Even after playing through all episodes of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, it can be hard to imagine a mature themed show like Game of Thrones as a Telltale adventure game. Yet, Telltale Games manages to maintain its winning streak with an opening episode that is full of shocks and surprises, all while challenging the player's decision making skills.
The story is told from three different perspectives, but all belong to House Forrester, loyal bannermen to the Starks. Those loyalties are put to the test after the Forrester lord and his oldest son are both killed, along with much of the army, at the Red Wedding - an event that's one of the biggest turning points of the show. What remains is a house that's surrounded by enemies and struggling to survive. There is a squire named Gared who witnesses the slaughter and returns home, only to be treated as a criminal by the post-Stark regime, forcing him to go on the run. Next comes Ethan Forrester, a young boy who must grow up quickly learn to rule as the new lord. Lastly, there's Mira Forrester, a handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell, who must find a way to survive in King's Landing while others regard her and her family as traitors.
Unfortunately, it's near impossible to talk about the plot any further without ruining it. Suffice it to say that the events coincide with what happens on the HBO TV show, and likenesses of the actors are used for the characters. So, when Cersei and Tyrion Lannister make an appearance, they both feature the voices and likenesses of Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage. Players will have a chance to interact with them and see if they have what it takes to survive in a world that is full of violence and intrigue.
As expected, decision points throughout the game determines how the story will play out, and priorities shift from character to character. For example, Gared (the squire) must balance out his need for vengeance against trying to be honorable. Meanwhile, Mira has to learn the fine art of politicking if she is to survive living in King's landing, and must find a way to help her family without drawing too much attention toward herself, which is difficult when Cersei already has you in her crosshairs. Although interacting with known characters from the series can get kind of hokey in other games, Game of Thrones does it superbly. None of the interactions seem forced, and the situations all make sense. While you don't have to watch the TV show to enjoy the game, being caught up can provide an appreciation for many of the details and connections. Knowledge can be especially useful for identifying and reacting to major events like the Red Wedding or dealing with characters like the sadistic Ramsey Snow. I truly got a sense that the story isn't so much about a family that's out to grab power so much as it is about a family that gets tangled up in other people's conflicts.
I also have to make note of the unique art style Game of Thrones uses. While both the Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us use a comic book-like style, Game of Thrones looks like it's drawn in water colors. The environments sometimes go fuzzy, like a pointillist painting, bringing the characters into focus. This unique approach not only sets Game of Thrones apart from Telltale's other offerings, but experiencing it is almost like playing an interactive piece of art.
Game of Thrones makes a spectacular premiere that leaves you wanting more. I only wish that I didn't have to wait months to catch the next episode.
Impressions are based on a PC Steam code provided by the publisher. Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series is available digitally for $4.99 per episode or $29.99 for the season pass. The game is rated M.