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Game of Thrones Episode 1 Review: A Winner is Coming

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Telltale has a formula of sorts. They’ve been working on it over a number of titles, and while their most successful iteration has been the original Walking Dead game, they’ve all been good so far. Their latest, A Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, continues that trend, though it also shows a few of frayed edges of the formula.

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Episode 1 of the game is titled “Iron from Ice.” It places you in House Forrester, a family with control over lumber reserves vital to those fighting the War of the Five Kings. The first episode picks up towards the end of Season 3 of the series, with House Forrester on the side of Robb Stark, though events quickly begin to force the House to rethink its alliances. This will all make sense to you if you watch the show; if you don’t you should probably avoid the game altogether as it quickly drops into ‘spoilers’ territory.

On a storytelling and production level, GoT is everything you’ve come to expect from Telltale. These games are really interactive stories and their best moments often come in moments of narrative tension, not in the moments when the player is in total control of the scene. Most of the game interactions rely on the player asking the right (or wrong) questions in interactive text sequences, exploring areas for required objects, and solving story puzzles.

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Telltale has also done a fine job of making the game feel like Game of Thrones. The story is interesting and full of the same kinds of intrigue, backstabbing, drama, and action a fan of the series would expect. Its focus is not on one character, but on three, each with their own part to play in the drama that unfolds. And while the game is forced to play out on the fringes of the narrative we all know from the television show, there’s enough intrusion by the main plot, characters, and locations to keep us rooted in the series.

Action sequences are almost always the weak points of Telltale games, and GoT is no exception. This becomes especially evident because GoT, unlike TWD, doesn’t rely a lot on guns but on more kinetic combat with swords and such. The game opens with action that plays out at the Red Wedding (fans of the show know what this is) and you are quickly placed into a situation where you have to execute a lot of timed gestures. I found myself having to play through this several times as I tried to execute sometimes clunky gestures in ways the game would recognize and accept.

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A surprising weak point here is the graphic presentation. One of the things TWD and TWAU did well was mimic the comic book art that their stories were inspired by. Here, they’re aiming for realism, and in doing so they expose some of the little flaws that stylized art can often hide. That’s not to say that this game looks bad by any means; but it doesn’t look as good because, unlike the comic book look of the other games, it has a little “uncanny valley” problem in spots.

I’m not going to call this my favorite Telltale game. The graphics just don’t quite work as well as they did in TWD and TWAU and I think that Game of Thrones is a more difficult place to tell a story than a post-zombpocalyptic world or a New York full of fairy tales. But I trust that wherever Telltale is taking the story is a place I want to go to, and I know I will enjoy the journey.

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5


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