Iron From Ice
When you play the game of thrones, you either…well, you know how it goes.
Video game adaptations of films have had a checkered past…while a few standout selections have made for great plays, many of them have an air of “cash grab” to them. The notion of a video game version of Game of Thrones certainly ran that risk. Sure, the series has many spectacular fights and battles, but the intrigue of the show stems from the interpersonal relationships and backroom politics in the Seven Kingdoms. How best to make that an interesting game? Enter: Telltale.
The studio prides itself on giving us options within a strong narrative. It’s a “Choose Your Adventure” book with a cinematic coat of paint. This is the perfect way to adapt a series that is so heavily predicated on choice and strategy. Fans of the show often yell at the television, upset with the way characters handle themselves in conversation or to whom they remain loyal. You think you can do better? Well, now is your chance.
The writers of the game did a commendable job in crafting a story that not only gives the player options in conversations, but also combats the perceived arrogance that any may have going in. Playing verbal chess with Cersei Lannister, for example, is one of the hardest things you can do, and anyone who thinks they’re equipped to take on the Queen may be kidding themselves. You can play the game, but there’s a reason so many people lose.
Playing the game is extremely important, too, because the multiple plotlines are all so vital to one another. The series follows four different threads; three Forresters and a squire. And while they are scattered all over Westeros and Essos, there is an interdependence on one another that makes every decision vital. It’s complex, interconnected writing that mimics the show to such a high degree that it borderline meshes with it.
That’s one of the greatest things about this game. It so wonderfully ties in to the events of the show that you will, at times, forget that this is a separate entity. Season 5 was airing while some of the game’s episodes were being released, and there were several points in which I would say to my friends “And how about that part when Mira did that…” only to then remember that that wasn’t actually in the show. The game’s ability to recreate famous scenes, introduce new ones, and still remain divorced and non-influential to television events speaks to the wonder of this game. It really is a beautiful story within the Game of Thrones universe and proves that just how many new stories can be told against a familiar backdrop.
Speaking of backdrops, if you’ll allow me one clunky transition, the art style of this game really is a gorgeous as well. It’s essentially an oil painting…a beautiful, sprawling canvas like you’d expect to see hanging in the walls of Winterfell or King’s Landing. Sure, recreating Peter Dinklage’s face won’t be perfect, but it’s a unique twist that adds to the fantastical setting in which we find our characters.
Telltale’s games all have their familiar characteristics: big, all or nothing decisions, important choices, rich environments, and stylized artwork. But what makes Game of Thrones unique is the gravity of it all. It mirrors the show in many respects and draws you in with the overwhelming sense of love and loyalty that makes the show so much fun to the begin with. You’ll make some tough, emotional decisions along the way and there will more than a few stabs to the heart, but that’s what happens when you play the game of thrones…you either win or you die.
Alex Russo played the game. It didn’t end well. Console him on Twitter.