Even though TellTale’s Game of Thrones is already on Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness, another episode won’t make it out before HBO’s fifth season gets started on 12 April 2015. Unless the game series undergoes an extreme timeline jump, Telltale’s adventure game will be significantly behind the events in the television series. Of course George R. R. Martin’s source material will soon be in the same boat, as Season Five of the television series is expected to exhaust the existing canon, with future seasons referencing an outline of the author’s intentions.
Like the HBO series, Telltale’s Game of Thrones series is geared toward adults, though the game isn’t nearly as hard-hitting. Honestly, it would be tough to match the television show’s acutely graphic sexuality in an interactive medium without garnering the de facto ban of an Adults Only rating. Despite the ratcheting down of sex and gore, Telltale’s Game of Thrones series is able to maintain weight, mostly through a heavy emphasis on politics. Still it may leave some fans wanting more action, and unfortunately that action is the Achilles heel of the TellTale game engine.
The Sword in the Darkness does try to offset the soap opera-like formula the series defaults to, by opening with an action sequence and introducing one of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons. Those clamoring for TellTale to put more action into its episodes would do well to remember how poorly the TellTale game engine handles action. From the frame rate issues and stilted animations, to the cursor-driven action, every time the game tries to pick up the pace, it struggles. What is left are the quick time events that by nature pull you out of the gameplay.
It’s story and story alone that drives TellTale’s success, with even basic puzzle-solving all but absent from its Game of Thrones series. With well-executed voice work from the HBO series stars as well as actors used exclusively in the game, The Sword in the Darkness feels authentic. Like the television show, there are rarely immediate consequences of your actions. Many of the choices you make won’t have an impact until future episodes. That being said, it is probably a good idea to keep the existing canon in mind. This is never more apparent than here in Episode Three, when Tyrion is implicated in King Joffrey’s murder.
I’m still not a fan of TellTale’s choice in shaders for the Game of Thrones series, but it’s somewhat understandable. The soft oil-painting look is reminiscent of the fantasy art of decades past, if not the sharp, detailed goriness of the television series. There is some unevenness however in the characters, with the new characters looking a bit more cartoony than their television show counterparts in the game. The art style also suffers when the action moves to Essos. Besides Danny’s dragon, the impressionist approach doesn’t translate as well to the desert environments as it does to the forests of Westeros, or even the snowscapes around the wall.
If lulls in the action made the first couple of episodes of TellTale’s Game of Thrones feel pedestrian, The Sword in the Darkness reminds you of the price of playing the political game. TellTale’s particular brand of adventure games is so narrative-heavy that other gameplay elements fall to the wayside. This is most evident in TellTale’s take on the hugely popular Game of Thrones. That being said, the interactive story approach is still high-quality entertainment, and some better development scheduling could insure a year-round Game of Thrones experience. Episode Three, while it can’t really be judged as a standalone product, is where everything starts adding up. For that reason alone, fans should be happy with it.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series – Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows PC
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