Telltale Game’s six-episode, interactive drama Game of Thrones thrusts players into George RR Martin’s wintery epic as portrayed by the HBO Series. Rather than make players into a resilient voice amongst by chaos, Game of Thrones gives players the rare opportunity to directly complicate matters and later suffer the consequences of their decisions. Despite some scripted plot points, I constantly felt responsible for making matters worse and worse as I was suffocated beneath the weight of dire consequences. The spiraling fall of the story consistently kept me on the edge of my seat, feeding me of the taste of triumph without sacrifice piecemeal, until the disappointingly inconclusive Episode 6. While a few janky walking sections dragged on a bit too long, none of the title ever felt like filler. Even choreographed QTE segments, while skill-less, was enjoyable and surprisingly fulfilling. A few graphical blips and uninspired cinematography weren’t enough to break Game of Thrones’ presentation or keep it from feeling authentic to its HBO predecessor.
Gameplay consists of choosing a character’s words or actions during in flow of conversation or battle. A few QTE-action sequences don’t provide any challenge but do show off some great fight choreography and sound design. You can really feel the crunch of a character’s blade as it makes its way through a soldier’s organs and out his back. In fact, I was really surprised by how satisfying most of QTE sections were. While failing most of them resulted in instant failure state, a handful of QTEs played out alternate actions upon failure, wounding the character or prompting an alternate recovery action. I found these to be a great touch but would’ve appreciated even more of them as they often portrayed characters’ realistically scrambling through combat errors with improvised solutions.
GoT never holds back. Ever. NPC characters are as cunning and witty as their live-action counterparts and will act against you if you get in their way. I guess I had never empathized with the stress the show’s characters undergo when simply speaking to each other – i.e. imagine having to make decisions for characters on Game of Thrones and King’s Landing quickly begins to feel like the most dangerous place in Westeros. It all becomes even more interesting when you realize that pursuing one ideal might betray someone else’s. Making a promise to someone now may get you out a bind but will come back to bite you later. Everyone around you is trying to get what they want and you’re constantly reminded of it. I very much appreciated that no decisions ever felt “wrong.” Yes, sometimes my decision did result in a less than desirable outcome; however, reminding myself of the intense, tragic drama of the Game of Thrones story – one that can at times feel like pure doom and gloom – made my “poor” choices feel brutally authentic, which was awesome.
The game world is nearly beautiful. Minor details on characters and environments showcase a great deal of care and the game’s watercolor visuals suit the fantasy context well. The game’s “settings” menu is limited, offering only one type of unspecified anti-aliasing and general low, medium, or high graphic settings. Blur effects used in the game tend to “splotch” images in an ugly way, almost like a broken blur effect. Scenes consistently suffer from pop-in with entire environments blinking or characters suddenly appearing into frame. The game’s shadow effects were rather monotone, keeping some characters lit while they wandered into darkness and keeping the the difference between shadows and light slight. While the story focuses on the accumulation of forces, we never really see an army during GoT. More often than not, a group of just eight or nine soldiers is supposed to represent an army to be reckoned with. The dissonance wasn’t overwhelming but mislead my assessment of certain situations. A few surprising typos are to be found throughout the in-game text. While easy to overlook, they were a strange sight given the quality of writing.
While it could’ve been much worse, a few scenes feature some highly questionable cinematography. I recall an important conversation between two characters playing out in a flat angle when suddenly the camera changed so a barrel could take up a third of the frame. Most scenes, however, employed a bland shot reverse shot technique that, while functional, came off as uninspired camera-work and passed up several moments wherein more dynamic framing methods could have better expressed the story.
Game of Thrones is such a compelling title, I would go so far as to say its production faults are minor. Every step of the way, I wanted nothing more than to see “what happens next,” precisely as Telltale intended. Some knowledge of the series would help appreciate context but all in all there’s a strong enough narrative here to stand on its own. While ultimately Game of Thrones may leave players too exhausted to anticipate Season 2, especially after Episode 6’s up-in-the-air conclusion, the journey is a powerful one and definitely one of the year’s finest.