Telltale’s Game of Thrones S1: a Review

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I actually finished this post a couple months ago but never got around to edit it. And partly because I didn’t write anything this week and partly because GAME OF THRONES SEASON 7 PREMIEEEERRRRRRRR and partly because this game is on PlayStation Plus this month, it felt like an appropriate time to dust it off and finally post it 🙂

Telltale’s Game of Thrones tells the story of the Forresters, a northern house loyal to the Starks and guardians of the precious Ironwood groves, a type of wood used for weapon crafting. With the Lord killing in the Red Wedding, and the Boltons moving to strengthen their grip in the north, the survival of House Forrester hangs in the balance. The story is told through the point of view of five different characters placed in different locations throughout the world of Game of Thrones – Ironrath (seat of the Forresters), King’s Landing, the Wall and parts of Essos – as they scheme, plot and make powerful friends in order to ensure House Forrester survives.

It’s fun to see many familiar characters pop up in the game. Tyrion, Daenerys and Ramsay all play significant roles in the game. Cersei and Margaery pop up quite a fair bit as well. Familiar plot points from the show also make their way into the game. The Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding, the Siege of Meereen, they all, in some form, affect the story of the Forresters as well.

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House Forrester, around which the game revolves

Telltale Games has come a long way. From the days of CSI and Jurassic Park to their recent string of success with Walking Dead, Batman and Tales from the Borderlands, they have become known for their particular type of game. It’s like the adventure games of old, but not quite the same. It’s also formulaic, almost to a fault, so if you’re expecting something new in this installment, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Overall, I feel like Game of Thrones is one of the worse offerings Telltale has given us in recent years, bearing in mind that I’ve yet to play Michonne, Minecraft, Walking Dead: a New Frontier, Guardians of the Galaxy and Batman. There is a lack of impactful choices, likeable characters and an overall satisfying conclusion to the season. Plot threads hang in the air untied by the end of this season and I’m not interested enough to continue the story.

And here ends the intro part. The rest of the review will contain SPOILERS. So be WARNED.

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Have a look a Telltale’s Jon Snow before I jump into SPOILERS.

The game channels the spirit of the HBO series very well. Lots of brutal deaths, politicking and absolute gut wrenching punishments to the characters. Unlike the series however, I never grew to love the characters that suffer, which meant that those scenes weren’t as impactful. I wasn’t invested in the story of the Forresters and arguably two whole PoV characters could be removed from the game entirely and the main Forrester story line would have remained the same. Gared Tuttle and his journey to find the North Grove, for example, does not factor into the storyline at all. And given how his story ends this season, and how Telltale usually manages these decisions, I’m not optimistic about the second season.

There are a few characters that I do find interesting. Asher and Ethan being two of the biggest ones. One is killed off quickly, and the other is stuck in an unenviable situation. Honestly Asher’s part was interesting largely because it’s in Essos, there’s a certain inherent draw to the “exiled son” role plus there was his camaraderie with his fighting partner Beskha, who I won’t mind seeing more of. Other characters I wished to see more of are Talia and Gwyn, both who I felt had a lot of potential to be something more to the story but never lived up to my expectations.

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Gwyn, one of the what-could-have-beens of Telltale’s Game of Thrones

While Telltale has had open endings before, I think Game of Thrones is the first time they’ve let it ended so incompletely. Gared’s as mentioned before, was just all around “meh”. And Mira’s penultimate act was good, where the true villain to her character is unveiled, but it sputters to be “eh” ending where she either marries the villain or gets beheaded. Undoubtedly to be cast aside, never to be in the story again, except maybe a glimpse of her severed head or her as the wife of the villain. I doubt she’ll have much of an influence again, not that she’s had much in the first place.

Choices in Telltale Games has never been anything more than illusions of player agency, but Game of Thrones plainly fails to hide it as such. I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve become aware of Telltale’s tricks or it’s the failure of the game itself but it’s glaringly obvious to me that nothing I did had any effect on the story. Whether Mira makes a successful deal with Tyrion or not doesn’t matter, since he’s going to be jailed anyway. Whether Asher stops Beshka from killing her former master and jeopardizing the mission doesn’t matter, Daenerys ain’t letting the Second Sons go. No matter what plot you did, what allies you called or what mercenaries you hired, Ironrath still falls to the Whitehills. Plain and simple, nothing changes anything. The only things that do change are minor, like whether Ethan is known as the Brave or the Wise. Or whether Rodrik/Asher is cunning or passionate or whatever. At least I got a platinum trophy out of this ordeal.

That’s not to say the entire game was bad with choices. There are several standout moments to the story. One that comes to mind is the Forrester traitor berating my Rodrik for standing up to Griff, Ramsay Bolton’s appointed custodian of Ironrath. Earlier in the game, a crippled Rodrik is kicked to the ground by Griff and I persisted in standing up and showing defiance against Griff. At the time I thought it was a heroic move to stand up for the “right” reasons. But the traitor telling me that all I did was put my pride before the well-being of the people I’m supposed to look after, the townsfolk, it really hit me right in the guts. But sadly these moments are rare and are the exception rather than the rule.

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What your choices boil down too. It isn’t a pretty picture.

In short, no, Telltale’s Game of Thrones is not worth your money and is definitely not worth your time. PlayStation Plus subscribers can safely ignore it. Even if you’re a big fan of A Song of Ice and Fire and the HBO series. It feels tempting to see a new part of the ASOIAF world. Forresters and Ironwood are canon after all. Plus the cameos were fun, but I honestly felt like it’s been a colossal waste of time.

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One thought on “Telltale’s Game of Thrones S1: a Review

  1. I felt like Game of Thrones was a lot more smoke and mirrors of choices, like you say – it was like every choice impacted like the next 5 seconds of gameplay and then they managed to swing it back round to the narrative they had planned. Obviously the last choices of the episodes carry a bit more weight but not their best show.

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