Thursday, April 7, 2016

Iron from Ice

Telltale has their fingers in a lot of pies not the least of which is George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire."  I've read all the books released to date, but the HBO mini-series only held my interest up to the third season.  It's my understanding that Telltale decided to base their game more on the TV series than novels.  Not that it really matters though because the characters from the main storyline only make cameos in Telltale's game.  So instead of the adventures of Daenerys, Tyrion and John Snow the narrative focus is on the trials and tribulations of House Forester.  I have no beef with this and found the characters introduced by Telltale to be interesting for the most part.  True to the source material they start dropping like flies from the get-go.  Decapitations, dismemberment and one scene that's particularly heart wrenching (in the most literal sense) are just some of the messy ends that can occur.  Oddly, nudity is absent for the most part.  Perhaps it's not Telltale's style...

Certainly there's very little the player can do to change House Forester's fate.  The most in-game decisions change is a few lines of dialogue here and there until the final chapter where, based on a chose made at the end of the previous chapter, the story can deviate in one of several different branching paths.  Even then there's a great deal done to ensure the final outcome is basically the same.  Needless to say, if you take a fatalistic outlook then you can probably derive more enjoyment from Telltale games than those who want to be masters of their own destiny.

Regardless, I get why Telltale chooses to embrace this narrow design philosophy, it saves them a lot in terms of development resources.  That said, I wouldn't mind paying a bit more for their products if it meant empowering the player in meaningful ways.  Only seeing fifty percent of a game's content might sound like a waste from the standpoint of a developer, but as a player it offers a major insensitive to try multiple playthroughs.  As is, it doesn't really matter if you roleplay House Forester as a proud family filled with righteous indignation or a bunch of backhanded schemers more likely to respond with cryptic silences than words when called out on their lies.  Either way the plot inexorably hits on all the same key points on its way to the inevitable conclusion.  Something really needs to change.

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the Telltale formula grafted onto an SRPG or RTS.  What they got going could enhance the fundamental gameplay of other genres in a revitalizing kind of way.  As it stands though Telltale games are basically visual novels with some QTEs sprinkled in.  I'm not saying that's necessarily bad, but I do think their games have the potential to be truly special.  They just have to take House Forester's motto to heart.

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