Playing the “Game of Thrones”

By Nivea Serrao

from hollywoodreporter.com

When you play the “Game of Thrones,” you win or you die.

But the odds of either happening are significantly higher when you’re in charge of making all the decisions that ensure your survival. In fact, Telltale Games’ latest offering almost goes out of its way to serve as a stark reminder of the fact, with the first two episodes of the game each packing its own emotional punch.

The first episode — aptly titled “Iron from Ice” — kicks off the series by immediately placing it within the larger context of not only the show, but the books they are based on. And of course, being a “Game of Thrones” game, it features multiple protagonists — though not as many as the show — all of whom are connected to House Forrester, the family at the heart of this episodic game series.

This works on many different levels. Having the game’s protagonists belong to the same House — by blood or otherwise — grounds the game and gives it direction. No matter who you’re playing as and where you are geographically located within the game, your main goal is always ensuring the Forrester clan’s well-being. Of course it doesn’t hurt that that the protagonists themselves are a likeable bunch, who belong to or serve a family that is quite reminiscent the Starks. In fact, the Forresters even start out the series serving as bannerman for the now former Wardens of the North.

And much like the Starks in their current situation, the Forresters have been strewn all over the Seven Kingdoms. This is great as it allows players to explore the larger world that author George R. R. Martin has created, but fans of the show (many of whom will undoubtedly play the game) will have the chance to interact with many of their favourite characters from the series. Within the first and second episodes players already have the chance to speak, scheme or partner up with Tyrion Lannister, Maergery Tyrell, and Jon Snow — all of whom are voiced by their TV show counterparts.

The writing of the first episode is excellent, with dramatic twists and reveals at all the right points, perfectly capturing the feel of a real “Game of Thrones” episode. The second episode manages to hit a lot of the same notes, but one particular storyline — that of Mira Forrester — feels repetitive as she is forced to ask Maergery for help yet again. Perhaps a different choice earlier in the previous episode (or the same one) might have allowed her slightly more agency as a character. Thankfully though, later events in the same episode take care of that, making Mira’s future choices a lot more intriguing going forward.

With two seasons of their “Walking Dead” game and the “Wolf Among Us” series under their belts, Telltale Games has found its niche in episodic gameplay. But as much as the “Game of Thrones” game series enjoys emulating the television version’s propensity for killing off fan favourites and shocking reveals, the game itself needs to show restraint as employing a similar approach has the potential to render what seem to be key decisions at the time pointless.

The other concern would be that this game requires prior knowledge of the television series – if not the books themselves – however, having the story center around the Forresters and giving them their own villains (in this case, their competitors, the Boltons) allows players new to the series as a whole a way to still play the game.

But all things considered, Telltale Games has another enjoyable game on its hands. And this makes the wait for Episode 3 all the more harder.

Nivea Serrao is a staff writer. Contact her at entertainment@nyunews.com

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