Has there ever been a TV adaptation based on a series of books that has become as much of a juggernaut as Game of Thrones has? The answer, my dear reader, is no.
Probably not, at least if memory serves correctly, and the space-time continuum hasn’t been disrupted. George R. R. Martin’s seminal series of books and the fantastic HBO show that is based on it are both known for fantastic plotting, incredible world-building, memorable characters, and of course – deaths. Lots and lots of deaths. Brutal deaths, unexpected deaths, needless deaths. Yes, the world of Game of Thrones isn’t a safe place to be, whether you’re a minor character or a major one. Aint that right, Eddard Stark?
Telltale Games, with their superb Walking Dead series of games and more recently, Tales from The Borderlands [Reviewed Here], have proved that they are great at mining emotional moments and fantastic action from their source material. With Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, this fine tradition is kept alive. In the short first episode, you’re faced with many of their signature moves – moral quandaries, difficult decisions and grey areas. You’re in charge of House Forrester, a house which has been following the Starks for the longest time, but has fallen into bad times because of the tragedies befalling the starks. So, when you begin the game, House Forrester is already in a bit of a bad situation. And it wouldn’t be Game Of Thrones if it didn’t get a lot, lot worse.
The War of The Five Kings is in full swing, and factions all over Westeros are squabbling for control of the Iron Throne. House Forrester is very much a crucial cog in this equation, even if it’s a relatively minor house. You control Ironwood, which is a high-quality wood that is in great demand in the seven kingdoms. In this first episode, you play as three separate characters from House Forrester. As newer episodes come out, you’ll undoubtedly get to play as different people from the Forrester clan. Through branching dialogue, sudden twists and brutal fight scenes, you have to guide your House through to the end of the episode with as little damage taken as possible. You’ll fight soldiers on battlefields, and claw your way out of burning buildings.
The Game Play:
While Game of Thrones has a lot of great fighting, its focus lies more on the political machinations of all the major and minor players vying for power. Your words, not your swords, are often what keep you alive in the world of Westeros. When you’re dealing with Joffrey or Queen Cersei, you better watch what you say. Telltale Games recreates this tension in the first episode by placing you in situations that you might remember from the book or the show. And if you know how a particular situation turns out, you’ll have to be very careful to ensure you don’t end up on the wrong end of it. In one of these situations during the game, you are supposed to curry favor with a woman from the upper echelons of society. You can either lie and tell her what she needs to hear, or you can choose to honor your people and your house, but risk being executed. This life-and-death situation that hangs in the balance every time you have an interaction with someone in power is really what Game of Thrones is all about.
No choice comes without consequences. And a choice you make could have far reaching ripple effects for major and minor players in the days to come. If you kill someone, be prepared to face a vengeful family. If you reveal too much, you risk being heard by the wrong people. If you enter into an alliance with someone you shouldn’t, you will face the short and long-term ramifications. The element of decision making is central to the Game of Thrones universe, which is why it’s perfect for a Telltale Games offering.
You might find the first episode slightly slow, because it features a lot of table setting. It’s a slow burn that promises some epic moments in later episodes. Even so, it’s never boring, even when you’re indulging in a battle of wits and words. If you’re a fan of the show or the books, you’ll enjoy reliving crucial events and battles from a different character’s viewpoint. As an added bonus, all of the major characters you meet in the episode are voiced by the actors who play them on the HBO show. There are a few Ramsay moments that will make your skin tingle, guaranteed.
Telltale Games has once again sunk its teeth into a franchise that plays perfectly to their strengths. George R. R. Martin’s prose never fails to elicit strong emotional reactions, and this episode pulls off much of the same. The pacing, while slow, is true to the source material, which almost always is a slow burn, leading to a shocking climax, and then features characters dealing with the aftermath. House Forrester is a fascinating bunch of people, and it will be a lot of fun to explore the fates of these characters through the later episodes. Be warned though, Westeros isn’t the best place for a family. When you play the Game of Thrones, you win, or you die.