Taking into account that Telltale Games has created a fully realized House Forrester, complete with background rich characters from a single line in the novels and stays within TV show and novel cannon is nothing short of amazing. Season 1's decisions will weigh heavily on your conscience and you'll make many sacrifices along the way, direct or otherwise, in typical Game of Thrones fashion.
+Perfect voice acting
+Incredibly difficult decisions
+Cameos from major show characters (also voiced by the actors)
-Lack of closure
-Having to wait for Season 2
-Winter is coming
It's no secret that Telltale Games has figured out the formula for their great success: Take a pre-established franchise, write a compelling narrative around it full of interesting characters and dialogue, utilize amazing voice actors, make the player decide between incredibly difficult decisions, and finally split up into episodic content with cliffhangers at the end of each episode leaving you wanting more. Based on the well-known HBO show and novels, Game of Thrones, is a great companion for massive and casual fans of the show alike with its integration into the canon lore.
Please be aware this review will briefly talk about spoilers from the show, as it's difficult to explain timelines without doing so. I'll do my best to keep it game spoiler free but some plot points will be mentioned briefly.
What I really enjoyed was how the game integrated into the show, as you won't be changing any outcomes that we've already seen on TV, instead showing an alternative side to some of the more famous events, such as what happened outside the castle during the Red Wedding, when King Joffrey was poisoned, or even the events leading up to Daenerys Targaryen taking over a certain slave city. It's an incredibly clever way to integrate itself into the show's lore without having to repeat itself, showing you things you've already seen before, but instead something new from a completely different perspective. So while you won't be changing Westeros's history in relation to the show and novels, you will encounter familiar faces (and voices, as many returning actors reprised their roles for the game) along your travels.
You'll play as numerous members from the previously unseen and rarely mentioned House Forrester, which play a surprisingly large part into the whole Westeros lore and outcomes of certain events, making large lasting impacts on specific events and characters that we've come to love over the years. This is Game of Thrones though (and a Telltale game), so expect much sacrifice, consequence, and deaths over the course of the 6 part season. "When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die" essentially sums it up.
What really intrigued me was that Telltale was essentially given free rein to fully develop the House Forrester characters, which is impressive considering they do technically exist in the novels, but have only ever been mentioned in one sentence with absolutely no details of the characters, lineage, or anything else. To show how talented and creative Telltale's writing and direction is, here's all that's ever been mentioned about the Forrester's in the novels:
"...guides Lady Sybell [Glover] had given them, trackers and hunters sworn to Deepwood with clan names like Forrester and Woods, Branch and Bole." (A Dance With Dragons, Chapter 42)
From that single line they developed and created a full and background rich house, complete with lineages and compelling characters that have ties to the more major characters we know from the TV show. They were essentially given a blank canvas and managed to fill it with new characters that integrate seamlessly into the canon lore we know from TV and novels.
House Forrester were and still are House Stark supporters, though given that the game plays out between the events of Season 3 and 5, that generally brings them more harm than good, based on your decisions of course. Their stronghold is at Ironrath, nestled deep in the woods surrounded by coveted Ironwood trees that only their subjects know show to harvest properly and create weapons and armor from that are much stronger than typical wood from other trees. They've had a long feud with the nearby Whitehill family and a large part of the Forresters outcome by the end of episode 6 will be based on how you deal with the Whitehill's and their Baratheon allies during specific events and critical decisions.
Given that families in Game of Thrones are usually quite large, you'll actually play through the perspective of multiple different Forrester household members. Each is either a direct family member, or someone that was in service to the House in some way. While many of the family members still live at their Ironrath home, you'll also visit other famous locales such as The Wall, Kings Landing, Slaver's Bay, and more, which attempts to give you a wide scope of not only how large the world is, but how one action from a character in one corner of the world can have a rippling effect one someone different elsewhere across Westeros.
You'll come across many staple characters from the show along your House Forrester travels such as fan favorite Tyrion, Cersei, Ramsay, Margaery, and more. The fact that the actual actors themselves reprised their roles make it that much more believable and legitimate to fit into the canon lore itself.
The first few episodes did play out a little predictable, even more so if you're a massive Game of Thrones fan and know that being a main characters doesn't necessarily always save you from death, but by the last few episodes, there are some definite curve balls thrown your way that make for some shocking and unpredictable outcomes, some based directly on your decisions, and others that play out in a linear way no matter your choices.
My biggest complaint though is the lack of conclusion after the credits of episode 6 roll and you're complete with the full season. This isn't because I wanted a happy ending, as I got something far from it, but it just felt very unsatisfying, partly because of the decisions I made, which I can deal with, but also partly because certain ambiguousness and questions left unanswered. It's no mistake that Season 2 was announced just days after the final episode released, but it's going to be a long wait to finally get closure on some of the outcomes I wanted to see play out for 6 episodes. Make no mistake, by the end of episode 6 you'll see the consequences of your actions and decisions throughout the whole season in typical Game of Thrones drama, but you'll also have many questions lingering after it's all said and done as well.
If you've played any recent Telltale Game before, you know exactly what to expect for its core mechanics and gameplay. The bulk of your playing will be choosing dialogue options in conversations, choosing between two or more incredibly difficult decisions, or engaging in combat with quick-time events. The dialogue and narrative is obviously the strong suit here, and with any of their games, though Game of Thrones doesn't really utilize many puzzle elements or allow for much exploration when compared to some of their other titles, which is fine, given that Game of Thrones is linear in design and largely based on its narrative anyways.
Visually, Game of Thrones differs slightly from their other titles. Each of their games have a tonality to them, so it was interesting to see a watercolor-like filter applied to the art style within. Not that it doesn't fit, as it does, it's just that sometimes background objects in particular look out of place with their blurred or 'smeared' appearance in contrast to the main characters and events happening in the foreground. That being said, it does have a certain charm and look to it that sets it apart and works for the most part.
Telltale needs to be praised for essentially crafting a whole House from scratch and then integrating them into the main lore without breaking cannon, all while being compelling and fully realized. On one hand you completely believe that the Forrester's play a large part in some major outcomes of Westeros' history but at the same time they don't have a large lasting impact on many events as well oddly enough, as to not break cannon. I completely believed that they belonged in the world and that certain TV events may not have played out the way they did if it wasn't for a specific Forrester household member.
There will be choices that weigh heavily on your conscience, as some decisions you'll have to decide who lives or dies, or later on your see the massive consequence one of your actions later held for someone else indirectly. Telltale has not only created a compelling narrative with believable and fully realized characters, and even with the disappointing lack of closure for certain events, I'm incredibly excited for Season 2 and to see how events will eventually play out with surviving characters. Iron from Ice brothers.
Release Date: November 17th, 2015