The lights are on
I was more than pleasantly surprised when HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones turned out to not only be competent, but a good experience in its own right that complements the property and offers its own merits. Now Telltale Game is taking a turn at the trough with a game based on the show. Despite the pedigree of all of the principals, I'm currently not optimistic about the project.
Certainly, my early opinion is forming in the absence of any hard info about Telltale's Game – all we have to go on is the initial announcement, which doesn't say anything other than the game is episodic. Please read my words accordingly. However, my initial reaction is one of skepticism rather than hope.
The most crucial question I have naturally carries the most weight for the game and its success: When does the game take place in relation to the show, and therefore the books? If it's the same path, that would severely dampen the impact of any decisions you could make because they'd be naturally limited by the events we know to occur throughout the series. And what fun would it be to simply re-live what I've already seen? On the other hand, crafting something original could be very difficult. Matching Martin's tone or even being a better writer is not out of reach by any means, but as we've found out through the years over countless different properties, capturing the essence and making something equal to the original is not easy.
To what extent Martin is involved in the game is a related point. The shows creators understand the broad strokes of where Martin is going with the remainder of his as-yet-unreleased books, but I doubt the producers at HBO are going to cede this uncharted territory to the game (which comes out in 2014) since it would undercut the show. Therefore, the game could try and squeeze itself in the cracks between events already covered on the program. Again, however, this could leave players little room to maneuver. Political life in Westeros is a grand game of chess, something that could be significantly blunted if certain avenues of action, families, or lands aren't available because of timeline or story restrictions.
I also take issue with matching Game of Thrones mature content with the art style that Telltale has used to date. Unless it's changed dramatically, I just don't think it's going to convey the grim, harsh events in the series. Speaking of which, it's vital that Telltale keep all the swearing, sexual situations, and grisly violence – not for sensationalism, but because they're germane to the world. Conveying these elements with the right look and animations is going to be very tough.
I will say that Telltale's game will have a leg up on previous titles simply because the studio knows how to handle a story and entwine the player within it. In some ways it's a good marriage of developer and property with a lot of potential, but perhaps one of Telltale's strengths – giving players choices – will be one of the aspects its not fully able to utilize.
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