Characters you were forced to create a relationship with in little time are killed just as quickly. Responsibilities you are not prepared for are suddenly thrust upon you and everything goes from hopeful to relentlessly grim within moments. Worst of all, no one is safe. Anyone can die at any moment, and that tension never leaves as you nervously stare down the screen, tapping finger ready.
Welcome to Game of Thrones. No, not the book or the television show. This is the video game by Telltale Games for your smartphone, tablet or computer.
The storytelling feels similar to the television show, which makes it exceptional for anyone who is a fan of the series. The game features an animated introduction with a three dimensional map of the locations the player will visit in that chapter. Then, when the player has completed the gameplay in part one, the game shows previews of what will happen next. Details of the preview can change depending on your in-game choices.
One detail of George R. R. Martin’s storytelling that has captivated readers and viewers is the sense of stark realism. This is not your typical fantasy series where the brave knight heroically rescues the damsel from the evil king, or dragon or whatever. Everyone, even the main character, is liable to utterly fail in their quest, lose something they think they cannot live without or be killed outright. This game is true to that formula.
However, the success of the game is cemented by the gameplay. Anyone who has played through a BioWare RPG has experienced a moment of uncertainty when faced with a tough conversation choice. We have all been there. The conversation options appear in front of you and you sit there trying to work out which choice is the best.
You are rarely afforded this opportunity Telltale’s spin on Martin’s world. You have a limited amount of time to make decisions with almost every conversation option put in front of you. Sometimes there isn’t even enough time to read all of the options given. If you don’t react in time, your character will respond in silence, possibly ruining your chance of reaching the outcome you desire.
With limited time to respond, the player is forced to stay on their toes almost every second of gameplay. The life of a friend or family member could be at stake. Or you could be gambling on the life of your character.
Of course, the game is not without its faults. Every so often the dialogue repeats or lags out, but this is a minor issue. More often than not, your conversation choices are futile in the grander scheme of things. You may spend a great deal of energy building rapport with a character who dies in the subsequent scene. Or you may play through the same scene multiple times to find there is only one possible outcome. Not that I’m speaking from experience, of course….
My only other gripe with the game is that it is being released in six chapters. Chapter one is on the app store for five dollars and chapter two is slated for release early February. Each chapter should come out about every two months. Releasing the game in this episodic format is understandable. It allows Telltale to make tweaks and adjust to player feedback as the game is developed. It also ensures each section is given enough time and nothing is rushed. But dammit, I’m a nerdy fanboy and I want to play the whole thing in one giant sleepless chunk!
Oh well. This is probably for the best, and frankly waiting for the next installment of the game to come out is no worse than waiting for the next episode in the television series. This release format builds up suspense and gives players time to speculate.
Judging by the preview of chapter two, I think it’s safe to say that the storytelling in this game shares another similarity with the show. The story starts off relatively simple, if not tense, but it could easily unfold into something far more complex and dangerous.