Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Game of Thrones Season 1 Finished

Game: Game of Thrones Season 1
Release date: 2015
Platform: PC
Date started: 8 July, 2015
Date finished: 20 November, 2015

Conditions: Finish all episodes of the season 

I finished this game last year and started to write a review but then I got side tracked by life so here it is, almost a year later.

Game of Thrones is the first Telltale game I've ever played and I would probably enjoy it a bit more if I haven't played another episodic game shortly before it - Life Is Strange. While Life Is Strange lets you control the character most of the time, Game of Thrones is mostly made of interactive cut scenes. When the game decides to give you control, you can only move through a very limited space so there isn't much to explore. "Puzzles" are so simple they could hardly be even called that and all of the action is done through tedious and unresponsive quick time events. A lot of times I felt like I didn't press the button in time or failed to press it completely yet the character still performed the action successfully. It felt very random. So the gameplay is really dull but this is the kind of game you play for the story that is directly influenced by the choices you make. Or is it?

The majority of your early decisions in the season won't affect the story much. Some scenes might play out a bit differently and dialogue might change but even the minor plot points will remain untouched. At one point in the game, if you play your cards right, you can secure a marriage with a lady from another house which would give you a significant advantage. However it doesn't matter if you pursue her or not because the marriage will be prevented anyway. That's just one example of the many where the game will screw you over no matter what you do. I felt cheated because they give you illusion of choice but in reality you are completely at a mercy of the script. The choices themselves were tough to make and a lot of times I felt like I wasn't making the right decision. I like that because it felt true to Game of Thrones. Telltale stepped it up big time with episode 5 and 6 that feature some choices with ambitiously big consequences but we can't really judge the scope of it until season 2 comes out.

Story and characters

Going into the game you have to accept that no matter what you do, you can't change the events of the books or TV show, they have already been written. Instead the game can give you a small glimpse behind the scenes as playable characters often rub shoulders with the cast of the HBO series. The story begins during the Red Wedding (season 3 episode 9 for reference) and continues on along with the show until around the start of season five. It follows 5 members of House Forrester, a small noble house very briefly mentioned in the book. Forresters are Stark's bannermen, known for their fine craftsmanship and supply of ironwood, which is a very valuable resource in Westeros. The house is in shambles after lord Forrester and his army got massacred during the Red Wedding night. Now his young son Ethan has to take over and become a new lord. Aside from Ethan, you also play as: Gared Tuttle, a former squire of Lord Forrester who gets sent to the wall after exacting revenge on Bolton soldiers who killed his family. Mira Forrester, a handmaiden of Lady Margeary in King's Landing. Rodrik Forrester, Gregor's firstborn son who got badly wounded on a battlefield and Asher Forrester, a rebellious fighter exiled across the Narrow Sea. They will try to do everything in their power to save their house which is threatened by the Whitehills, a rival house that wants to take over the ironwood supply.

All of the playable characters are pretty bland, Gared and Mira being the worst offenders. Rather than having a unique house traits, they very much resemble Starks. Rodrik was my favorite but not due to his personality. He has a really nice recovery story arc where he had to rise from being a wounded cripple to a respected fighter and leader he once was. I thought some of the side characters were much more interesting. I liked Rodrik's ballsy little sister Talia and Ludd Whitehill was a villain that I loved to hate. Speaking of great villains, Ramsey Snow will appear from time to time to completely ruin your day.

Some of the NPCs were more interesting than main characters. I liked Talia and I absolutely hated Ludd.

What really bothered me were illogical story problems in the game. At one point I gave an order not to let enemy soldiers inside the gates and five minutes later they march into the main hall and nobody ever questions how they got in. Later we find there's a traitor in the house and figuring out who the traitor is was one of the more intriguing aspects of the game for me. Unfortunately the traitor thing boils down to simplest possible formula and his motivation doesn't make any sense. A huge letdown.

Then there was this stealth mission on which Daenerys sends Asher and his 2 buddies. You had to complete the goal without getting distracted and killing anyone but guards. During the mission your friend Beskha bumps into her former master who made her do terrible things. Naturally she wants revenge. So you complete this insanely hard and dangerous mission for Daenerys but she still won't help you because she finds out about this one dead guy. Asher could've easily said that he saw them
so he had to be killed in order to not compromise the mission but fuck the logic. What's worse is that Beskha ends up feeling bad for killing the guy who ruined her life but feels nothing about killing dozens of guards who were just doing their job. This kind of writing would never fly on the show.

The presentation

Every Telltale game has a slightly unique visual style and this one is no exception. This time they went with a look that resembles oil painting. It looks pretty good during the static shots but falls apart in motion. The character movement feels very wooden and the animation tends to skip at times. Facial animation is even worse, as most of the time the characters wear same dumb expressions. On the other hand both the new cast and HBO stars gave a solid voice performance. The only one that felt a little bit off was Christopher Nelson as Ethan Forrester.

Ironrath, Forrester's home

The ending of episode 1 was the highlight of the season for me and it was very much in the spirit of GoT. Episode 2 continued on strongly but the series started going downhill from that. Third episode felt like more of the same and then each episode got worse the season continued. I enjoyed the parts of the game that took place at Ironrath the most. I was surprised to find a lot of people liked Mira's intrigues at King's Landing but I didn't find it interesting and often wanted to skip to the next segment. Asher's journey wasn't great either but pretty much everyone agrees that segments over the wall were the worst even tho the setting and the mystery alone had potential for something special.

The verdict

The game is made for the fans of the show (and books) so don't even bother picking it up if you haven't watched the series. If you are a fan then it's something to play while you're waiting for the next season of the HBO series but you probably won't take it for anything more than a filler. The final episode doesn't provide a satisfying closure, instead it blatantly sets up season 2.

Thoughts on season 2

+ hard decisions
+ HBO cast
+ a few shocking moments

- no closure
- bad animation
- QTEs
- segments beyond the wall
- story problems
- traitor reveal

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