Before saying anything about the review: It is impossible to discuss this without spoiling some part of the books/show as it takes place near the end of book 3 and season 3 in the respective series. Beware.
And to that end, this review will assume some familiarity with the world of Game of Thrones.
The world of Game of Thrones, of A Song of Ice and Fire, lends itself well to the style of Telltale’s games. A lot, if not the most, of the excitement in the show and the books comes from the discussions between many of the characters. Sure, we all love to watch a good sword fight or the chaos of battle, but the intrigue and politics is where the meat of Game of Thrones lies and Telltale does a serviceable job of emulating it.
Telltale’s Game of Thrones is centered around the Forrester family who are loyal to the Starks. The game is not limited to the north however, as plenty seems to take place in King’s Landing and there even seems to be some taking place on another continent in Essos – though not yet as of the first episode.
So far, all of the PoV characters that you play are related to the Forresters in some way. I say the Forresters, but it seems that Telltale has copied much of the back story and character situations of the Starks. See if this sounds familiar:
They have a lord who has a reputation of unwavering honor, a new young lord thrust unexpectedly into the position, a daughter stuck in King’s Landing who has a close relationship with Margery Tyrell, a boy too young to know enough or be fully aware of his surroundings, a lady of the house that comes from the South but now accepts the North as her new home, and a squire who is not really part of the family but is seen as one anyway – oh and also goes to The Wall.
In case those were unclear or poorly worded, the Forresters basically have their own versions of Ned, Robb, Sansa, Rickon, Catelyn, and Jon Snow.
It could be forgivable if only a few characters shared similarities, but this is far too many. It would have been nice to see some more originality from Telltale in this regard. As of right now, it seems like they really wanted to write a story about the Starks but couldn’t. They were a near blank canvas to work from as well, leaving a ton of room to work with.
To Telltale’s credit, they did create an interesting dynamic with their rival house, House Whitehill. The Forresters main claim is to their unique access and craftsmanship of Ironwood, a particularly hard and resilient wood desired everywhere.
While so far they have done a less than great job of creating something new in the world of Game of Thrones, Telltale does a reasonable job of adapting settings and characters that already exist, like Margery Tyrell, Tyrion, and Ramsay Snow. Their characterizations and dialogue are usually pretty good, Ramsay Snow in particular, but fall flat at other times. The brief windows where you see Cersei and Tyrion, Cersie especially, have dialogue that is a little too stilted and not clever enough to match their characters.
Otherwise, Telltale does fair job characterizing certain places, like the North or King’s Landing.
The best thing Telltale does is capture the spirit of the storytelling of Game of Thrones. I don’t want to give too much, but the story begins in the middle of the Red Wedding, then progresses from the reaction the Forresters have to take to the events that happen there as they were loyal to Robb, King in the North. Those familiar with the world and story should know the chaos and opportunity for interesting occasions to arise.
There is a lot of intrigue and a few different storylines going on at once to consider, all of which seem to have some implications regarding the other. All of a sudden choices do not just become about the one particular character you play, but how they might affect another story going on at the same time.
And the choices, something I have criticized Telltale for in the past, seem to be weighty this time around – though only time will truly tell. The amount of difficult, and seemingly very important, decisions to be made in this first episode was surprising. Plan to make a lot and quickly – even in situations where simple dialogue choices were present did it seem difficult.
Though, that may have been just me putting too much importance on dialogue as I know how important what you say, how you say it, and what you don’t say are to this world. That is particularly true in places like King’s Landing – where there does seem to be some evidence that dialogue choices will have some effect, at least on how characters view that particular PoV character.
Telltale seemed to have tried some experimenting with the visuals in Game of Thrones. It appears that they were attempting some kind of oil painting look, rather than the cel shading they have become known for. I understand what Telltale was looking for, but they didn’t execute it fully or well enough.
In some areas, the effect looks quite nice and interesting. But in most other ways it is a disservice. There is a certain effect around everything to make it look like an oil painting, but is not executed in many places well enough leading to textures that look poor quality (like the buildings in that first screenshot). In others, the effect, like in the image above, just make everything look muddied.
Not only that, but so far the palette of Game of Thrones is lacking. There is far too much, green, brown, and gray. King’s Landing is a bright city full of Red, yet that did not seem expressed enough. Hopefully that will not also be the case with Essos, the whole continent of which is full of vibrant colors.
In the end, Telltale’s Game of Thrones is worth your while. It is scratching that itch as I wait around for Season 5 of Game of Thrones to begin and for book six in the series, The Winds of Winter. The set up of this first episode has been great and promising, now we only have to wait and see if it delivers.
It will scratch the itch of fans waiting for the next book and next season of the show.