Telltale Games has been developing games since ‘04 — the year of its founding. But it never arguably made a name for itself until the ‘12 release of its fantastic and critically-acclaimed The Walking Dead (Season One). It then followed that up with an equally as brilliant, and in my opinion much better game in The Wolf Among Us a year later. Also that year was the continuation of TWD with season two, which didn’t quite live-up to its predecessor but was still pretty good.
Two years into a successful run of IPs, Telltale tried to start an all too familiar trend in the games industry that is the infamous annual release. Think Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed… From my perspective it’s hard not to feel as if they decided on quantity over quality by coming out with yet another two titles in Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones in ‘14. Upon each game’s respective announcements, game critics and fans alike questioned the former as being slim-pickings for a worthwhile narrative. As for the latter, well, that’s the one everyone in unison saw as a possible boon for the talented writers at Telltale. Turns out Tales is “the best Borderlands (spin-off) yet.”
Thrones is, frankly, the worst anything for Telltale. It tries to hook you in by not doing as its other series have done to this point: use a known brand as a backdrop rather than putting it front and center. Instead it wants to constantly remind you that this is Game of Thrones, and by doing this the writers had no sense of direction because it was no longer theirs to craft. It was now trying to be Game of Thrones. The inclusion of Margaery Tyrell, Cersei Lannister, Tyrion and Ramsey Snow/Bolton — all voiced by the HBO series’ cast — are mere super cameos than actual worthwhile story-driven payoffs. These characters feel more show-and-tell than a new take on the brand, something that has made Telltale a known developer. Let’s move on before my review becomes pan delivered stand-up.
The episodic series runs longer than any other Telltale title to date with six-episodes. Nothing new to see here either besides just that. At least Wolf and Tales innovated on the least interactive form of gameplay in quick-time-events with cool action set-pieces. With Thrones it went the safe way: line up cross-hair, press button prompt and either hold it down or mash (i.e. the usual). Another thing that hasn’t changed is the same old engine these Telltale games run on, the load times are jarring and texture pops are so distracting. What else keeps you from paying any attention is the really ugly painterly aesthetic.
Aside from the extended episodic format, Thrones allows you to play through the perspective of three characters: Gared Tuttle, Mira Forrester and Ethan but you spend so little time with each that a connection is never made. I didn’t care about any of them. And it’s not as if having multiple playable characters doesn’t work. Tales had you play as Rhys and Fiona. They were both awesome and your version of those characters based on how you played as them. I didn’t have that same feeling when I finally finished with Thrones.
This series is a major step-back for Telltale. It seriously needs to re-think its release rate because its name is becoming oversaturated. It doesn’t look like that’ll be happening anytime soon either, especially with the possible debut of Telltale’s first Marvel title and the announcement of Batman at The Game Awards. Thrones isn’t even a worthy spin-off of the show. Heck, it’s not even worth the name of Game of Thrones. It even brings shame to the dull season five of the HBO series.