[Review] Game of Thrones: Episode 1

Colby Butler/ April 6, 2015/ Review

Game of Thrones: Episode 1

Photo Apr 04, 10 12 48

 

Here’s a short summary of my thoughts on Episode 1 of Game of Thrones by TellTale Games. These thoughts are based on the IOS version of the game:

 

Game of Thrones is, originally, a series of books written by George R.R. Martin. In this series, a group of “noble” families jockey for their position on the royal throne of the land through the use of backroom politics, military invasions, and anything in between. There is also a highly acclaimed HBO series by the same name. This game fits into the storyline and uses the likenesses of many of the characters from the HBO series.

Choices, Choices…

During my play-through, there were quite a few instances where the choice system that has become a cornerstone of Telltale’s style of storytelling came into good use. I was able to understand the situation at hand and I felt informed enough to make a meaningful decision based on available information. Oftentimes however, I felt that like the choice opportunities were somewhat overdone in this title. Quite a few of the decisions I was being asked to make felt like fairly “high stakes” decisions. Because of this, I spent quite a bit of time being worried about “breaking” the game by making a bad choice instead of being immersed in the story or situation at hand.

Past experiences with other “Choose Your Destiny” titles has taught me that the decision trees in games like this ultimately boil down to a good vs evil or optimal vs sub-optimal end state. Knowing this left me feeling like my choices in the story were bouncing back and forth like a mine cart careening down a hallway, bouncing left and right as it ricocheted off the walls. This wasn’t helped by the fact that many of my choices (as far as dialogue is concerned), didn’t seem to have much, if anything in the way of nuance to them. As an exaggerated example, in a physical confrontation, you might be allowed to choose between cutting a guys head off or completely submitting to avoid a fight. In a game so focused on politics and power, I would expect nuance to be a much more integral part of the decision making process.

Choices are only interesting if you understand what’s being asked of you and in a storyline/universe full of so much political gamesmanship, I felt like I was swimming in choices that I’m not sure ultimately have any meaning. I think that might work well for a title that you can consume in one sitting, but in an episodic title like this, I felt like I was just making a bunch of small meaningless choices. Even though I’m sure these choices will ultimately factor in to the outcome, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being given a bunch of “busywork”

Members Only

While I’m not an enormous fan of any of the original source material for these Telltale games, I AM a BIG fan of these Telltale games themselves. I consider the original “Walking Dead: Season One” game one of the greatest storytelling games of all time. “The Wolf Among Us” was also very engaging despite my complete lack of knowledge of the source material.

As for Game of Thrones, I’m more of an indifferent fan of the show, and know absolutely nothing about the source material. I’ve only seen the first two or three seasons of the show and I’m not overly worried about seeing the more recent seasons, nor am I interested in reading any of the books. I’m sure I’ll get around to watching the rest of the show eventually, but I’m in no hurry.

Having said that, I don’t know a great deal about the political tensions between the families. I only know the broad strokes. I feel like this needlessly excludes people who aren’t familiar with the source material. Games are often used as a vehicle to bring new fans into the fold. This game seems to serve more as an interactive bonus feature for the show. That’s all well and good, but I haven’t seen much info from Telltale warning their potential customers about this “learning curve”.

Wrap-Up

Overall, I thought the game was well done and interesting enough to hold my attention for the duration of the play-through. I am however, on the fence as to whether or not I’ll purchase any of the other episodes. I picked this one up the other day whenever it went free on the App Store, but I really feel like I’d have been a bit disappointed if I had payed full price for this episode. I wouldn’t have felt “cheated” since the production quality is top notch and the story is well done and interesting. I just don’t think I would have felt “satisfied” after all was said and done. Generally at the end of a game, you want to feel like you’ve “won” something, or accomplished something important or interesting. At the very least you want to feel like you’ve made progress. Right now, however, I feel like the only thing I’ve done is move the story forward. I have absolutely no idea whether or not I made “good” choices up to this point. That’s completely fine for a character in a written story but I’m not so sure that works well for a character in an episodic video game.

Final Verdict

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll probably be all in for this title and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. However, I feel that non-fans will feel a little lost in all the political intrigue unless they’re big fans of storylines full of political machinations, alliance building, and back-stabbing. If you can get the first episode for free, I’d say it’s definitely worth the small time investment.

 

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