Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 26.11.2015 1

Review for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series on Xbox One

Telltale Games are game developers that put a great deal of emphasis on their storytelling and not much else. Once upon a time, they used to implement various puzzles and problem-solving into their games, which gave their titles an extra layer of depth. Ever since The Wolf Among Us, their focus has become even more centred on storytelling and less on game design. Now that they have the keys to one of the most popular cable TV shows since The Sopranos, it seems like Game of Thrones would be a logical choice for Telltale Games to make a videogame tie-in. Cubed3 previously covered the individual episodes on PS4, and now turns to the full series on Xbox One.

When Game of Thrones begins, it can be a bit bewildering for anyone who is not familiar with the TV show. There are various concepts that are introduced and not explained well, like "ironwood" and the various noble families with tons of names and connections. It becomes clear that this game is made for fans. However, it does become more bearable and understandable as the first episode comes to a close and things begin to make much more sense. There was always an issue where many of the important characters from the show would not have their roles made clear, which led to some confusion, but in the end, the core drama is the real meat of the game, and it does not entirely revolve around the figures from the HBO series.

The story is centred on the Forresters, a noble family who are renowned for their craftsmanship and lumber. After an ambush that involved events that are not explained to those who do not follow the show, the story (which jumps from the perspectives of several characters) is set in motion. It is pretty surprising that Telltale Games managed to keep the timeline of events in a logical and understandable order, as well as keep the pacing interesting. The developers certainly know how to keep the drama unfolding in a way that maintains interest.

Screenshot for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series on Xbox One

Like their past games, Telltale's Game of Thrones will have many points in the story determined by moral quandaries it presents. Some of these choices will determine who lives or who dies, who will be a traitor, etc. On the surface, this sounds incredible, but the truth is a lot more disappointing, since ultimately, the general story is always the same every play through with some minor variations up until episode six, where the final moments can have some more substantial changes. Game of Thrones is also full of fraudulent choices that make no difference, too. Sadly, the game is mostly autopilot, and when given the chance to make a real substantial choice, the game will cheat and negate the decision anyway. It is especially egregious when the opportunity to kill off characters is given, only for the choice to not matter at all.

Game of Thrones is full of these bogus "choices" that don't mean anything. Telltale is so concerned with the plot being uninterrupted by choices that it begs the question: why bother having them if they don't even matter? The game doesn't only cheat at the dialogue trees, but the quick-time events, too. There are many instances where it won't matter how good of a player the user is or whether they nail a QTE perfectly. The story will force characters to lose regardless. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of the game and is completely against what these kinds of adventure titles should be about. What is the point of a QTE that forces characters to lose no matter what? When the story gives no agency to the user, the whole point of Game of Thrones being a game become moot. When characters lose successful QTE but get a "game over" from failed QTE inputs, the whole immersion and satisfaction is completely lost.

Screenshot for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series on Xbox One

Game of Thrones is a mixed bag visually. The developers tried to make the world and its inhabitants look like living illustrations to varying degrees of success, and even implemented a filter effect that tries to gives an impressionist painting aesthetic, but just looks like a cheap Photoshop filter. It is clear that the game was built to run on many platforms, so it is understandable that Telltale Games opted for a visually striking game that uses low specs, but that is not an excuse for the Xbox One version having erratic frame rates when most of the graphical assets are just two-dimensional matte paintings.

Even the animation and facial expressions leave a lot to be desired, which is perplexing, since facial animations are so crucial in a game like this. Facial animations snap and jerk into place, don't look terribly natural, and feel cartoony. Sometimes the brows of characters will furrow in a way that makes them look like they have one large eyebrow. The Xbox One version also had a few graphical glitches - like character models' textures not loading, which saw whole scenes play out with characters who were just solid black figures. Other design choices that frustrated were inability to skip cut-scenes or skip ahead on dialogue sequences.

Screenshot for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series on Xbox One

The notion of Game of Thrones as a video game is appealing, but is this approach the way it should have been done? The premise is solid, with a wide range of locations and strong character writing that's perfect for an RPG, but when most of the game's original characters are just carbon copies of characters from the TV show, it just becomes even more pointless. The Forrester family is eerily similar to the show's Stark family, and even whole scenes are mirrored or copied from the show using these videogame knock-offs.

It is understandable that it is a challenge to adapt Game of Thrones into a story-driven game and maintain the themes, all while trying to create and add to the existing canon and not rehashing the same exact characters/sequences. It is a difficult balance that the developer must find, and sadly, they failed. The ordeal the Forrester family endures is a compelling drama on its own that would have been stronger if it was not just some footnote in a much larger story, and was a plot to its own game. This makes Game of Thrones a tricky recommendation.

Screenshot for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Game of Thrones' plot would have been interesting to play in an RPG, but the way Telltale Games handled it led to something that is mostly dialogue trees and quick-time events. There are a couple of moments where the game lets people hold the control stick up to move forward, but this is not a game with substantial gameplay at all. Many of the choices do not matter and the story is generally the same regardless of where the user directs the scenes. Ultimately, Game of Thrones is a game that does not respect users' agency at all and gives an illusion of choice. It may tug at heart strings thanks to the way the story is told and the solid voice acting, but just don't expect a video game; this is more or less a movie that pauses itself once in a while.

Developer

Telltale

Publisher

Telltale

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I'm surprised to find how similarly we think about it, as much of what you said is reflected in my review of the PC version, which I sent in two days ago.

It's not even a game. Games are about finding your own way of playing them, and manipulating situations in that way, consequently overcoming challenges. Overcoming challenges is what games are all about, but GoT doesn't allow you to do so. All it does is allow you to decide how to deal with the challenges. Basically, it only allows you to decide the personality of the characters you play as, and even that is useless since many of them will die or get the same response from the other characters anyway.

You know, the game could've been much better if the adventure segments were interesting. Gared could've found the North Grove by letting the player figure it out for themselves, but nope! I have little experience with adventure games, but I watched my brother play things like Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, and I know it's about more than walking forward and picking up items that are in plain sight. Adventure games are about puzzles, finding items that fit into doors or other things, combining things to create something new, finding secret items to give to NPCs in exchange for hints or help, all kinds of things. Game of Thrones doesn't know what it's doing in this regard, and I wish I had explained that in my review.

I also thought that in Game of Thrones ''you win or you die''. Considering winning is impossible, this isn't even Game of Thrones. They should've done more with the concept of manipulating characters. Anyway, great review. Looking forward to more!  

( Edited 17.02.2016 02:01 by Enigma )

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