Ask any video gamer which company they associate with story-driven, choice-based content and, more than often, they will tell you “Telltale Games”.
The San Rafael-based video game developer and publisher has become synonymous for its deeply emotional and well structured adventure games ever since the release of its maiden title based upon The Walking Dead graphic novels.
That 2012 leap into the unknown – a critically-acllaimed venture that tugged on the heartstrings of even the hardest of individuals – catapulted Telltale into the limelight, and has led to an exponential growth unlike any other comparable video game developer in the modern era.
Since then, Telltale has put all of its attentions on the story-focused, episodic format – save for Poker Night 2 – with a number of highly praised spin-offs of other video game franchises such as Tales From the Borderlands and Minecraft.
It is another of their back catalogue – the licensed Game of Thrones Telltale Series in late 2014 and early 2015 – that led to the company’s first mixed reviews since their breakthrough triumph, and halted the inexonerable march towards the continous praise they had received.
It is also that Game of Thrones series, however, that has arguably a more heartbreaking moment than that played out in the final episode of The Walking Dead’s Season One (beware, spoilers ahead).
That finale, which sees main character Lee shot in the head, to stop him from turning into a zombie, by the much loved Clementine left fans of Telltale’s Walking Dead series sitting in puddles of tears as the end credits rolled, and led to raft of extremely positive views from many within the games industry.
And, whilst Telltale’s Game of Thrones series may not have the same kind of impact as that scene – particularly given gamers getting used to Telltale’s manner of storytelling – it’s hard to argue that the final sequence in season one’s second episode was just as heartwrenching as Clementine putting a bullet through Lee’s brain.
One extremely poignant scene in Game of Thrones, however, runs that moment close – and, arguably, even outperforms it.
The moment arrives after Rodrik Forrester, fresh from being seemingly killed off in episode one, returns home to find his house in disarray after the deaths of his father Gregor and brother Ethan, and with Roose Bolton having claimed the North after the infamous Red Wedding.
The funeral for the latter two, which takes place in the final throes of the episode, play out against a beautifully crafted song – sung by Rodrik’s younger sister and Ethan’s twin Talia – and brutally nails home how much this family has already lost just one third into the overall season:
Of course, the impact of Lee’s death in the Walking Dead will cause fans of that series to defend that scene to the hilt, and argue that it is that devastating ending which is Telltale’s biggest gut-punching scenario, given that the player has embarked on a five-episode long, 10 hour journey with the characters already in the Walking Dead‘s first season.
For Telltale to evoke such strong emotions just two episodes into its Game of Thrones series, however, showcases how much of an effect these two deaths have already had on those who played it, and leads gamers to feel dejection on the Forresters’ behalf even at this early stage of proceedings.
It will be controversial for diehard fans of Telltale’s Walking Dead series to hear, but being able to draw such powerful feelings out of players, towards the Forresters, so soon into Games of Thrones, is a success in story-telling terms, and lends significant weight to the argument that Game of Thrones‘ second episode of season one is its most heartbreaking content yet.