I’m the kind of Game of Thrones fan who read the books a long time before the TV series started, and although I do enjoy the high production value of HBO’s whistle-stop tour around Westeros, I remain fiercely protective of George R. R. Martin’s original vision. It is therefore completely natural that I met the announcement of Telltale’s imagining of Game of Thrones with mixed emotions. Quite simply, whilst I wanted to interact with this amazing and terrifying world, I didn’t necessarily trust that Telltale would interpret it the way I wanted them to.
Thankfully, although Game of Thrones has its faults, it feels like a relevant and fitting addition to the canon literature. The new characters are well written and mostly engaging, with plots that entwine them alongside series favourites as varied as Tyrion and Cersei Lannister, Margaery Tyrell, Ramsay Snow and Daenarys Targaryan – all voiced by their silver screen counterparts. If anything, it is the more mundane aspects of the story that disappoint, with some sequences repeating themselves to the point of frustration and others that don’t seem to lead anywhere except to the inevitable (and now confirmed) second season.
Here’s what I liked:
Midas touch — Game of Thrones is centred entirely around the almost unheard of House Forrester and rival House Whitehill. The benefit of this approach is that the playable characters have been strategically and skillfully positioned alongside some of the series favourites that fans will already be familiar with. Whilst this obviously limits the possible outcomes in a few scenes, it generally leads to some of the more enjoyable dialogue-based interactions, especially in the earlier episodes.
A dash of claret — True to form, Game of Thrones features tons of death and carnage, often when you least expect it and usually inflicted upon someone you thought was safe. George R. R. Martin uses death masterfully in his books, and whilst it isn’t quite as effective here, Telltale still use the fragility of life in Westeros as an excellent narrative vehicle.
Not black or white — My biggest perennial complaint about other Telltale games is that choices don’t seem to matter. Often, players are forced towards a similar outcome regardless of choice, and when one character is chosen over another in a life or death scenario, I rarely feel invested enough to truly care about who survived. Game of Thrones addresses this firstly by having a more tightly knit group of characters who are bound to each other by family rather than circumstance; and secondly because the impact of choice results in genuine variation. It felt to me as if Telltale’s writers had grown in confidence throughout, especially since the choices became bolder and bolder as the season progresses.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Deja vu — Sadly, I’m not referring to the excellent song by Iron Maiden, or even the somewhat acceptable Matrix-like Denzel Washington movie. I’m actually referring to the genuinely unwelcome feeling that Telltale is going to make you repeat a mundane task for the third time. In this case, there is a sequence that recurs in at least three (arguably four) episodes, and I honestly don’t know why. The sequence in question features dialogue and decision making that defies belief and almost had me screaming at the TV in frustration as one of my main characters was forced to pick from four utterly ridiculous responses when all that was actually needed was a swift kick in the family jewels. Or something like that, at least.
Mid-season bloat — On a related note, this is Telltale’s first season to feature six episodes instead of five, and at times it feels like it could have been shortened considerably. Aside from the repetition I already mentioned, there are at least a few scenes that seem extremely dull or even completely irrelevant, particularly in the middle episodes.
I’m in two minds about how to position Game of Thrones, because chances are if you’re a big fan of the original work then you will (and should) buy it regardless of what I write here. If you aren’t a fan, then in all honesty this game is probably not the best place to start considering the timeline and positioning of its characters. It’s a fine game in its own right, but it’s not spectacular, so if you’re sitting on the fence then my advice is to pick up the first episode and see what you think.
Score: Try It
Game of Thrones was developed by Telltale Games and published on Xbox 360 and Xbox One by 2K Games. It was released May 18, 2015 for $29.99. A copy was provided by Telltale Games for review purposes.
This review is for the complete season of an episodic game. To find reviews for the individual episodes, check out the Game of Thrones review hub.