Of the post-Walking Dead Telltale games I’ve seen, this one’s the worst. I didn’t hate it, but it was often frustrating, and felt rushed (not to mention somewhat buggy). With The Wolf Among Us I said that they needed to do some focus-testing with the scripts if they wanted player choice to carry the nuances of intent and circumstance. Instead, they were completely flagrant here about how little these things matter. The flowchart for this game is a straight line.
Taken as such a straightforward tale, it’s better than watching some of the more unnecessary and boring or gratuitous TV episodes. There’s action and treachery, cowards, cunts, smug people, naive people. A dragon shows up to do more than just snarl at Emilia Clarke. They wrote some good stuff. But it’s not a TV show. Here, lots of action means lots of QTEs. Nobody plays these games for the QTEs.
It felt formulaic in many spots. It’s hard to feel guilty when the guilt-traps are obvious, like when you know someone’s just waiting to jump out from behind a corner and say, “I saw you try to steal that thing!” Why would you take that risk, especially once you’ve realized how little a difference it’ll make? You can try not to metagame, but the game itself never hides the idea that you’re making choices as a Telltale gamer, not as a human being. The toughest choices are probably the ones where you decide between making a promise you’ll have to break later, or putting yourself in an awkward social position by refusing to promise things in the first place.
Moving onto the specifics and spoilers. The worst thing may have been the contrivance of one of Royland or Duncan being a traitor to the house (neither was very believable in my run), but one thing that stood out to me, personally, as a farce, was in avoiding lethal blows in the fight against Britt: the next episode didn’t even bother to put the wounds on his corpse’s arms, much less allow Gared to make his case. And when Finn lied about what he’d seen of their fight, it just became one more of those inexplicable character moments.
In terms of the player’s involvement, I think Sera might have been the most complicated and interesting character. She’s very easy to dislike, as from the beginning, her clowning around poses an obstacle for Mira. She also tends to ask things of Mira without really offering anything in return. Even Sera’s sideways glances when you’re talking to Natalie Dormer give the impression of a busybody at best and a spy at worst. If you value your privacy at all, she acts as if you’ve wounded her. Telltale needs these sorts of characters. But later, at a point when you’ve likely resolved yourself to blackmail her in order to get her help, she decides to risk her own standing to help you when you simply ask. (Honestly, I know this is just another contrivance: if she hadn’t helped despite you blackmailing her, Mira’s story would be completely derailed. But I liked that moment anyway.)
Several other choices don’t even pretend to matter. Nothing in King’s Landing amounts to anything for the family, and the North Grove was just baffling in its supposed importance. I chose not to burn a letter, and it never came up again. I kept a dagger in case Mira had to use it, and when a time came where she was alone with Morgryn, she didn’t have it on her anyway. The dagger only exists to be sprung on her as evidence, and even then, only a few episodes later, when presumably weeks or even months have gone by. She just kept it in her drawers, covered in blood all that time?
Most troublesome of all, you’re made to bend over every time Ryon is pulled out as a hostage, no matter what sort of assassination plot you’ve promised to carry out or have committed yourself to. This may sound cold-hearted, but the whole family is torn apart piece by piece every time you let them hold that over you. Pretty much everyone dies while they fret over the fourth-born son. Not having the chance to cut our losses was really irritating.
It’s especially insulting when they make you reload from a “bad ending” where Rodrick kills Ludd in his own keep, and as a consequence, Rodrick is killed there along with his mother, and Arthur Glenmore. And then I finished the game only to find myself in a situation where Ludd was still alive, Rodrick and his mother were dead anyway, Arthur was tortured to death, and Asher was on death’s door on top of it all. Fuck you, I want the bad ending back. Maybe Ramsey would’ve taken everything in that situation, but I’d have liked to play it out. It was the sort of choice Telltale was too gutless or lazy to allow.
I give this one a passing score because I’m a masochist and I enjoy stories that make me miserable. Game of Thrones is a pretty good show and Natalie Dormer is hot. In conclusion, Game of Thrones is a land of contrasts. Thank you. [a sudden gust of wind catches my Bristol board with magazine cut-outs of Game of Thrones stars glued to it; somehow, it lands in a fire.]