Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

Telltale’s take on Game of Thrones is not sunshine and rainbows or even a game

Game of Thrones_20141203084312

Well, I almost significantly spoiled my girlfriend Melanie on Game of Thrones over the weekend, which is something so bad that not even Ramsay Snow would consider doing it on the worst day of his wretched life. I am sorry, and may the Mother and the Father forgive me. See, sometime back, Telltale Games was offering the first episodes of its Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands, and The Wolf Among Us series for free, so naturally I nabbed them all, figuring I’d get to them when I’d get to them. After the stinging disappointment that was season two of Clementine’s return to The Walking Dead, I was in no rush for more.

In my mind, I figured the Game of Thrones series was set during the early parts of the show/books. Mel has read the first two books–and a page or two into A Storm of Swords–and seen all of HBO’s season one. To my surprise, the game takes place smack dab in the middle of the third book, at the Twins. Seems like Lord Walder Frey is throwing quite the celebration for whoever is getting married that night. Yikes. Naturally, the game even uses the phrase “The Red Wedding” when setting the opening scene to hammer home the where and when. I immediately closed out to the Xbox One dashboard and then proceeded to turn on the PlayStation 3 for some more progress into Puppeteer, getting as far away from the Crossing as possible.

Later, I burned through the first episode “Iron from Ice” by myself, and I found it, much like with that other Game of Thrones game, beyond dissatisfying. For different reasons, of course, but I do have to wonder if this well of potential will ever get the right kind of treatment in the industry. Probably not. Personally, of the two that I have played, I figured this would be the better style suited to a world of poignant choices and larger-than-life characters. While that aspect is covered and pretty good in the moment-to-moment decisions, I was also hoping for more things to do around picking who lives, who dies, who you let live because you are weak and you know they’ll come back to kill you, and so on.

The story revolves around the northern House Forrester, rulers of Ironrath, whose members attempt to save their family and themselves after ending up on the losing side of the War of the Five Kings. House Forrester has not yet been introduced in the television series, but is mentioned briefly in A Dance with Dragons, so at least they aren’t just ::cough cough Riverspring cough:: making things up. Still, with the events post-TRW, House Forrester must make smart choices to keep themselves in the fight, and that’s where you, the player, come in, eventually controlling a number of characters in the family. There’s Ethan Forrester, who finds himself learning how to rule at a much earlier age than expected; there’s Mira Forrester, all the way in King’s Landing, who serves as a handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell; there’s Gared Tuttle, a squire who is off to the Wall to hide. I think later episodes give you others to play as, too.

Here’s my biggest problem with Game of Thrones, and it is the same problem I had with season two of The Walking Dead–it’s barely a game. It’s a choose your own adventure story, with a high emphasis on choose. Interaction is kept to a bare minimum, and you’re mostly left with dialogue choices. Basically, press this button or that button (or say nothing at all). I also found it difficult to roleplay these characters since I kept switching between them for different scenes; before, you had Lee, and every choice you made was reflective of the Lee you wanted to play as. Same for Clementine later on. Here, you get a short scene with Gared, then Mira, then Ethan, then Mira, etc, which makes it difficult to really grow them in my mind, learn who they are. I naturally tried to play each character the same, as an honest, hopeful soul in this grim world of brutality and betrayal. For many, it’s not going to work out well.

In “Iron from Ice,” I ran into zero puzzles. There are a couple of action scenes, where you have to hover the cursor over an item to grab and use it quickly, or swipe in a direction for some purpose, but that’s all early on and over with swiftly. At one point, while controlling Gared, I got to pick up two items from the room I was in–one was paper, the other some kind of plant or healing herb–and put them in my inventory, along with a sword. That said, you can’t select the items in the inventory or try to use them on other items or even people in hope of starting a dialogue. It’s a pointless list on the left side of the screen to make you think you are playing a puzzle-driven adventure game when, in reality, you are on a linear cart ride down the King’s Road. The other characters you play as don’t even have an inventory.

Kudos to Telltale for getting HBO on board to allow them to use the likenesses and voices of many of Game of Thrones‘ prominet characters/actors, like Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), and Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon). It does help to sell the setting and soften the blow that you’re playing as a lesser-known family in the great big mix of things. Still, even on newer consoles, the gameplay is glitchy, with it chugging along from scene to scene, textures are slow to load in, and character models occasionally vanish from scenes without warning.

Telltale has certainly changed the point-and-click genre to a more modern, easy-to-swallow sort of experience, the kind that just about anyone can play–but it’s not for me. I want more interaction, more noggin using. I hate to say it, but this is exactly the sort of game I’m okay watching someone else play and then move on. I’m glad this first episode was free, but I’m also worried about how The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands unfold. In my heart, they are all the same, and walking away from this company’s future output is one of the harder choices thrown before me as there’s a lot of like about the franchises they handle. Thank goodness there’s no timer.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #31 – Game of Thrones, Episode 1 “Iron from Ice”

2016 gd games completed game of thrones episode 1 iron from ice

House Forrester falls
Must do everything to thrive
Ramsay Snow, the worst

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Adding to the Backlog – A Mortal Game of Ages Beyond Time and Space Starring PAC-MAN

adding to the backlog mortal kombat rayden fat

Well, Sony went and did it again, putting a crazy good sale in front of my face for the entire weekend, demanding I get in on the “I’d buy that for less than a dollar” action before time ran out. Naturally, this flash sale went live just as I was heading out of town, but once I was home, I scanned through all the deals and picked out five to add to my never stopping, never not growing backlog. Here, take a look at my grabs:

  • Game of Thrones – $0.80
  • Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection – $0.90
  • PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX+ – $0.90
  • Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space (Episodes 1-5) – $0.80
  • Rock of Ages – $0.45

For a grand total of…$3.85. Which, if you want a measuring stick, is less than my cup of coffee and breakfast sandwich from this morning. Hmm. Not a bad deal one bit, though, again, I can’t even begin to see the end of the tunnel where I get to sit down and seriously play some of these titles.

At this point, I haven’t even downloaded all the items, as I might need to delete a few things and make space–seems like those five Sam & Max episodes are large in size, as is Game of Thrones. Between these kind of sales and years of PlayStation Plus, my PS3’s hard-drive space is pretty bloated, and I know that Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots has a mandatory install thingy to plan for once I return to the series. Ugh. I’m forever dealing with juggling space, whether it is on my phone, my 3DS, my PS1/PS2 memory cards, or my other gaming consoles. It’s almost a game in itself.

That said, I did download and install Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection first, load it up, select Rayden (or is it Raiden?), beat a few peeps to their knees, and electrocuted Lui Kang for my first Fatality in some years. Probably since I was a teenager over a friend’s house or getting lucky in the mall’s arcade. I did have to look up how to do it, as both my muscle memory and regular memory for final moves has faded, but it still satisfied, even if that original Mortal Kombat both looks and operates like garbage.

Well, more games. At least these don’t take up any shelf space.

Throne Together, a block-based puzzle game about building castles

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Recently, I got my fill of Angry Birds Rio, so much that I even unlocked all twenty Achievements in it, and so I happily removed it from my Windows 8 phone feeling pretty satisfied with the experience. Which is not at all how I felt about Temple Run 2, since it glitched out and wouldn’t let me unlock the last Achievement despite meeting its requirement on many runs, as well as Microsoft Mahjong, also glitched to the point where I’ll no longer be able to earn 20 medals despite totally being able to. It seems like many games for Microsoft’s Windows 8 phones are less than stellar in the quality assurance section, but since the majority of them are all free, it is hard to grumble too loudly. Anyways, I downloaded two more recently, Throne Together and Hungry Shark Evolution, and I’m here to talk about the former first. Sorry, shark fans.

Well, once again, I couldn’t come up with a clever blog title for Throne Together, and so I went the straightforward route of simply describing exactly what it is: a block-based puzzle game about building castles. So far, after doing five to six puzzles, that premise has remained true and untouched, and so the diversity revolves around what kind of castles you need to build, the pieces you use to build them, how fast you move, and other level-specific challenges. Seems like there is a “lives” system similar to Hexic, wherein you get five chances to not fail and can keep playing until you run out of lives, with them regenerating over real-life time. Oh boy. Definitely not my favorite aspect of free-to-play medium, as I just want to play when I want and for how long I want, but I wonder then if people would just burn through everything super fast and move on to the next shiny item before even contemplating the thought of spending real money to buy a boost or extra slew of blocks. Me, no, I’ll never do that.

I’m no professional castle builder–though I always did make LEGO houses full of booby traps as a kid–but neither is Microsoft. Here’s how it works. Basically, you are shown a crown floating in the air (or sometimes multiple crowns), and you have to construct a castle that will touch these, all either under a time limit or specific number of block pieces used. You also have to factor in that the castle has to be stable, that constructing a long, narrow structure might sway and fall or too much heavy weight on top could crack the foundation and bring everything tumbling down. You can counter this by place additional pieces next to the parts cracking, but only for so long. So far, it’s all been fairly easy to figure out, but I can see future levels as getting very tricky, especially depending on where the crowns are positioned. Additional challenges, like building over a river, are also tossed at you.

I’ve only quickly touch upon the Achievements for Throne Together, which certainly look grinding and some require you to pester your friends, which I won’t do, but what really gets me down is that all the icons are the same: a red throne on a blue background. C’mon, we’re no longer living in the medieval times of Achievements (2007-2008). We can get more creative than this.

Right. I’ve run into a problem that I’m surprised has not popped up on other Windows 8 phone games yet. When moving pieces around with my pointer finger, it is difficult to see the screen and pinpoint where exactly to place them. Maybe I have fat fingers or maybe I don’t. I’ve had to rely on the Tetris way, lining up where I want the piece to fall and then watching it trickle down slowly on its own. During untimed missions, this is fine, but when I need to complete a castle in under X number of seconds, this will not work. The problem is that the castle block pieces are smaller than the end of my fingertip to begin with, so when I touch the screen, I can’t even see what I’m manipulating. You’ll probably hear me complain about this again later in Hungry Shark Evolution.

Anyways, not sure how many levels in total there are here, but I stopped at 16, which is one or two after you learn about blueprints and how building them while trying to build a castle can add extra bonus points to your ultimate score and help you on your path to a three stars rating. There’s no story to follow here, just instructions from a nameless castle inspector, and that’s fine because, while it worked in a cutesy way for Hexic, I just can’t see it adding anything here. The meat of the game are the levels themselves and figuring out the best way to build a castle. I’ll keep at it for a bit, but if the later levels prove too challenging I don’t think I’ll feel too bad abandoning this one. It definitely doesn’t have its hooks in me despite my love for castle structures. While this is absolutely a game of thrones, it is also no Game of Thrones.

The Walking Dead is a lot less game, but still fun

TWD Carver season 2 overall imps

I’m not really here to talk about the unfolding events of Telltale Games’ season two for The Walking Dead and what latest hole Clementine and company have dug for themselves this time. In short and without spoiling things, people get hurt, both by zombies and their fellow humans, and there’s traveling and dashed dreams and madman-inspired plans and–everyone’s favorite–many soul-crushing decisions, which you have to often make in a split second. Y’know, basically everything that was great from The Walking Dead‘s first season is back once more. Well…maybe not everything.

In this episodic adventure series’ first season, back when you controlled smart, encouraging Lee Everett, it was very much a traditional point-and-click experience, but on a console and with a focus for storytelling and action-heavy sequences. You still explored scenes, talked to people, collected clues and items for your inventory, and solved puzzles using those items on other things. However, over the first three episodes of season two, namely “All That Remains,” “A House Divided,” and “In Harm’s Way,” I’ve noticed the game losing most of those elements, turning into more of a linear product of pure interactive fiction than anything else. I still love it and have a blast deciding who is going to remember what, but it does kind of bum me out that there’s less to do creatively–and, for lack of a better word, videogamey–between big scenes. I mean, remember when you got to play detective with Duck and actually solve a mystery; those days are long gone, I’m afraid.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that The Walking Dead has now infected–yes, pun intended–every piece of technology capable of playing a videogame. Yup, talking about mobile devices like iPhones and iPads. You can clearly see the developers thinking about this subset of gamers, given how many more action scenes rely on “swiping” as a means of a quick time event instead of just button prompts. It’s a little weird using a controller to press down via the analog stick to have Clementine hide from an incoming zombie, but maybe it feels more effective on a touch-based device. That said, it’s now a game series of dialogue choices (good!) and QTEs (bad!) and backseat steering (very bad!), which probably works better on mobile devices than the places The Walking Dead was initially born.

Let me slightly spoil a section from the latest episode–“In Harm’s Way”–to get my point across about how stripped and, dare I say, dumbed down The Walking Dead is at this point. Gameplay-wise, people. Gameplay-wise. So, Clementine is sneaking into an office to turn on a PA system for…well, reasons. You get into the office via a cutscene, walk over to a desk and inspect the PA system with the press of a button. Upon a closer look, you can then press a switch to flip on the external speakers. You do that; there is no other way to try things, you only have one choice to move forward with the “puzzle.” Then you are told to turn on the mic, so you try, and it’s not working. A quick cutscene has Clem then following the power cords from the PA system over to the CD player, which you try to turn on, only to find out there is no CD in its tray. The camera then does this back and forth motion, as if searching, and you instantly see a CD right next to the CD player. Sigh. You click on the CD, and the puzzle, if you want to call it such a thing, is does. Your hand was held the entire time, and there weren’t even any options to try things differently or mess up. Like, all you had to do, Telltale Games, was hide the CD in the room, anywhere, and have Clem actually search for it.

Trust me when I say that I’m, without a doubt, finishing this second season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. I’m too invested in the story at this point, but knowing how much has changed with the gameplay bums me out enough to wonder that, if I have a mobile device capable of playing the probable, but not yet announced third season when it does drop in late 2015 or early 2016, I might just experience it there. True, I’ll be losing all of my choices I’ve made up to that mark, but what do choices matter in a world where you are no longer in control? Yes, Paul will remember that.

Also, I’m deeply worried about what Telltale Games is going to do with Game of Thrones. We all remember how Jurassic Park: The Game turned out, right?

2013 Game Review Haiku, #57 – Isaac’s Odyssey

2013 games completed isaac's odyssey 33940

Comic Con party
Must make it, stuck inside dorm
Text needs editing

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Dead Rising 2 should not have returned from the grave

Dead Rising 2 game final thoughts

There are some games I loathe from the very beginning, but a terrible, masochistic part of my brain keeps me playing, as I have to see them through to the end, hopeful that there is maybe still some aspect or single element I haven’t seen yet that can be called enjoyable or mildly so and see the whole experience retrofitted just a wee bit. Here, let me name a few: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked, Mafia II, and Game of Thrones: The Game. They all have their problems, but I kept playing them save for Cyanide’s take on Westeros, blind with false hope. Well, I think we can also now officially add Dead Rising 2 to this selective category.

In Dead Rising 2, you play as Chuck Greene, a former motocross champion now housing it up in the fictional casino town of Fortune City, Nevada. He is an active member of Terror Is Reality, a controversial game show where contestants kill zombies for money and fame. Chuck only does this because he needs the prize money to buy Zombrex, which is a daily medication that magically suppresses the zombification process, for his bitten daughter Katey. However, while backstage after the show, Terror Is Reality’s supply of disposable zombies is released, creating havoc and panic and bringing everything good to a shambling halt. Chuck is able to rescue his daughter and reach an emergency shelter, but has to keep her supplied with Zombrex until the military arrives in three days.

That’s the story setup, and from there you can explore Fortune City at, more or less, your leisure. So long as you don’t suffer too many zombie bites, of course. Main missions and side missions are constantly available, but some won’t begin until a specific time and others only last so long before you lose out on whatever prize they offer. Basically, you have to choose what you can do in the time that you have, and I found myself, after restarting the story twice due to boss fight difficulties, skipping all the side missions and just grinding out PP from zombies near the safehouse until a main story mission began. By the end of the game, I had only killed five Psychopaths and rescued 12 survivors, which is just a drop in the bucket for both of those optional endeavors. I only fought a Psychopath or saved someone if the description mentioned Zombrex. When not killing zombies, you can also look around for items to make combo weapons and mixed drinks to further help you kill zombies later, which is both fun and frustrating, especially when some items are terribly huge and have to be carried all the way back to a maintenance room, which is across a sea of biters. I stuck with a few staples over the course of the game, namely spiked baseball bat, the Defiler, and whatever it is called when you mix MMA gloves and a box of nails.

Other than smacking a zombie in the face with a spiked baseball bat or running over a horde of them with a mobile trash bin, I did not enjoy much of anything that Dead Rising 2 had to offer. Chuck purposely moves slow and clunky, especially if you try to jump and then keep moving. His speed increases and additional melee moves are unlocked as you level up, but it’s a slow and seemingly random process, as by level 26 I still was missing a lot of abilities that would have made running around more convenient and a bit easier. You can only save at bathrooms, which are not surprisingly everywhere you turn, so I found myself constantly losing a lot of progress if Chuck accidentally bought the farm. Can’t set waypoints on the map. Weapons break after some time, and I understand why that has to be, but man do I not enjoy it, especially after it took so long to find the right pieces and construct it. Wearing goofy clothes is okay and thankfully completely cosmetic, and I do appreciate that Chuck has them still on in all cutscenes, but Dead Rising 2 is a very goofy game with batshit crazy side quests and zany survivor-saving missions, but then also a main storyline that really does want to be taken dead serious, with its twists and turns and real-life drama of a child potentially being turned into a monster and a man being wrongly framed. It’s all very conflicting.

That previously mentioned masochistic part of my brain wants to load up my last Dead Rising 2 save, which is right before what I thought was the final boss fight, and see if I can get the other ending, but I know it won’t enhance my experience any more. Hmm. In fact, after reading a bit about it, seems like quite a bother, and for what, a silly Achievement. Meh, no thanks. However, I’m pretty close to crossing the 5,000 mark for killed zombies, so maybe I’ll put on a favorite podcast and go out swinging.