OK, let’s start this review by stating the obvious:- If you are a fan of TellTale Games and Game of Thrones, you already know if this game is for you. In fact you are probably already eagerly awaiting Episode Two.
If you are not into George R R Martin’s book series, or the TV show, then I can safely say you should move on – nothing to see here. While Telltale have crafted a story that runs alongside the TV series, you will be missing out on so much. Not just the major points of understanding the backstory and who the characters are, but the little subtleties in conversation will be lost on you too (such as when someone wonders aloud if twin characters in the game are really “just like Cersei and Jamie Lannister”).
So that just leaves the GoT fans who have not played a Telltale Game before – and this review is for you.
Telltale have built up a solid reputation by reinventing the point and click adventure genre by taking existing IPs and turning them into episodic “seasons” of games. They’ve handled Monkey Island, Sam and Max, Back to the Future, The Walking Dead, and The Wolf Among Us. All of these have been well received (but we’ll gloss over their Jurassic Park experiment).
So what we have here, is the same treatment given to Game of Thrones over the course of 6 episodes instead of Telltale’s usual five. We have a new art style, switching from their hand drawn cel-shaded style, to a hand-painted style; and we have a brand new story revolving around the survival of House Forrester. They aren’t in the TV show and are only mentioned once in the books, so you don’t need to worry about the House Forrester storyline being spoiled for you. In terms of timeline, episode one kicks off at the Red Wedding near the end of Season 3, with the rest of the series weaving in and out of Season 3 and 4 of the show. And it is presented as part of the show, rather than the books. We get the same title sequence (which admittedly does lose a little something in its translation into the game engine), and when our paths cross with the characters we all know and love/hate, we get stylised (but instantly recognisable) versions of them, helped of course by having the original cast lend their voices to the game as well.
As the tale of House Forrester plays out in this first episode, you control three characters who are all linked to the House in one way or another (with more to come in later episodes).
- Garred Tuttle, Squire to Lord Forrester
- Ethan Forrester, Lord Forrester’s third son
- Mira Forrester, in Kings Landing serving as Lady Margaery’s handmaiden
The first few scenes with Tuttle lead you to think you are in for a QTE-heavy game, with lots of stick-swipes and button tapping to dodge and escape attacks, but these are really to set up the rest of the series. People will die, decisions will be made, and revenge will be sought, all of which will set in motion a chain of events that will potentially bring House Forrester down.
One of the consequences is young Ethan Forrester having to take on the mantle of Lord of House Forrester in his father’s absence, and much of his story has you choosing what type of ruler he is to be. Should he be slow to anger, and diplomatic, or should he be swift to retaliate, preferring a show of strength? The game handles this by firstly having Ethan deal with a minor crime himself, but then choosing who should be his right hand man. I found this the most jarring part of the whole game – most of the characters in the book and the show are not black and white, but inhabit each and every shade of grey in-between. Crystallising your way of ruling into a simple choice between two people who may as well have been called Johnny Talk-it-through and Shouty McWarface just didn’t feel right to me.
On the other hand, Mira has one of the best scenes in the entire episode. Before she can try and help her family, she has to face a lengthy interrogation by Cersei the Queen Regent (with Tyrion at her side) to determine just where Mira’s loyalties lie. And lie you certainly must. Through your teeth. This scene really felt like true Game of Thrones with characters lying to each other to try and get what they want. The digital Cersei is a formidable screen presence that often leaves you uncomfortably wondering just what the repercussions were going to be to your deceptions.
The game jumps back and forth between these three characters as the story unfolds over the course of two hours or so, but ends in true Game of Thrones style, with a shocking cliffhanger. It honestly left me slack jawed, with no idea what on earth is going to happen next, and how my decisions are going to play out in future episodes.
So despite a few niggles around how Ethan’s decision was presented, I was totally won over by the feeling of being involved in the multiple layers of deceit and political intrigue of Westeros.
Winter is coming, I just wish episode two would hurry up and come with it.
Reviewed on PS4