Game of Thrones: Episode 6 – ‘The Ice Dragon’ Review
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series seemed like a sure thing. Taking the fantastic world of the HBO show and merging it with the talent behind The Walking Dead game, The Wolf Among Us, and Tales from the Borderlands is the kind of thing gamers would only dream of. However, as the episodes wore on there seemed to be a few cracks forming in the otherwise perfect veneer of both the universe and the developer. Stories meandered about, seemingly treading water until the promised epic conclusion. We’ve reached that conclusion now with Game of Thrones: Episode 6 – “The Ice Dragon”, and while some stories pay off in appropriately depressing ways, overall the experience has felt largely hollow and pointless.
Without getting into spoiler territory, the story of Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series follow House Forrester and their allies. You control a number of characters, with some new ones popping up and old ones fading away, for various reasons. The ultimate goal is to get House Forrester out of the trouble that they find themselves in upon the conclusion of the War of the Five Kings, which happened at the end of the third season of the show.
Episode 6 picks up with the situation looking even more dire than it did at the start of the series. House Whitehill is on Ironrath’s doorstep, having eliminated a major player from the family, depending on your choice at the end of Episode 5. Meanwhile, Mira is still scheming down in King’s Landing, but that hasn’t gone particularly well so far. North of the Wall, Gared inches closer to the mysterious North Grove, which will hopefully yield some sort of help for the remaining Forresters.
Choice has certainly been a major element of Game of Thrones since it began, but now we can finally see the culmination of all of those choices. More than even other Telltale games before it, once you complete Game of Thrones you will want to play through again to see how it can differ. Unfortunately, you’ll most likely find that the end results are the same for most of your characters, with only a few real shifts in the story taking place because of your actions. It’s enough of a difference to make a second or even third playthrough worth trying though, and hardcore fans will find the contrasts fascinating.
That end result is a bit of a problem though. We’ll be getting into spoilers here so skip ahead if you want to be totally fresh for the game. Essentially we’re left with an extremely depressing ending, featuring defeat on almost all fronts for the Forresters. This definitely fits within the framework of the universe and the show, with the famous quote “if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention” stuck firmly in the front of my mind throughout Game of Thrones: Episode 6. However, it’s one thing to watch our favorite characters fail, and another to feel the failure ourselves.
Players will likely look back on all that they have done in Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series and wonder what they could have changed to make things better. With the answer seemingly being that they couldn’t, it becomes a different sort of experience. With most of the stories this works fine, but Mira again feels like the weakest link in the otherwise decent chain. Her story takes place far away from all of the others, and has always suffered for it. She seemed to only be there so that players could interact with their favorite characters from the show, and the conclusion here hammers this home even harder.
The one story that almost feels like a success still has issues though, with Gared finally finding the North Grove. Once he’s there things take an entirely different turn though, and the conclusion is obviously opening the series up to a second season. In fact, there is almost no feeling of triumph, or even simple closure with Gared and his long quest. With a confirmed continuation of the story, one that would come within a year as it does for the show, these sorts of near-cliffhanger endings are alright, but if this is all that we get it is especially hurtful.
Game of Thrones: Episode 6 still delivers on a lot of the promise that this series once held
Outside of this, the same faults remain as from previous episodes. The oil painting-like art style continues to be a mixed bag, presenting an odd, blurry world at times, and a gorgeous picturesque setting at others. The whole series, and this episode in particular, are firmly weighted toward the former though, making the style an overall mistake. Animation glitches, including some frankly terrible lip syncing continue to plague the game as well, with Telltale’s engine trudging along, but barely holding the experience together.
With all of that said, Game of Thrones: Episode 6 still delivers on a lot of the promise that this series once held. It never hits the high mark that it could or should have, firmly placing the series near the bottom of Telltale’s best-of list. However, it certainly feels dramatic and important as you play through it. Once again in Episode 6 you will find yourself stopping to assess your various options, making your decision carefully as many lives could hang in the balance. While the end result might be very similar, you still feel responsible when you choose one course of action and it results in dire consequences for someone you care about.
Likewise the gameplay elements are at their best here, with combat feeling particularly hectic, but in control. Sword fighting in a game like this could have been a boring or even totally broken affair, but the quick-time events work well and present the feeling of combat, without necessarily putting you directly in charge. When shit finally hits the fan in Game of Thrones: Episode 6 you will find yourself frantically pressing buttons hoping to make it through the encounter unscathed. The fact that you almost certainly won’t shows how well Telltale nailed the Game of Thrones spirit.
That spirit is what truly shapes the Game of Thrones experience. While the overall story hasn’t come together as well as it should, it still feels distinctly a part of the HBO show, which is exactly what fans wanted from this game. It could have been done far better, with more weight to the events and a firmer conclusion certainly being at the top of any sequel’s to-do list, but hardcore fans will enjoy this small slice of the universe that they love so much.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series nearly hits all the right notes. It presents a fascinating section of a world that fans enjoy quite a bit. Unfortunately it never pulls this together into a single, cohesive experience. The overall story has some fantastic moments within it, but the final result has more of a feeling of incompleteness than once usually wants from a game like this. A season two could rectify a lot of the problems, but it’ll be tough to bring fans back for more after the way Episode 6 leaves things.
Game of Thrones: Episode 6 - The Ice Dragon
- Available On: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Mobile
- Published By: Telltale Games
- Developed By: Telltale Games
- Genre: Graphic Adventure
- US Release Date: November 17th, 2015
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "Game of Thrones: Episode 6 is a fitting conclusion, but the series as a whole has faltered to the point that many will find it unsatisfying. If you were seeking redemption from this finale you will find a little, but not enough to put this into the usual realm of Telltale excellence."