Telltale’s Game of Thrones: Episode 1

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Not to be confused with the actual HBO show.

I finally had the chance to sit through not one, but two playthroughs of the first episode of Telltale Game’s project revolving around HBO’s Game of Thrones. As a consumer of both the books and HBO series, I was pretty excited when I found out a developer whose games I enjoyed was doing a GoT series. I had no doubt that the writers behind The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, along with George R.R. Martin’s assistant, could pull off a GoT story.

First things first. This is not for people new to the GoT world. In fact, Episode One drops you right in the middle of a pretty big event in GoT canon, and assumes the player already knows what the aftermath is going to be. So definitely don’t play this unless you’ve watched at least through season 3 of the HBO series. (Or read the books). Not only will you spoil events for yourself, you’ll also be a little confused. The setting, culture, and main characters have no background stories attached to the video game because there’s hardly any reason to be playing it unless you’re already a GoT fan. Being exclusively a TTG fan is only going to get you so far in an entirely narrative-driven game.

From what I understand, this game is set to fit within GoT canon. The main characters come from a lesser family briefly mentioned in the books: The Forresters. You know, alongside the dozens of other families and banners and crap that R.R. Martin enjoys spending valuable page space listing for little-to-no reason. *Ahem* The Forresters are bannermen for the Starks. Given recent developments, this becomes a precarious position, politically speaking, so Episode One features a lot of the typical GoT political dance. You’ll spend time kissing butts and carefully selecting your responses. As Lady Margaery says; there are always perceived slights that need to be smoothed over.

Speaking of the young lady who has the worst list of betrothals ever, there are a few other cameo appearances as well. All voiced by their actors, which tickled me pink. Some of them look a bit… off… but all-together I’d say they did well with the unique art style. Here are some faces you may recognize…

TTGoTTyrion

Drinking wine… True to his character.

TTGoTRoose

Crazy Ramsay… Doing what he does best.

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I think they captured her smug scowl rather swimmingly.

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Margaery’s design is the weirdest to me. 

Like the series, the video game changes perspectives multiple times throughout one episode. I liked this, as it changes up the settings and characters. It really feels like you’re playing an episode of Game of Thrones. Minus the totally prude lack of nudity… There wasn’t nearly enough nudity to feel like the show.

I think this series will be a great way to hold me over until the series comes back on in April (I’m not exactly in a hurry to read the fifth book). It’s got enough cameo appearances and dark, medieval GoT charm to whet my appetite. I’m just trying not to get too attached to the characters. After all, you just never know who the writers will deem expendable next.

Farcry 3

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The guy not buried up to his nose in sand is Vaas. Spoiler: He’s a psychopath.

I know Steve-O and I are an entry behind in the series , but we just completed Farcry 3 for the PS3 shortly before Christmas. You’d think I would’ve caught wind of the Farcry series sooner, given my penchant for playing Ubisoft’s annual Assassin’s Creed cashcow games every. single. year. This year is no exception, as I’ve briefly dipped my feet into revolutionary-era France and probably won’t have that game beaten in less than two months. Coming from an Assassin’s Creed background and having never sampled a Farcry game before, I noticed some similarities in style and a couple of gameplay elements. Which is not a bad thing at all. Actually, it gave me some familiarity and a sense of direction, because otherwise it is easy to get overwhelmed and confused in sandbox games that dump you in the middle of a huge map and say “Go! Explore! And for God’s sakes, stay away from the wildlife!”

Here’s the basic premise of Farcry 3: The preppy, rich and sheltered main character named Jason Brody, along with his equally insufferable friends, girlfriend, and brothers, go on a tropical vacation together. They make a wrong turn, so to speak, and end up being kidnapped by some unsavory types. Human traffickers and drug lords, to be a bit more precise. Somehow Jason, your run-of-the-mill bratty white boy, ends up escaping the encampment alive and with the help of some tattoo voodoo shit, proceeds to become the hero who will rescue his comrades and take vengeance upon the island’s main man: Hoyt.

It is as hokey as it sounds. In spite of the great character progression and maintained way you will slowly become stronger and earn the title of Rakyat warrior, from a storytelling standpoint I wasn’t really buying it. In fact, when it comes to story and characters, the protagonists take a backseat to the villains. Vaas (pictured above) really takes the cake. Any top-10 Insane Video Game Villains list is a hoax if he isn’t in it. Really, he’s crazier than FFVI’s Kefka. And more vulgar, which always wins points with me. There are a couple supporting characters you meet later on that were a riot too. But the problem is that I didn’t give a damn about the people I spent half the game trying to rescue. For the most part, they’re all snobby, entitled, late-blooming teenagers. And when they get thrown into this life threatening situation, they don’t act very realistically. There’s guns blazing everywhere and the pothead is making bad jokes.

The gameplay and exploration is where it’s at when it comes to Farcry 3. Like a lot of sandbox games, venturing out on your own with limited gear and skills is very frustrating in the beginning. I felt like Jason couldn’t trip over a rock without dying. I almost gave up. Instead, I persevered. And I was rewarded for my efforts.  If you take the time to climb radio towers and defeat enemy outposts and hunt down the local wildlife, you’ll become a near warrior god. One small gripe we had was the locked skill progression. Basically, your skill trees are blocked off at a certain point until you progress further in the main story. It tied in nicely to the story, but it does suck if you’re one of those people who wants to become totally OP for the entire campaign. (I’ve noticed Ubisoft took the same approach with Assassin’s Creed: Unity). I explored so much that we were sitting on multiple skill points we couldn’t spend for a while. I also went overboard with the treasure chests. The largest wallet size you can get holds 10,000 cash. I had it full relatively early on. And because of all the side quests and looting I did, I never needed money. We also ran out of things to purchase at the store. Aside from consumables, there was nothing to buy with dozens of unopened treasure chests still on the map. I’m not entirely sure why they felt they needed that many.

Farcry 3 confused me at times. As I mentioned, I come from an Assassin’s Creed background, so when the game’s intro had my stealthing to escape the enemy encampment, I immediately thought, “Ah, so it’s stealthy like Assassin’s Creed.” And it is at times, with the mandatory, contrived mission objectives that MUST be carried out a certain way. Other times, it is up to you to decide whether you want to go in guns blazing or sneak your way around to achieve the current objective. I will say the game greatly favors stealth. Once you unlock a bulk of the stealth skill tree life becomes a lot easier.

There are enemy encampments spread throughout the map you can infiltrate and take for your side. To do so, you just need to kill everyone. Easier said than done before you have a decent amount of stealth abilities. At the very least, you need to make sure you sneak in and disarm the alarms. If you don’t, they’ll trigger the alarms and all their buddies within a 100-mile radius come to rain on your parade. This becomes particularly irksome in the latter part of Farcry 3 when they’re all wearing bulletproof vests and helmets. And they also send in helicopters you have to shoot out of the sky. One fun thing I suggest you try at least once is unleashing their pet tiger or bear and watch as it tears some of their throats out. Just be careful because the animal will turn on you if they don’t manage to kill it.

Two sort-of related small gripes of mine: Controlling vehicles sucks, and the basic melee attack sucks. The controls are just bad. Jason, like the vehicles he hijacks, just goes all over the place if you don’t perform a takedown. If you aren’t stealthing, expect his arms to flail about mindlessly instead of actually hitting his target. And gods help you if you have to aim at a rabid dog biting your ankles. Very frustrating. The various vehicle types all handle a little differently, but I still didn’t really enjoy driving any of them. My first few Supply Drop side quests were maddening until I got a handle on driving.

As far PS3 sandbox games go, this game was less glitchy than the other ones I’ve played. There were only two glitches I experienced worth mentioning. One was a situation when the quest triggered but the NPC Jason was with didn’t follow suit. Which meant standing off against a horde of enemies until dying to start over at the checkpoint. Thankfully the NPC did what he was supposed to do on round two and we didn’t have to reload the game. One other time while I was collecting relics and treasure chests, I kept running into invisible chests. The marker was on the map and I was bumping into an invisible chest, but there was nothing there and I couldn’t interact with it. Compared to Elder Scrolls and Assassin’s Creed, I consider that short list pretty impressive.

Farcry 3 may not topple my favorite sandbox experiences from their pedestals, but the series is now on my radar. I’ll definitely be checking out Farcry 4 when I get the chance.