by Matthew Thompson
(Other than some brief introductory information about the main characters of this game adaptation, I have kept this free of spoilers for the game, the TV show, and the books. Enjoy!)
Those that know me are aware I require a certain amount of engagement from a video game to really get into it. That means Telltale’s new style of adventure titles that eschew puzzles in favor of acting as interactive storytelling aren’t really for me. I can’t deny the quality of the narrative presented in their take on The Walking Dead, but the scant amount of gameplay means it isn’t exactly my thing. Still with my love of both the books and the TV show, I had to at least give their Game of Thrones adaptation a try.
They certainly kick the story off in a strong place. You start off as a squire for House Forrester, a family loyal to the Starks, sitting in a camp outside the Twins during a certain wedding that occurs in the third season (and book). If you are familiar with the source material, you can imagine how this could turn into an explosive opening for the game. Throughout the first episode you will also take on the role of two other characters involved with the Forresters, one located at their home of Ironrath in the North, the other staying at the Red Keep in King’s Landing. Some of these work a little better than others (I think the one in King’s Landing is easily the least interesting so far), but I love that they have you playing as multiple characters in different regions. It helps capture the feel of book series’ multiple POV chapters or the show’s location hopping.
There are other things they do to try to carry over the essence of the show. It features a similar intro credits sequence. It doesn’t look nearly as nice, but it is a detail fans will appreciate. Characters from the show will pop up throughout with their actors doing the voices. The best part of the episode is probably the cliffhanger ending which would feel right at home in the HBO show. This along with the preview for the next episode that showed the game further expanding its scope into new regions like Essos were what excited me most about Telltale’s take on Game of Thrones.
The story is pretty good overall. If I had a complaint it is that the playable characters seem to mirror some of the Stark kids a bit too closely in where their stories head. Still fans of the show and books (or at least the less nitpicky ones) will likely get a kick out of this tale.
The gameplay did about as little for me as I expected. It seems even less game-y than The Walking Dead. Outside of a few quick time events and some brief moments where you can walk around freely to talk to different characters and pick up various items, you will solely be watching cutscenes while choosing between dialog options. There are some tough choices to make here, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact these will have long-term. They certainly don’t seem to make a difference for the ending of Episode 1 which isn’t a great sign regardless of how much I liked said ending.
The graphical style doesn’t seem to work well either. Obviously Telltale isn’t using cutting-edge technology here and the aging engine shows. They seem to be going for a painterly look which works with some environments, but not others. The inconsistency of the visuals also applies to characters. Some familiar characters’ likenesses are pretty poor though original ones fare a bit better with no point of comparison.
As expected there simply isn’t enough interaction for my taste in Telltale’s latest. I did enjoy the story though and will likely play the next episode when it comes out. It will definitely connect more with those who can get into Telltale’s newer style of adventure games than me. And I think for the more open-minded Game of Thrones fan it is certainly worth a go.