I have a soft spot for Telltale Games, they provide great stories and the choices you make in the game, more often than not, shape your experience. This studio makes the kind of games that you can talk abuot with your friends, compare your decisions and experiences and that is truly something unique in games this day and age. Yet, these games are not perfect, not even close. Most, if not all of Telltale games suffer from a myriad of technical issues. Framerate drops, texture pop-in, lackluster visuals in general, blocky facial animations and downright bad model animations.
This time around, we got Game of Thrones – A Telltale Series, an interactive adventure set in the world of the massively successful TV Show based on the books by George R. R. Martin, but you already know all that, let’s dive into the bloody, gory details of the game.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Series is available for $19.99 for the whole season, Episode 1 is free, check it out on Microsoft Store.
In this game you represent House Forrester, a Northern family not too different from our beloved Starks. It takes place starting from the end of Season 3, up until the beginning of Season 5. What is notable about the Forresters is their produce of Ironwood, exclusive to them in all of Westeros (or so it seems). Ironwood is a valuable material – the strongest kind of wood in the land and, obviously, is desired by your rival family – House Whitehill. Who, with the favor of Ramsay Snow, do their best to oppress, humiliate and shame your house before finishing you off and claiming the Ironwood Forests for their own.
This time around, the story is told from multiple perspectives from the members of your House, so you can influence the disaster from different points of view. In the first episode, you play as Gared Tuttle – a loyal Forrester squire sent to the wall, Ethan Forrester – the young Lord of House Forrester and Mira Forrester – handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell who resides in King’s Landing.
It’s near-impossible to talk about the story and protagonists in this game without potentially or practically spoiling major plot points, so I’ll keep it short – it’s amazing. The choices that you make are almost always gut-wrenching, forcing you to literally pause the game and weigh the advantages of each choice. Will you bow and humiliate yourself to a despicable fourthborn son of your rival Lord to hold him off until the time of your vengeance is near, or will you stand up to him, putting the lives of those you care about at risk for the sake of your honor? The choices themselves, which unfortunately don’t change too much in the long run for the game’s story, are presented magnificently, you’ll be on an emotional rollercoaster all the way in the six episodes of the game.
In terms of locations there’s a good variety and balance across the four that you’ll be visiting. You will be doing your decisionmaking in the north of Westeros, where House Forrester resides, The Wall and north of it, King’s Landing and arguably the most fun to be in – Essos.
What is notable in this title is that you won’t be talking with only new characters created for the game. You will have the opportunity to meet Jon Snow, Ramsay Snow, Margaery Tyrell, Cercei and Tyrion Lannisters and Daenerys Targaryen. They don’t do too much for the actual plot but it helps the game tremendously to ground itself in the mythos.
One of the flaws of this game, which is pretty subjective, is the fact that not much unlike the show, most of the characters you care about will probably die. In very brutal and bloody ways. Make of that what you will.
The gameplay in here is pretty run-of-the-mill for Telltale. In dialogue, you choose what to say by pressing the appropriate button. Nothing revolutionary. Just like their every other game there are some walking sections but just like before, they are nothing more than filler between the next encounter. Fight scenes and action setpieces are quicktime events which, if you fail at them either get you killed and respawned at the last checkpoint or continue to then mildly influence the dialogue.
It would be really good if Telltale took the risk of giving the action viable consequences, something that would really influence the game. If you couldn’t dodge a sword slash during a duel on the top of the Wall you could injure your leg, which would have consequences when trying to escape chasing wildlings later on, forcing you to partake in an extra combat sequence which you could outrun, had you not gotten hit.
Unfortunately, you either die and try again, or get a slight remark from an NPC later on. With every released game, it’s a missed opportunity to inject a new formula of consequence – something that is important in a graphic adventure.
Visually the art style is something different than the usual cel-shaded graphics Telltale went with in The Walking Dead, Batman and The Wolf Among Us. It still looks colorful and cartoony but it fits the visual theme of the game quite well. The show cast is unmistakable and resemble their real-life counterparts as well as cartoony interpretations can, which is not necessarily a bad thing in this case. What has to be noted is the use of concept art-esque backgrounds for most of the landscapes and wide shots in the game. When those oil painting-style pieces don’t look too low-res (The Kings Landing landscape piece being the biggest offender here.) they fit into the frame very well, sticking out enough for you to notice and admire their beauty but not in-your-face to a degree where it contrasts with the in-engine models too much, making both look ugly.
What is still terrible are the animations. They are still stiff, faces are still unexpressive, changing from a grin to a frown in the blink of an eye giving you no relevant information as to what kind of emotional response your choice evoked in the character. It’s time to upgrade the engine, Telltale.
Having played most of the Season with a Razer Kraken headset, I have to admit that the sound design is hit or miss. The voice acting is amazing, both from the new cast and the established characters. No one actor seems to be phoning it in (I’m looking at you, Dinklage) delivering performances that match their motivations and agendas. New characters are represented magnificently as well, with notable performances from Robin Atkin Downes (Duncan Tuttle) and Christopher Nelson (Ethan Forrester), but that’s just the first episode, I‘ll refrain myself from naming others for the sake of this review being spoiler free. The one disappointment I have is again, with the facial animations, they are just not on par with how great the voicework is, making the end product sound amazing but look lackluster.
The audio effects and music, on the other hand is pretty miss. The clanking of swords is clunky and not really believable, but since there’s not too much action, you won’t mind it too much. Sometimes sound effects and music bug out, not appearing at all, leaving an awkward silence while massacre ensues.
Game Of Thrones – A Telltale Series has the same technical problems that the developer has had in the past, but if you can ignore them, there’s a magnificent story to be experienced full of tension, intrigue and emotional beatdowns.
+ Amazing story
– Blocky animations
+ Weighty choices
– Unexpressive faces
+ Fitting art style
– Buggy audio
+ Great voicework
– Lackluster combat
+ Celebrity cameos