. It’s not a huge deal, because Telltale’s formula is much better and far less boring than TT Games’ over-used LEGO one, but it’d be great if the developer could find a way to evolve its tried and true gameplay mechanics or introduce something new.
Aesthetically-speaking, this is another beautiful offering with subject matter that presents a great fit for Telltale’s art style. Sure, Game of Thrones won’t win any awards for its engine tech, but it looks quite good and has some beautifully-painted backdrops, with the one behind Ironrath being a prime example. Still, those things exist in an imperfect technical effort, which suffers from slight stuttering and pausing like its peers did/do. That said, I did not notice any major issues or overly offensive glitches.
Continuing on, the character designs are realistic yet artistic, with subtle colouring and fantastic voice acting that includes the likes of Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage. Both stars do a great job of reprising their now-iconic roles from HBO’s television series, and show no signs of having just been in it for the paycheque.
All in all, this very first episode of the Game of Thrones episodic series is yet another win for Telltale Games, a developer that is becoming one of the industry’s best and brightest. We may just be one episode in, but the wheels have already begun to turn towards something great, thanks to some really thought-provoking choices and dialogue that complements them almost perfectly. This effort may be a bit too wordy for some, but for those like me who love great character development, it’s just about what the doctor ordered.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Telltale has hit another home run with the debut episode of its licensed Game of Thrones series. However, it's not going to be for everyone, as it will only appeal to fans of the franchise and may be too wordy for some.