Game of Thrones
A TellTale Game Series
[Please note that Game of Thrones is an episodic series. Purchasing the game grants you access to all episodes as they become available. Currently only the first episode has been released.]
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass... no, no. Wait. Sorry. Wrong epic. To say murder maestro George RR Martin's series of gritty fantasy books, A Song of Ice and Fire, have captivated their audience is a bit of an understatement. After all, while the success of the HBO show can't be denied, the books have been around for almost twenty years and aren't done yet. So who better to bring fans a taste of the intrigue, politics, dragons and murder than TellTale Games, and with the first installment of their episodic adventure series Game of Thrones - A TellTale Game Series now unleashed, it . Here, the story centers on the Forresters, a family who has been loyal to House Stark (central characters of the original books and show) for literally thousands of years, which means with the current war for the Iron Throne going on between all the would-be kings, the Forresters are obligated to rally. As the game opens on the eve of a, um, most joyous wedding, initially casting you in the shoes of squire and former pig farmer Gared Tuttle, who's about to see all his hard work for Gregor Forrester, Lord of Ironrath, pay off. At the same time, young Ethan Forrester suddenly finds himself the head of his House, struggling to measure up to the expectations of others who think he's too bookish and weak. In King's Landing, Ethan's sister Mira works as handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell, putting her in a unique position to help her family, but also in great danger when suspicion falls on anyone whose relatives raised the banner for Rob Stark. As the story moves through each character, they become more and more ensnared in the political manipulations and webs of deceit, because everyone has their own agenda, and you can never really be sure who you can trust.
When moving freely, use [WASD] to walk around and click on things to interact, choosing your action from the contextual menu that pops up around people and things. Like most TellTale titles, Game of Thrones focuses heavily on storytelling and character interaction, with an emphasis on choice and consequences. How you speak to people and what you say is important, since it can drastically change their attitudes toward you, and even certain plot points. Treat your friend with kindness, for example, and he'll remember that when it comes time to stick his neck out for you, while if you decide to lie to someone, you'd better hope you don't get caught in it later on. Some of your choices can result in a lot more than hurt feelings, and there won't always be a right answer. As violent as Westeros is, you can expect a lot of bloodshed, but all of this plays out for you as a series of scripted cutscenes and quick-time events. Hit the key that flashes up on the screen to dodge an incoming blow, for instance, and use the mouse to grab for things to help characters. Just make sure your choices count, even though you often don't have time to think them through, since there is only one save file, and the game can't be saved manually.
If you haven't at least read the first book in the series, watched some of the hit TV show, or hung out with someone who has, you're likely to feel as if a lot of what is going on is simply flying right over your head. House Tully what? Kingslayer huh? Casterly Rock bwuh? At the moment, Game of Thrones feels as if you're just settling in, getting introduced to new people and plot points. The pace is extremely fast, leaping from location to location, and even character to character, and at times you wish it would just slow down a bit and give you more time getting to know your new stars. This first installment may struggle a little with its pacing, but it manages to set up a lot of compelling drama and intrigue, with vicious villains you'll hate almost immediately, and a group of young heroes (and heroines) struggling against them. At this point, it seems like a smaller scale drama than its source material, with a greater emphasis on showing how the lives of comparatively smaller Houses and their people are impacted by the events in the main story. There's still clearly a bigger story going on, as Gared's path begins to hint at, but Ethan and Mira make for young leads you root for, both caught up in the middle of dangerous forces and fighting in different ways just to keep their heads above the water. The scene where Mira is brought before Cersei and Tyrion to prove her loyalty to the crown is particularly tense, beautifully shot and an exercise in forcing you to say and figure out what the Queen wants to hear, instead of what you might desperately want to say... or spit.
Thankfully, by focusing mostly on the new cast and story rather than trotting out cameo after cameo, TellTale's new series begins to establish the framework to a larger plot in this episode that ties into the source material rather than just leaning on or referencing it. The watercolour visual style looks its best when its portraying the somber outdoor scenes, but it's still a gorgeous game, and the voice acting is top notch across the board. At the moment, Game of Thrones is also a little glitchy... the sound kept cutting out, making me glad I'd enabled subtitles, the meter around the Q-smashing sequences vanished repeatedly, and it crashed to desktop twice without warning. Despite this, Game of Thrones is still an extremely promising beginning, a slow boil of storytelling and drama. It may not trot out the source material's cast enough to satisfy the fans who are expecting or wanting something that acts as a direct extension of the books or show, but if you always expected Westeros and beyond had more stories to tell and wanted to hear them, this is an excellent place to start.