There may finally be a good stand-alone Game of Thrones game on the market. Game of Thrones suffers from the same problem that all games based on things that already exist in the consciousness of the public suffers from. Everyone already has an opinion. The Harry Potter games were not good, The Lord of the Rings games were passable but never good, the Spiderman games suffer the same fate of only being good enough. This may well change the tide.
First and foremost this game is not for those who have not watched through the end of season 3. There are spoliers for the show even in the first scene you play and there are continued allusions to events which may spoil the show for you.
For those familiar with Telltale games previous work of either The Wolf Among Us or Walking Dead the art style will be familiar to you. If, like me, this is the first Telltale game you have played then the style may appear jarring, at least for a little while. Whilst the graphics are not poor by any means, the backgrounds often appear like paintings with the characters interactions happening way in front of them. This is not as much of a problem once you enter the gameplay however this failing appears to mainly affect you in the downtime when there are opportunities to inspect the surrounding and there is not much going on or decisions to be made.
The game also benefits from the full cast, thus far, lending their voices to their digital counterparts. The dialogue options you are presented with are all voiced in full by Lena Heady for Cercei, Peter Dinklage for Tyrion, Natalie Dormer for Margery Tyrell and finally Ramsay Snow is brought to life by Iwan Rheon. With the cast giving life to the characters the level of emersion increases considering they capture their tones from the show. The character models are also well proportioned, with the exception of Ramsay Snow who appears larger than in the show.
The gameplay itself follows the same function as other point and click games over the course of gaming history. You play as a 3 different characters who you cross back and forth between. We begin our quest with Gared Tuttle, a squire to Lord Forrester, outside the Twins prior to a major event in the story.
You get your first experience of how fast the game is within 2 minutes when a list of options is presented when a question is asked and you have only a few seconds to respond.
We move next to the newly crowned lord, Ethan Forrester, who must deal with angry rival families, rival council members and potential attacks. The decisions with Ethan feel as if they have more weight and value considering his role, he along with his sister, Mira, and their decisions’, feel as if they have more weight than Gared’s although that will change over the course of the series.
The final playable character in this chapter is Mira Forrester, a handmaiden for Margery Tyrell, whose decisions are less life and death and require more double speak and carefully considered answers. The issue with that of course is you have only moments to decide what your carefully considered response will be.
The story for each character is different with each controllable person reacting differently and facing different challenges. Initially with Gared it is a fight to stay alive, with Mira it is a fight to prevent the enmity of the Queen Regent, Cercei Lannister, fully voiced by Lena Heady. With Lord Ethan we have the most to do, with the decision of naming a sentinel to help run the house, the decision of what to do with a criminal as well as two very different visitors to House Forrester, with both Lord Whitehall and Ramsay Snow trying to throw their weight around in your families home.
The need for decisions to be made in such a short time is daunting. In the middle of the first episode there is a moment where Mira must respond to Cercei Lannister about whether she is more loyal to Margery Tyrell, who is standing next to her, or to the king himself. It’s a serious question that will have incredible consequences for the Forrester family either way, and it has no timer. I sat for minutes trying to work out what decision would work best. I am still not certain I made the right choice which make the fact that there isn’t more game to play all the more frustrating.
This game is made fantastic by the feeling that everyone has when they watch Game of Thrones, that they would make smarter decisions. We would not react the same way as Ned Stark or as Rob Stark we would be smarter, we would position ourselves strongly so as to make the family better. This game reminds you that we probably wouldn’t. The time limit to answer means that you do not have the benefit of hindsight; it also means you will replay it over and over trying to get the best responses but without the next episode we simply don’t know what were the “good” decisions.
Therein lies one of the problems with episodic games. We want more desperately now, we want the next piece of the puzzle. It’s why people binge watch shows on Netflix, other than being a bored student. We want the answer, we want to know what happens to the bad guy because of his despicable act or the good guy because he’s in danger. Will we still be chomping at the bit come February when the second episode comes? We will soon find out.
The only gripe I have about this is that as of yet the decisions do not seem to alter all that much. That may simply be because currently we cannot see where all the decisions go but it may also be because we are being led down a particular path and that breaks the immersion somewhat. Telltale Games sell us on the idea that our decisions matter and change the story to our liking, after several playthroughs, it does not feel as if we have change all that much and are simply along for the ride.
For me this game illustrates the very best of Game of Thrones. There is intrigue, there is violence, there are tough decisions and this particular chapter leaves me wanting more. I thoroughly recommend this game and sincerely wish that February was sooner. For those like me who will become frustrated with waiting it will be close to a year until all 6 chapters are out can you wait that long to binge?