Article first published as PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series – Episode 6: The Ice Dragon’ on Blogcritics.
With Episode 6: The Ice Dragon, TellTale Games has finally wrapped up their adventure game adaptation of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Though the adventure game series does feature voice talent from the HBO television series, it carves out its own piece fiction. As a matter of fact, the Forrester family that the game focuses on, are mentioned in the books by George R. R. Martin, but are so far absent in the hit show. Despite its detachment from both the books, and the television series, TellTale’s Game of Thrones stays pretty close to its roots, both in theme and execution.
This is a review of final episode of the Game of Thrones adventure game, but it’s equally important to explain how Episode 6: The Ice Dragon fits into the entire TellTale series. Personally, I’m not a fan of TellTale’s more juvenile offerings, so I appreciate their effort in keeping the narrative in Game of Thrones decidedly adult. That doesn’t mean gratuitous, God of War mini-game adult, though occasionally, the gameplay in the series did seem a bit contrived. For the most part though, gameplay in TellTale’s Game of Thrones follows their typical recipe of dialogue choices and quick time events.
Often referred to as an interactive storybook more than game, the final episode of TellTale’s Game of Thrones actually does include some very limited, and simple exploration, and puzzle solving sequences. Despite that, it does seem that TellTale is really moving away from the puzzle solving that has always been an adventure game staple. Though classic adventure games, have a long history of having notoriously obscure puzzle solutions, it seems a bit lazy, and like throwing the baby out with the bath water, to eliminate the mechanic completely. Along the same lines, TellTale’s inventory system proves to be equally useless in Game of Thrones.
I do understand the difficult position TellTale Games is in with their episodic adventure games. It really is a tough job to create these Choose Your Own Adventure-type, branching narrative games without creating a cost prohibitive amount of content that many players will never see. CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 2 does do this to some extent, but that approach was scrapped for the sequel, The Witcher 3. That means developers have to create the illusion of choice, while maintaining a consistent plot that eventually puts everyone back on the same track. Episode 6: The Ice Dragon actually does have some patches of unique gameplay depending on the big decision at the end of Episode 5.
Despite the different paths in Episode 6: The Ice Dragon, the end result feels pretty much the same. Throughout the six Game of Thrones episodes, TellTale has given players control of five different House Forrester characters. True to the source material, by the end of Episode 6, there are only two or three of these characters remaining. Since the first season of the HBO series, Game of Thrones has taught us that being the good guy, comes at a real price. This lesson is evident in the final episode, where playing the noble character results in significantly worse endings than cashing the goodwill you may have garnered previously.
Though The Ice Dragon title may imply some kind supernatural help, the Forresters don’t fare well in TellTale’s finale. The whole bit is set up for a sequel, that will hopefully come. Otherwise, the entire series will be regarded as an exercise of existential nihilism in gaming. Hopefully, a second season isn’t far off, though it would be nice for TellTale to upgrade their proprietary game engine first. Technical issues have plagued this series, as well as their other recent offerings, and I can’t help but assume it’s also a bottleneck for more gameplay variety in their titles.
Episode 6: The Ice Dragon does do its job well, even if no one will be really happy with where it leaves off. While the series doesn’t break any new ground, except to give the developer an excuse to try out an “oil paint” shader, it does stay true to its source material. The inclusion of television series’ actors also goes a long way towards making the game feel authentic. Despite, the tie-ins, the technical issues, and a scarcity of actual gameplay holds TellTale’s Game of Thrones back from greatness. Even if it’s not great, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing, and any Game of Thrones fan that also enjoys adventure games, should check it out. That’s true even more so now, that you don’t have to wait four months for the final episode.