I’ve just finished another Telltale series: their Game of Thrones tie-in adventure. And while I still have a special fondness for the first two series of The Walking Dead I have to say that I felt this game really nailed the source material. It feels canonical, which I suppose is understandable given the involvement of key cast members in its creation, as well as the dedication to the look of the show that’s apparent throughout. It also helps that George R. R. Martin’s personal assistant, Ty Corey Franck, was a consultant on the thing.
(There may be spoilers for Game of Thrones in this post, so you know, read at your own peril. )
As happens with other Telltale series, the game is an adventure-styled affair, with branching narratives dependent on choices you make. There’s QTE-based action sequences which provide the quantum of blood-n-guts required in a GoT spinoff, but mostly your time will be spent considering how your word is weighted. Unlike the Walking Dead games Telltale have made, this series places a lot more emphasis on oaths, and on being true to your word. There’s a lot of alliance options throughout, and people and houses will fuck off if you go back on your word.
(Also, you get your choice of Lannisters to – not literally – get into bed with, so choice does matter.)
The story begins on the eve of the Red Wedding and stretches until the liberation of Slaver’s Bay. You play characters either in the bloodline of (or bannermen to) House Forrester of Ironrath, a bunch of Northerners. Through the breadth of the story you’ll flip between a couple of viewpoints, and the action takes place all over the world: King’s Landing, Ironrath, the Wall and even in Mereen. You’ll run into various characters in the series – Jon Snow, Margaery Tyrell, Daenerys Targaryen, and Circe and Tyrion Lannister – as you attempt to make your way through the affairs within.
Broadly speaking, the Forresters are soundly fucked by the Red Wedding, and you initially play Gared Tuttle, a squire who manages to flee the carnage following the Freys’ betrayals, with instructions to deliver his dying lord’s last words. You soon discover that the Whitehills, loyalists to House Bolton, are busily Fucking Shit Up Back Home (including killing your family) and the rest of the game begins.
I don’t want to give away the twists which occur, but my playthrough saw Gared sent to join The Night’s Watch at Castle Black, where It’s Grim Up North. His story is played in parallel with that of a trio of brothers of House Forrester – two at home in Ironrath and one out on the ran tan in Essos – and that of a sister, Mira, who is handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell in King’s Landing. There’s different action in each location, but you’re always bound to the concept that alliances are key, and that your actions will determine the fate of your family.
It also helps that there’s baddies so vile that you’ll be itching to deliver some kind of almighty smackdown. Things are never cut-and-dried so it’s difficult to pick a single way of behaving throughout. I wanted to be so good… but sometimes there’s an unavoidable pull towards being an absolute prick to Ludd Whitehill and his offspring.
Where the game succeeds is in conveying the sense of loyalty and intrigue which is so much a part of the books and TV show. There’s very much a sense of playing the courtiers’ games – the titular Game of Thrones, I suppose – and while you are kind of aware that your decisions obviously won’t affect the main story of the series, there is a real feeling of weight. The factionalism in King’s Landing is well done (even if I was a bit weirded by the precise pronunciation everyone has for the word “family”) and you feel consequence keenly.
(It also helps that the game is, as per the books and TV show, merciless about killing major characters. Become too attached and pow, it’s curtains.)
The voice acting is pretty good throughout, save for one character’s weird sometimes-Australian-sometimes-not vocals. Actors from the show voice their characters, so when Tyrion is speaking, it’s Peter Dinklage you hear. Daenarys, Cersei, Margaery, Jon Snow: they’re all true to form. It’s Iwan Rheon’s Ramsay Snow – this is before his elevation to Bolton – which has the bulk of the extra lines, and the scenery-chewing relish with which he plays the deadshit is exceptional. He’s given some moustache-twirling villainy to enact over the course of the episodes, and does so wholeheartedly.
There’s the usual Telltale glitches to be found – occasionally character models pop in and out of action, momentarily, and sometimes there’s clipping issues – but overall this is pretty polished. There was a bit of weird keyboard/mouse swapping in the combat sections, but it wasn’t as frustrating as it had been previously. The game engine is a bit long in the tooth but it looks great here: there’s a fantasy illustration feeling to the world that fits so well. It is true to the TV show, but it obviously isn’t a weird uncanny valley simulation of it – there’s the vibe of a Classics Illustrated cover to the game – and there certainly is a lot of blood. Gore is plentiful here, and it helps align the game with the adult market.
(No, it’s not Game of Boobs here, since you ask. But you’ll get dragons and white walkers and a shitload of action, so you should be pretty happy with it.)
A nice touch is at the end of the series – your choices throughout are replayed as if major figures are speaking to their companions. (Ramsay tells a cowering Reek of the events, for example.) It’s a clever way to make you believe the game’s events are part of the same universe, and that this wasn’t just something knocked out to pass the time. There also seem to be a wider range of possible options – my story was only shared by 16% of players, so I figure that’s a better outcome than having the same ending as the bulk of players, which has happened with other Telltale games I’ve played.
Loyalty to the world of the source material appears to have been paramount for Telltale with this game, and it makes for an enjoyable adjunct to the show. Now that the story has moved on in broadcast, playing the game made it feel like a bit of backstory, a history lesson that enhances the world without stealing focus from the main narrative. It bodes well for the second series of this game, already in production, as well as for their Batman product – here’s hoping it’s as fun to play as this has been.