Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Episode 5: A Nest of Vipers

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Yep, he’s finally setting sail…

While a short episode, Episode 5 of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones spin-off finally begins to move things forward to the grand finale and managed to get me pumped for the series again. Character arcs finally progress onward and the player finally gets to make a decision that seems like it’ll actually make a big splash in the narrative!

And, yeah, some characters die. The video game, like the HBO series and novels, always instigates a haunting “Who is going to die next?” voice repeating in my brain. Some deaths elicit glee and excitement, others sadness and dread. I felt a little bit of both this episode.

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Being in Cersei’s shadow is never a good thing.

Mira’s portions of this game tend to annoy me. I know they’re necessary to reflect the large part of GoT’s universe that is the political power struggle realized through touchy conversations, eye shifting, and layering lies until you can’t remember what the truth is anymore; but truth be damned, because anything is better than getting on Cersei’s bad side! Through her usual style of manipulating and plotting, Cersei now has Mira in the palm of her hand, which I can only take to mean things will end very badly for Mira soon. She annoys me, so I hope she gets a good dose of Cersei revenge.

Mr. Tuttle isn’t having too much fun wandering the frozen expanses of the northern wilderness in pursuit of the mythical North Grove. Without spoiling too much here, I’ll only say there is a battle scene thrown in to spruce things up and he trudge on. Continue on and possibly die from hypothermia or get killed by winter zombies, versus turning back and probably get his head lopped off for desertion. The world is his oyster.

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Pretty boy’s gonna get his arse beat.

As usual, I had the most fun while playing with Asher and Beskha. That pair always find themselves  in hot water and solving differences at sword point. In Episode 5, Asher must prove his worth to the meandering pit fighters, now ex-slaves with no purpose but wanton violence. After reigning supreme in the pit, Asher gets himself an army to take back to Westeros. Yes, Asher FINALLY sails back home.

And it doesn’t take long for Asher to find more trouble. At least this time he is uniting with his Forrester family against the Whitehills. Unfortunately, Asher’s reunion with his family is short-lived before grief strikes yet again and the player is left to a difficult, and I’m hoping profound, choice.

I’m just going to leave it at that. You’re welcome.

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Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode 4: Sons of Winter

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I’m sure this city needs no introduction.

The latest in TTG’s Game of Thrones interactive series, Sons of Winter, picks up in some story lines and drags in others. Mira Forrester, the handmaiden to Lady Margaery who keeps finding herself in all sorts of King’s Landing gossipy troubles, was even more painful than usual to slog through. I should’ve enjoyed stickin’ it to the chubby jerk named Andros. He rightfully deserved the double-handed trickery I performed against him in the name of preserving the Forrester’s hand in ironwood trade. And yet, I was more than willing for her portions to end to get to the more action-oriented segments.

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Daenerys is definitely one of the best looking adaptations to her HBO counterpart.

Daenerys’ model is certainly one of the better looking ones. But what she was bestowed upon with beauty the writers took away in attitude. She’s got a stick up her butt or something… all bent outta shape over Drogon going missing. Yet for some reason I can’t discern (except to cause conflict for the sake of conflict) she refuses to believe Asher and company saw Drogon. And when I presented his tooth as proof, she got all defensive and stood by her poor baby when we described how he KILLED a bunch of people. It was all very contradictory to the Daenerys we know, who was guilt-stricken over her dragons eating children and CHAINED them up in dark seclusion.

As usual, Asher and Beska’s sequences are full of action. In this case, they are assisting The Mother of Dragons in taking over Meereen in return for acquiring an army to assist with the Forrester family’s Whitehill problem. There was a “stealthing through the streets of Meereen” portion (insert not-so-surprised gasp). Usually I hate stealth, with all its transparent tacked-on-because-every-game-needs-stealth-moments and OHKs. This wasn’t so bad. Easy, short, and to the point. I’m a bit concerned about potential ramifications over what I allowed Beska to do, defying orders and all, so we’ll see if it amounts to anything in Episode 5.

Garred Tuttle, our Castle Black token character, had a rather bland showing this episode. He, along with Cotter and Pyke, finally leave Castle Black behind in pursuit of the legendary North Grove. I was relatively disinterested until his cliffhanger at the end, when we’re introduced to a new character:

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Looks like she’s wearing a Daenerys wig.

I won’t spoil who she is, but suffice it to say, I’m curious to see how Garred’s story will progress moving forward. I’m hoping it gets the shot of adrenaline it needs.

And, at long last, the Forresters on the home front FINALLY start giving it back to the Whitehills. After tolerating Gryff the entire series thusfar, there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to beat his face in when I had the chance. Elaena, Rodrik’s betrothed in my game, finds her breaking point and is instrumental in assisting the Forresters in exacting revenge on the Whitehills.

Did I mention how much I love it when women in the GoT universe release their badassery?

I was a little worried when this dashing young man came walking in with my woman:

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Finally, some archers!

I almost thought she was going to say she was sick of all the drama and moved on with her life. Instead, I got a “Do you remember my brother?” And released a sigh of relief.

While it’s true this episode finally let me release some pent up aggression against the Whitehills, it still sets the stage for some interesting events forthcoming… I can’t help but feel all the advances I made are going to blow up in my face next episode. But hey, that’s all part of the allure when it comes to playing these sorts of games. And it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if they didn’t pull the rug out from under me and kick me in the face a few times, would it?

Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness

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Finally, some fire-breathing action going on this episode!

The halfway point in Telltale Game’s Game of Thrones series is more engrossing and entertaining than the previous episode. There were some interesting goings-ons, what with the purple wedding and Daenerys making a cameo appearance at the end. At the Wall, we were also treated to an interesting reveal from one character before Gared found his balls and finally gave someone something they deserved.

The same cannot be said for House Forrester. Episode 3 continues with the Forrester family taking it up the butt from the Whitehills; who are, at this point, becoming more cheesily over-the-top insulting than the jocks in Glee. It’s starting to feel forced at this point. Yes, as lord of the house you can talk back to them, but it serves little purpose besides saving the player’s ego  before getting thunder-kicked to the floor again. I’m hoping against hope that we can start giving the Whitehills a bit of what they deserve starting next episode, because the high school level bullying is getting old. I get it, they’re being jerks, can we move on now?

As with Episode 2, Asher’s screen time was the most entertaining for me. He has another fun battle scene, except this one is flavored with a hint of dragon. Daenerys’ missing dragon, to be precise. Spoiler: Daenerys is this episode’s famous face. And her character model looks really good. Like, really, really good. There’s something about the other HBO show characters that are off to me with this art style, but Daenaerys is perfect.

We accidentally played on the wrong save file, and I actually want to play it again to see how one crucial aspect differs. Normally I shrug and say, “It all melds together in the end.” But this time I’m actually anxious to see the difference. If that doesn’t show I’m invested in this game, nothing does.

Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords

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This image is so boring I can’t even come up with a witty caption for it.

 

The Lost Lords continues Telltale Games’ foray into the Game of Thrones universe. It picks up where Episode 1 left off, and continues most of the same mechanations. Mira is still getting wrapped up in King’s Landing politics because she’s a naive idiot, the Forresters keep getting crapped on by the Whitehills, and Tyrion still lives to piss Cersei off. I didn’t find this episode to be as enthralling as the first one, but that’s probably because no one interesting dies. In fact, it doesn’t end with a cliffhanger at all; more of a touchy-feely montage showing all the playable characters in their respective situations.

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My new favorite playable and NPC characters on the right.

 

In fact, the most fun I had in this episode came at the very beginning, where we’re introduced to Asher Forrester, the exile turned sellsword, and his pal Beskha. She’s definitely one badass broad who I would not want to get in a fight with. I kept hoping the episode would come back to them, but thusfar he and Beskha had their obligatory intro scene (which ended up being a great fight scene) before being recruited by his uncle to return to Westeros.

Episode 2 features one addition to the list of familiar HBO series faces. This time it’s Jon Snow’s turn to make an appearance. Gared Tuttle arrives at The Wall, where he’ll participate in big dick contests with the other new recruits and get roped into a fistfight no matter what dialogue options you choose. Boys will be boys, I suppose. Jon Snow fans of the world can rest easy: he’s just as brooding and boring as he is in the TV show.

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Behold! Endless miles of white stuff.

 

 There are a few more characters you’ll meet as well. None I like so much as Beskha, but I do like them more than some of the cast from the previous episode.

This episode was about as long as its successor. While it’s a lot more of the same GoT politics with the unfortunate Forresters, there’s just enough of a spark of hope to keep the player crossing their fingers that all will end well for their favorite characters. While there wasn’t a big shock moment like the end of Episode 1, I’m still eager to see where Telltale Games will lead us.

 

 

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…

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Drinking wine… True to his character.

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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.

The Wolf Among Us

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I’m loving the color scheme.

I finished The Wolf Among Us! I really enjoyed the game, characters and story. It was a great way to continue experiencing Telltale Game’s work while taking a break from The Walking Dead.

Over the course of the five episodes, I found my opinion and relationships with characters continually fluctuating. Yeah, there were like 2 or 3 I liked or hated the entire way through, but with all the curve balls thrown my way, I couldn’t make up my mind about some of them. Which is an exception to my rule. Usually my only feelings towards video game characters are indifference or annoyance. TTG did the same thing to me with Walking Dead, so I’m happy to report their storytelling and character building are just as effective here.

One of the things that stands out to me about TWAU is the art style. Yes, it is cel-shaded like The Walking Dead, but the color scheme and setting are completely different. It’s gritty, like inner city gritty and downtrodden; whereas Walking Dead is like, gory and zombie apocalypse desolate. I also really liked most of the character designs. Many of them have very subtle tie-ins to their fairy tale origins. Others are, well, still animals and such. And their voice acting is excellent! Melissa Hutchinson, who voices Clementine in Walking Dead, voices not one, but TWO characters. And pretty much all the other voicing is just as spot-on as her work.

Part of me wants to read the comic series; if, for nothing else, to at least get some background on the lore. There are, um, discrepancies in the story that I have some beef with. The thing is, knowing only what I’m presented with in the game makes it look like things are happening a certain way due to plot convenience when, in fact, there actually is a logical reason why it happened. The game just doesn’t bother to explain how or why. Also, TWAU is set to  be a canon prelude to the comics. I’d like to know if it’s feasible for the game series to continue on, or if I should just be satisfied with the cliffhanger at the end.

Other than my usual gripes about “decisions” not really meaning much in the long run and loading screen freeze-ups; I recommend this game just as much or more than The Walking Dead. In fact, right now Telltale can do no wrong in my eyes. In spite of my initial doubts, I’m eagerly anticipating their take on Game of Thrones and Borderlands. But if the Borderlands one isn’t a comedy, I quit.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1- Faith

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Big Bad is always sucking on a cancer stick.

At the end of my Walking Dead review, I mentioned my impulse purchase of Telltale Game’s other episodic game series, The Wolf Among Us. In my defense, it was on sale. And, thankfully, I really like it so far.

Being a fan of their Walking Dead series, I was no stranger to the game play mechanics. It didn’t take me long to establish that it’s 99% Walking Dead in terms of conversations, morality, interacting with the environment, battle scenes, etc. But unlike The Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us takes place in a very different setting that I particularly like.

While Walking Dead takes advantage of the over-used zombie apocalypse setting, Wolf Among Us settles very comfortably into the common “gritty detective who-done-it” world. Except the characters are fairy tale characters (known as “Fables”) who have escaped from FairyTale Land… or whatever. To me, it’s like the illegitimate lovechild of Once  Upon a Time and Sin City. For the record, TWAU is actually a prequel to an already established comic book series that I know nothing about. So far, not having read the comic book series has not impeded my enjoyment.

TWAU follows gritty detective tropes like, super hard. The main character, Bigby, is the Big Bad Wolf reformed as the new Sheriff in town. Bigby, Big Bad Wolf… get it? Being Mr. Gritty Detective, he has a cigarette permanently attached to his lips, and a 5 o’clock shadow to go along with it. Oh, and a totally sexy voice. And perfect hair, even after getting thrown out of a second story window.

Anyway.

These cliches didn’t really bother me. There’s a couple of instances when the game’s characters sort of allude to it, but it doesn’t really make fun of itself. They’re too busy making allusions to fairy tales to poke fun at themselves, I suppose. I normally roll my eyes when there’s too many tropes in a game or movie and it doesn’t poke fun at itself… But the fascinating dialogue and characters make up for it.

The art style is very similar to The Walking Dead, except the way in which colors are used is almost mesmerizing sometimes. The music is also perfect for the setting.

There’s something about Telltale’s games that makes me super anxious about making decisions when talking to characters and responding to situations. I know it’s silly, since the story arc will undoubtedly circle around to whatever the conclusion has to be, but I can’t help myself. I hate disappointing certain characters, yet I’m a complete bastard to others. This really says something about their writing, because I just came from 50 hours of Ni No Kuni where I wasn’t emotionally invested AT ALL in anything that happened and I barely read half of the dialogue.

I’m going to finish the season before recommending this game to anyone, but I think fans of TTG’s The Walking Dead and/or edgy who-done-it detective suspense stories (or, alt-universe fairy tales characters?) will probably enjoy this. I know I’m digging what I’ve seen so far.