Games of Thrones is the latest episodic game series by released by TellTale games. As is custom, the episodes are being released two to three months apart. This time there is a sixth episode, contrary from the usual five, and we’re partaking in the wonderful world of Game of Thrones. The events of the game take place right after the end of the show’s third season and will continue to right before the start of the fifth season.
I’m honestly not sure where to start with talking about the story for this episode. To be frank, I hated it. I hated it a lot. I think one of the major reasons why it didn’t sit well with me was because of the pacing of the episode; it was honestly rather poor. Though this episode was on the shorter end in general, the ending chapters were really short, much shorter than the beginning ones at least. The beginning three were about twenty minutes apiece and the latter ones were ten, if even that. Honestly, chapter five was gone in the blink of an eye. There was nothing to it whatsoever. It doesn’t help that the first three episodes are the ones filled with story when all of the later episodes are action packed. It’s almost like a new superhero movie; the beginning is the boring plot and character development that you don’t really care about, but need, and the ending is the action that you’ve wanted that doesn’t last long enough. That’s what this game feels like. TellTale makes you sit through this boring dialogue and plot development without a single break and than just shoves all this action in your face with very little story. It makes the story feel very out of place and almost like a nuisance, which is bad considering this is meant to be a story driven game. I think it would be much better if the story and action were integrated together and not just compartmentalized.
Speaking of timing, there was time jump in this episode that didn’t quite make sense to me. Towards the end, you hear Asher say he was on the boat to Westeros two weeks before landing. Two weeks is a long time for other characters to be doing things. Rodrick may be able to get away with not having anything too important in two weeks, but what about Gared? His storyline does not seem like one that can just randomly skip by two weeks and have absolutely nothing happen of importance. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure time was meant to be of the essence (the people wanting to take down House Forrester aren’t just going to wait around for two weeks for Asher to get there and give the Forresters a chance of survival). All of the characters twiddling their thumbs for two weeks is not time efficient whatsoever. Asher could have been on a two week delay, but I think that would have been mentioned in the first episode. Also, in the first episode, Ethan sent Malcolm to go fetch Asher. If it takes two weeks for Asher to get to Westeros, it can be safely assumed that it would take Malcolm the same two weeks to make his voyage to Asher. Therefore, Asher couldn’t be on a two week delay or else Malcolm would have gotten there much later than he did. Also, what happened to those two weeks? Did all of the characters just sit by then too? Based upon the events of the game itself, that wouldn’t make sense. Things seem to happen pretty quickly, at least faster than the two week time period that it would take to make the trip. If it is taking that long for things to occur in the game, I think there would be some sort of mention of it. In short, something seems highly amiss with the sequence of events in this game and I am now highly confused as to the timeline.
Also, Rodrick was used very little in this episode. He appeared briefly in chapter one and then didn’t appear again until chapter seven. I feel as if TellTale neglected his storyline this time around. Either that or he was twiddling his thumbs. The other characters had plenty to do and, unless the timeline is as screwy as I think it may be from the time jump I mentioned in the previous paragraph, he must have been doing something while the other characters were fighting or talking their way out of dangerous situations.
Besides the timing and pacing of this story, I think I have a problem with the characters themselves. Since I have not read the books or watched the TV show, I can’t be certain this is a problem specifically for the game itself, but it definitely involves the characters TellTale has created for the game: all the characters seem to be very simple. Their drive is to manipulate other people and benefit their own goals. Some of them are less violent, like Rodrick, but their main drive is still just to benefit their goals. I feel as if that’s all they do throughout the entire story. They manipulate people, get what they want, and do what best suits them. It’s really beginning to feel as if all the characters are the same with very little deviation from one to another. I would like one character that isn’t just driven by their need to support their family. I understand that the characters are on the verge of war and they’re trying to balance the political side of things as well as the physical side, but I feel as if something more can be done than just manipulation of all the side characters to get what the main characters need. That being said, the characters are on the verge of a war. Tensions are high and villains are going to do despicable things to get what they want, especially considering that this is the Game of Thrones universe where violence is known to be rampant. The characters constantly complain about how their loved one was killed or why someone would do what they did. I know losing a loved one is horrible and the characters have a right to mourn, but it’s like they are in denial of the world around them, that they’re not on the verge of war and that they aren’t in danger at all of having something terrible happen to them. For instance, at the very beginning of the chapter, there was a torture scene. It was gruesome, but the characters acted as if it were the end of the world, as if a torture scene that brutal had never happened before. I know for a fact it has because they showed a similar one in a previous episode. Not to mention, the character behind the torture has a violent tendency. In other words, the characters don’t have to like the torture they’re witnessing, but it seems more like they’re just pretending that they don’t live in a violent universe and that these things don’t happen basically everyday in the universe they live in. I honestly feel as if these characters are just complaining about everything that’s happening around them when they should at least be somewhat accustomed to it. As said, they don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t mean they have to complain about every little bad thing happening when they should have seen it coming.
Frankly, I did see it coming. Towards the end, there was a reveal. You have a traitor in your midst! Gasp! It’s the end of the world! Not really… I saw the traitor coming from a mile away. It made sense with his personality and how he acted throughout the early episodes. From the very beginning I knew he would be bad news and didn’t like him. I knew something bad would eventually come to befall as a result of his hand. I feel like a new character would have been a better pick for the traitor than this painfully obvious one. Not to mention, the main characters’ reactions to his traitorous actions felt very underwhelming. They were clearly shocked by his betrayal with their words (which they shouldn’t have been considering the universe they live in), but it didn’t really show in their voices, actions, or faces. You just dealt with him swiftly and that was it. There was no real questioning or answers and there were very limited options in how to deal with him. It was killing him or locking him up/sparing him. No questioning him and then killing him? No having the option of how to kill him? No explaining your actions? Nothing? It was just purely underwhelming to me and I felt like they could have done so much more for such a drastic reveal. Well, drastic reveal as in they stumbled across it randomly and rather pathetically. I won’t go into details for fear of spoiling anything, but it felt as if TellTale could not figure out any other way for the traitor to be revealed and this was their last ditch effort in order to do so. It just happened out of the blue to speed along the story and then they quickly plowed through the sequence itself to get to other parts of the story.
To continue with my list of complaints, I am extremely disinterested in this story, a lot of which is the result of the above. I am finding it very hard to focus on what’s happening. One second I’ll be clicking a dialogue option and the next second I’ll be thinking of something completely separate from video games altogether. This game just can’t keep my attention anymore and it’s also helped with me having no empathy for any of the characters in this game. At the end of the episode there was the moral choice of which character to save and which character to kill off. It took me less than two seconds to decide because I don’t really have any feelings of emotion towards the character that I killed. Even so, my main thought was still, “Which one of these characters will be more beneficial down the road?” Though I highly prefer one over the other, it really had nothing to do with their personality or how far I’ve come with them. Not even the death scene with the sad music and last ditch heroic attempts could sway me. I just wanted the death to be over with so I could get to the screen that told me how my choices compared to the rest of the people who played the episode. If I had reacted this way to every previous TellTale game I’ve played I wouldn’t see a problem, but this is the first time I’ve had such a response, or lack of response. I think it’s rather problematic considering that TellTale games are meant to be heavily story based and make you empathize and love the characters.
On a happier note, there were some things that I did like about this episode. A little over halfway through, you come across some new enemies. I don’t understand these enemies yet (where they came from, how they came to be, or why they’re so different from everybody else in this universe), but they were a nice breath of fresh air to this universe and to this game. I’m happy TellTale included them and I hope there are more of them to come, or at least a back story for them.
I also really enjoyed Asher this episode. As said previously, I won’t get into anything too specific so as not to spoil anything, but I think he really stepped up this episode. He took charge, did what was necessary, and used his brain. He didn’t seem like the simple brawn character that he has been in previous episodes. It seems like there is more to him and I am now certain there is much more to come of him. He has become quite possibly my favorite character. He was witty, strong, and had a nice sense of humor about him. Not to mention, he doesn’t seem to just be doing everything for the sole purpose of helping his family. That is a lot of it, but it also seems as if he’s doing it for himself and there’s also a whiff of adventure about him than makes me respect him and want more of his character. He seems much better rounded than the other characters I have encountered thus far.
The gameplay is standard for TellTale games. It focuses on a click-and-point style with simplistic quick time events and branching dialogue options to choose from. There is nothing different from previous games made by TellTale or previous episodes in this particular series. That being said, you were able to use your ability to shoot in this episode. It was painfully brief, but I appreciate TellTale adding it nonetheless.
However, the gameplay felt sectioned, for lack of a better term. The beginning chapters focused more heavily on the click-and-point aspects with the branching dialogues whereas the ending chapters focused heavier on the quick time events with very little dialogue and barely any exploration/click-and-point at all. It felt a bit unbalanced to me and I would have much preferred the elements to be strung together smoothly instead of having one in the beginning and one at the end. I feel like imbalance was also partly responsible for the poor pacing of the episode.
I also want to point out the use of the varied weapons in this episode. It was more than just a sword, shield, crossbow, and limbs. The weapons weren’t used for very long, but they were there and I appreciate a little differentiation being added to spice things up. That being said, the use of the katar did frustrate me a bit. While the weapon itself can be used for slashing, it was much more heavily used for thrusting or punching because it was an extension of the arm. Since it wasn’t used for thrusting, only slashing, I was a little disappointed. I know this is me “nerding out” about a weapon and I’m not holding TellTale to this very much, but I would have appreciated a little bit more accuracy with the gameplay in that section.
After episode four, I had hopes that the graphics would continually get better in the last couple of episodes. My hopes were dashed. They didn’t get worse, but they didn’t get better either. The graphics have apparently leveled at a constant state of bad. The backgrounds are still pretty blurry most of the time, as if TellTale is using a separate art style for them half of the time. During certain scenes, the characters themselves become blurry, particularly around the arms. In general, the castles are the worst offenders. Lady Margaery’s castle is just terrible, especially around the windows. It has gotten to the point where it’s almost painful for me to see it. At this point, I want nothing to do with the castle just so I don’t have to see those windows anymore.
A little less than halfway through the episode, I found myself controlling Asher and I was giving a speech. When the camera changed, Bloodsong was standing next to me. All he was doing was standing. It felt horribly awkward. He didn’t even turn around to face me, to follow me as I was the one giving the speech. It was almost as if he was stuck. A movement of the head, a twitch of the arm, anything would have been preferable to having him just stand there doing nothing. I think TellTale forgot to animate him for that brief scene.
I would love to continue my trend and say that I loved the audio for this episode as well, but that would be a lie. Some characters were amazing, like Asher and Rodrick and Tyrion, and I’m in love with the opening theme as much as I was in the previous episodes, but some characters just disappointed me. About halfway through, I stumbled upon the character “fat man.” It was like he was trying way too hard to be tough. The spacing for his words felt misplaced too. The voice just didn’t sit right with me and, as a result, I thought it came off as very unnatural.
A similar thing happened with the character Bloodsong. His accent felt wrong and fake on so many levels. Based on the character design, I’m pretty sure he was meant to be an outsider. However, that raised a whole bunch of questions on its own. For instance, if he’s not from the city, that how did he end up in the position he did? Those questions come from a much different category than simply “audio,” but it feels wrong to give a character a diverse accent and then not explain anything about him. Even so, I know I’m not the best with accents, but I’m not even sure where his accent was supposed to be from. It just felt strange. I think it would have been much easier, and orally pleasing, if this character was given a similar accent to that of everyone else in the game.
This chapter was shorter than the previous ones, only taking about an hour and a half instead of the two, two and half hours they have reached in previous episodes. This chapter was also more bloody, violent, and gory than the previous episodes. If you’re squeamish, this chapter probably won’t do you well.
Overall, I did not enjoy this episode much at all. I know a part of it is because I can’t seem to get into the universe itself, but a part of it is just because of the blunders with the story’s timeline and the lack of diversity that I seem to not find in the characters. I really hope TellTale can pull out a good episode six and redeem this series in my eyes.