A dramatic conclusion which is rendered all the more satisfying by proving that the player's choices have mattered all along.
Spanning over roughly 12 hours of gameplay, the first season of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones adaptation has finally come to its spectacular conclusion. Up until this point the series has had its ups and downs, and has been marred throughout by small technical hiccups. Despite this, the narrative has been engaging enough to keep people coming back for more.
Episode five ended on a masterful cliffhanger worthy of the HBO show itself. The decision that players were forced to make had potentially massive implications for the sixth and final episode. Consequently one of the most exciting things about ‘The Ice Dragon’ was how exactly it would deal with the ramifications of this choice.
Caught in a trap orchestrated by rival house the Whitehill’s, players had to choose which of two playable characters they would sacrifice; the charming and roguish Asher Forester, or his more responsible and serious brother Rodrick. Unlike several other choices in the series, this one divided gamers, with a near 50/50 split opting for either sibling. Seeing as the pair were arguably the most central of all the characters to the narrative, whoever you chose to jettison seemed to set you up for a drastically different story. This impressive bravery on Telltale’s part carries over into episode six, which not only deals with the aftermath of the decision, but also offers numerous important dilemmas of its own.
With the axing of one of the key protagonists, the action is now divided between three lines of action, rather than four. This provides a welcome sense of focus, as each narrative thread is now allowed to develop at an increasing pace. There is thus a greater sense of build up, as each storyline culminates in its own individual crescendo.
In King’s Landing Mira must survive a conspiracy against her, leading to her being pursued by the King’s guard throughout the city. Meanwhile, North of the wall, Gared has finally arrived at the fabled North’s Grove. After dodging attacks from wights and giant bears, he learns of a long hidden secret about the Forester legacy. Finally, and most excitingly of all, Asher/Rodrick will have to defend Ironrath from an oncoming Whitehill attack.
By now the initial feeling of railroading has dissipated, and decisions seem to have real and noticeable consequences. Avoiding any spoilers, the outcomes of your actions can range from major character deaths, stunning betrayals and differing set pieces. Of course, the quality of the storytelling isn’t merely reliant on these branching paths, but also on traditional elements like character and writing too. Luckily, these conventional aspects of storytelling are all to an excellent standard as well. Gryff and Ludd Whitehill have grown into distinctly loathsome antagonists in their own right, reaching the same contemptible level as the villains of the TV show. Whether or not you get the satisfaction of retribution is entirely down to you, which makes the possibility of missing out on payback all the more excruciating.
Finally, now that the majority of the technical faults have been corrected, there’s little to complain about here. With genuinely affecting storytelling, emotional heft, and tense set pieces, the final episode of Game of Thrones is probably the best yet. Season 2 will certainly have high expectations to meet.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series is available on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, and PlayStation 3.