So I’m finally catching up on all the Telltale episodic games I’ve missed this year, including Game of Thrones. And what I’m finding is that Game of Thrones feels a lot like reading the books or watching the TV show, because there are so many characters to keep track of.
(Don’t worry, no big spoilers in this post… just be careful if you want to go into this game blind!)
Past Telltale games I’ve played (The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us) feature one single protagonist for you to play as. That made it really easy for me to choose a personality for them and keep it consistent throughout the game. (Although in The Wolf Among Us, my Bigby went from being a jackass to an old softie pretty fast. I couldn’t help it, I’m a nice person!)
But in Game of Thrones, Telltale’s take on the George R. R. Martin novels and HBO series, you get to conduct a whole cast of characters. You’re essentially focusing on the Forrester family and their problems, but there’s a lot of them. A lot of family members and a lot of problems, I mean.
You play some scenes as teenaged Ethan who tries to lead the family while his brothers are away. And the older brother Rodrik who’s all beaten up and almost dead when he arrives home to take over. And the other brother Asher, a badass mercenary warrior in Essos who’s trying to recruit an army for his family. And the father’s squire, Gared Tuttle, who’s sent to the Wall for murder. And my favorite, Mira, the Forrester sister who is Lady Margaery’s handmaiden at Joffrey’s court.
All of these characters are trying to help their family, which is being bullied by the Whitehills and Boltons, from their various stations in society and locations across the map. And you play as all of them.
Obviously, you only handle one character at a time. Each is in a different place, so you spend a scene trying to deal with the Whitehills at home while playing Rodrik — then you jump into Gared’s shoes at the Wall, talking to Jon Snow and getting into drama with the rest of the Crows. It goes on and on like that. While you definitely have a few minutes to sink into a character and situation with each scene, you’re going to be controlling several different people by the time each two-hour episode is over.
I’m really enjoying it, because I feel like a writer. When you’re working on a piece of fiction, you have to be in every character’s head to understand a scene or a story. That’s how I feel playing Game of Thrones, as I get into each person’s head and give them a unique personality.
But it’s also kind of hard to do that when playing a video game. I’m not used to it. I’m used to being one protagonist in an RPG and fleshing out their personality over the course of potentially dozens of hours of gameplay. I know my canon Commander Shepard well enough to instinctively make decisions as her, even though it’s not exactly what I would do myself, in real life. I guess it’s easy and fun to develop a hero in a game.
The hard part is jumping from one character to another every few minutes. Playing Game of Thrones, sometimes it takes me a minute or two in a scene to remember what type of personality I am developing for a certain character. In my game, Asher is a smartass. Mira is careful and clever. (Having her scheme out business deals at court for her family’s ironwood is so much fun.) And Gared is quiet and level-headed; I often have him remain silent instead of reacting in a conversation. I get into a scene, start acting like the character… and then it’s time to switch to a new scene. That’s what’s so unique about playing Telltale’s Game of Thrones.
Another thing I really enjoy about it is how easy it is to make a character a jerk. Even though I love Mira, I actually had her sell out her friend at one point to help her family; it was a bitchy move, but I felt like I could do it because I’m not Mira. She’s not my hero. She’s just one character of several that I play as in this particular game, while I watch their story unfold. And I want it to be an interesting story full of characters who aren’t afraid to be bad sometimes.
When I play games as just one character (like Bigby in The Wolf Among Us), I tend to place too much of myself in them, so they end up being too sweet and potentially a little boring, for a video game. But in Game of Thrones, the size of the cast you conduct makes you feel separated from them, enough to direct them to do crazy or terrible things sometimes. It’s tricky to stay consistent, but it’s so much fun.