One thing that HBO’s Game of Thrones television series has taught me is that magic is real, but it can’t make your problems disappear.
So as I started the sixth and final episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones (which is out today on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android), it was with several concerns. I worried for my characters, of course. They all were standing on the precipice of annihilation, and I had little faith that I could guide them to safety. But I also worried that the game’s writers would turn to magic or a deus ex machina device to enable me to find some kind of happy ending.
What I found instead on my Xbox One is a chilling, brave story that I’m still reeling from. And I’m grateful that Telltale didn’t cheat me out of the ownership of my decisions.
What you will like
Everyone is in danger
In a Game of Thrones season finale, you need to know that anyone can die. And I felt like that was possible throughout this episode of the game.
We’ve already seen some key characters fall throughout this storyline, but that doesn’t mean we’ve paid our price. Everyone in House Forrester, and everyone they love, could meet their end here.
As usual, Telltale doesn’t just do this to torment players. I dealt with several moments where I could potentially get the resolution I’ve sought through the previous five episodes, but I’d have to pay a steep price in the currency of other people’s blood.
It’s not easy seeing the results of your choices turn into pain for bystanders, but that is what makes Game of Thrones so difficult to look away from. Those high stakes — especially when you know that the writers aren’t afraid to take everything from you — makes for a gripping interactive adventure.
Telltale hits you with everything it has
And in the finale, you won’t have to just worry about the nebulous possibility of the “worst-case scenario.” You’ll have the chance to see it for yourself.
But this is a credit to Telltale’s Game of Thrones. The writers aren’t worried about giving you happy feelings no matter what happens. They want you to agonize about the impossible decisions they present you with, and then they’ll show you every awful thing that happened because of it.
That’s the point. No matter how clever you are, you can’t win in a universe that contains such malice. Your choices can never satisfy everything when you have so many evil powers working against you.
And just because you’ve previously lost some friends, and your choices may cause you to lose even more, that doesn’t mean you can quit. House Forrester needs you — and the world needs you because it can’t afford the death of any more decent people.
Selling the tragedy of Game of Thrones only works if you care about the characters, and the voice acting here is a big part of selling you on that.
Gared’s bonding with Sylvi works because you can hear the torture of their situation in every line. Rodrik’s attempts to rile up his troops is believable because he sounds confident and simultaneously war weary. And none of that even touches on the actors from the show who clearly weren’t phoning in their lines.
I can say that not only did bad acting never rip me out of the immersion, but the great acting actually pulled me in even further.
What you won’t like
Some technical hiccups
Like all Telltale games, this one feels like duct tape barely holds it together.
I had lip sync issues. I saw glitchy textures. And it paused several times for around 5 seconds in the middle of scenes. These aren’t the worst bugs I’ve ever seen, and nothing ever broke my experience, but it’s still disappointing.
Telltale has put together an incredible Game of Thrones story. I’ve said all along in my previous reviews that I am happier with this than the television show proper, and I stand by that. I still can’t wait for HBO’s next season to debut, but I’m far more interested in seeing what happens with this story.
Telltale’s Game of Thrones is out today for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC/Mac, iOS, and Android. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a download code for Xbox One for the purposes of this review.