Telltale’s Game of Thrones: Thoughts about Episode One

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

When Telltale’s Game of Thrones video game was first announced, I thought, “Do I want to preorder it on Steam on my computer and download it to play it on the day that it’s released? Or should I wait a week and get download it on my PlayStation 3 (since there was a week delay between the PS4 and PS3 releases)?” Ultimately, I decided to download the game on Steam, but then, when I tried to play it, I didn’t get very far, in part because my wireless mouse and older computer had some lag issues. I was then faced with another decision: “Should I order an Xbox 360 controller for my computer or wait and download the game on my PS3, which I should have done in the first place?” I decided to order the controller. However, it didn’t arrive until, you guessed it, the day the game was released for PS3. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.

Oddly enough, this story is a bit like a metaphor for this video game. I’m not a true “gamer”. I mean, I love the LEGO games. I love games with puzzles (such as Cyan’s Myst series). I love the Harry Potter video games. I love Lord of the Rings Online. But this is the first time that I’ve played a game where you choose what to say rather than (or as well as) what you do. Well, I take that back. I’ve played a little bit of Knights of the Old Republic, but when I say “a bit”, I mean like an hour two years ago. Regardless, I really was not used to playing this type of game.

For me, it’s far easier for me to communicate in writing than it is to communicate by talking (which is why I hate talking on the phone so much). Writing gives me the time to think about not only what I want to say, but how I want to say it. That’s what I didn’t like about this game: because “silence is always an option”, you only have a limited amount of time to choose between three answers. With KotOR, I remember not getting very far in the game in the short time that I played it, because I really took the time to think about my responses in every conversation and what the potential outcomes might be. With this new Game of Thrones game, I was not given that time. So when I first started the game, I made a few foolish decisions and said a few things that I shouldn’t have and wish I could’ve taken back. Hindsight is 20/20, indeed.

When my new controller arrived, I restarted the game (even though I hadn’t gotten that far using keyboard and mouse) to erase the foolish decisions that I had made (or times I didn’t speak when I should have, because my mouse lagged so much I couldn’t respond in time). After I restarted, I really got into the game. For me, the first episode lasted for only about two hours from start to finish. Here are my thoughts:

Limited exploration

Easily my favorite video games are those that involve the most exploration. I thought that the Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince video games were really well done for this reason (and Goblet of Fire was the worst of the series by far), and my longest-running favorite game has been Lord of the Rings Online, simply because it gives me the wonderful opportunity to explore Middle-Earth. I’m not very good at the game, because all I really want to do is explore, but it’s my favorite game nonetheless. I bought Telltale’s Game of Thrones game after doing little-to-no research about it first, hoping that I would be able to freely explore Westeros. Oh man, was I ever wrong. You’re able to explore, what, two, three small rooms and walk a short distance on the kingsroad? Very limited exploration.

Three locations are featured in this first episode—The Twins (the game starts during the Red Wedding), Ironrath (where the House of Forrester resides in the North) and King’s Landing (Mira Forrester is handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell)—so at least you get to see a small fraction of Westeros, even though you can’t really explore it that much.

Playing a Painting

When I say see Westeros, I might add that it’s not very realistic. Every backdrop in every scene looks like an oil painting. Telltale has a few words to say about this visual choice within the FAQs on their website:

Since the first season of The Walking Dead, Telltale has employed a visual direction of ‘pictures brought to life’. In The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, we looked to the original comic book source material as inspiration. For Game of Thrones, we chose a ‘painterly’ look, that is, something that looks like a living oil painting. We feel that this is in-keeping with the epic and fantastical nature of George R. R. Martin’s and HBO’s world.

On the one hand, I think it looks really cool, but there is a part of me that wishes it looked more realistic too.

Familiar Characters

While you don’t get to play as any familiar characters (from the HBO show), you do encounter a few of them throughout the storyline of the game. In episode one, you play as three members of House Forrester (which is not featured in the TV show, but is found in the books, so I’ve been told): Gared Tuttle (Lord Forrester’s squire who lands in a spot of trouble), Ethan Forrester (third son who has a twin sister and is my favorite character because he, like me, loves music and books), and Mira Forrester. Since Mira is handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell, she speaks with her, but she also has a confrontation with Cersei and Tyrion Lannister, which is certainly not fun and games. Later in the game, Ethan encounters another familiar character, Ramsay Bolton. Once again, I’ll remain vague on the outcome of that confrontation.

Valar Morghulis (Spoiler Alert!)

If you are planning on playing this game, I would skip this section, because I’ve decided to be a little spoilerific.

Keeping with Game of Thrones tradition, major characters die in this game. When my favorite character, Ethan, died at the end of this first episode, I had to do some research online afterwards to see if there was some way I could have prevented it. I thought I had said the wrong thing to Ramsay Bolton (which I was paranoid that I would do throughout the entire conversation with him). But no, the episode ended the way it did because it was meant to end that way. This makes me wonder: what’s the point of engaging in conversation with any characters at all, if the outcomes are unavoidable? Perhaps I should play it again from the beginning, change my responses, and see if any results change.

Two major characters also die right away in the first scene (during the Red Wedding): Lord Forrester and his son Rodrik.

Excitement for Episode Two

Despite that this is not really my type of game, I’m nevertheless excited for Episode Two, because I really want to see what happens next with the Forrester family. Despite that they’re not familiar characters through the TV show, they became very familiar to me throughout the game, and I want to see how it all ends with them. I won’t have too terribly long to wait: the next episode comes out in February 2015.

Now, should I buy and replay the first episode before then on my PS3? Decisions, decisions.

Have you played the first episode? What did you think of it? Share in the comments!