Telltale’s Game of Thrones series has been getting a lot of attention as an epic video game companion to the most popular fantasy television show in history, and rightfully so (members of our team at Sub-cultured have been streaming the game as a featured treat in our Game of Thrones Month content). But a franchise that is so widely watched and beloved indicates a diverse fan base who can consume and engage with all different kinds of content. We’ve been impressed with Disruptor Beam’s social media game, Game of Thrones Ascent, which serves a different kind of gamer and fan who are less attached to the rich characters and political intrigue of A Song Of Ice and Fire, but still want to role play in the world of Westeros with friends. The game, with a platform integrated with Facebook and with apps on iOS and Android, launched two new expansions this week almost two years after its debut. The Tales of Ice and Fire and Fire and Blood expansions prove that the developers behind the Game of Thrones Ascent have been eager to listen to player feedback and criticism to produce new content and a system that will cure the fatigue and boredom experienced by longtime players as well as attract new social gamers.
The Fire and Blood expansion adds a new building, the Dragon Pit, to the holdfast of all players where quickened dragon eggs can be hatched without the need to reincarnate their characters to collect all of the fealty houses. This building will also allow those lucky and dedicated enough to own a baby dragon to mature their beastling into anyoung (probably ornery) teen dragon. The route for hatching an egg will take much more time and luck to complete than through the reincarnation path as crafting the necessary ingredients will take a significantly more loot. But, as we learned from Star Wars Galaxies, the most rare and highly powered rewards should demand more effort, time and dedication.
For two years, players who have wanted to acquire, quicken and hatch their very own dragon (the most powerful item in all around base-stats in the game) would have to commit to several rounds of reincarnations – a system in which players would need to abandon their previous characters as well as all of their loot, silver, and level progress to start the entire game over while swearing to a different fealty house with a different skill and building specialty. So, in order to get a dragon, you’d have to be willing to play severely de-powered for a minimum of months of intense and committed playtime. Most gamers were less critical of the time commitment than they were of the necessity to change fealties. Fans of the books or show will know that there is a huge difference between Team Stark and Team Lannister, and having to replay a significant portion of the game as a different bannerman of each of the seven in-game major houses was a real deterrent to most gamers and fans, even though the overall game play was altered very little between fealty choices.
Prior to the Fire and Blood expansion, if you weren’t willing to sacrifice your honor and loyalty to your chosen house, there was not much to offer many players that had surpassed a certain point in the game. And even if you were ready to hatch your dragon, there would be little to do beyond sending your sworn swords on near endless routine farming adventures to collect all the necessary items. New quest lines for the most part coincide with seasons of the show, which means many players would find themselves all caught up with months before new content quests were released. Team-oriented players can participate in Alliance combat, which is a neat feature that allows players to participate in full-blown war during AvA phases. Again, many were left with little to do during peace time beyond recovering from the carnage of an AVA phase – replacing or burying your dead sworn swords, replenishing your silver and restocking your basic resources for the next identical go around.
The new Tales expansion is best described as a great addition to a game that will provide players with what they’ve been clamoring for: more to do! Tales of Ice and Fire can be read about here, where the developers have not only explained how the system works in detail, but also why they chose each new feature. This was a nice change for a game that has been criticized as having a poor learning curve for new players who have to rely upon player-generated wiki (not that we’re knocking that wiki, it’s superb).
Tales incorporates some of the most fun aspects of the game: opportunities for great one-time-only loot (some of it great, some of it sort of useless), play-to-player competition, fast paced tactic and chance-based success, and challenges for your best sworn swords. Our criticisms are that it takes a little too long to regenerate enough “vigor” to send out your sworn swords again compared to how long each attempt lasts (over three hours to replenish compared to maybe 10 minutes of play if we’re being generous). You can shorten the time to replenish your vigor as well as swing the odds in your favor for winning if you’re willing to spend a significant amount of gold (thats equates to real life cash, folks.) This is true with a lot of aspects of the Game of Thrones Ascent, however the majority of the Tales system is based on luck and there is an added pressure of losing all the threshold rewards you earn should you chose not continue on and not bail out early and fail later in the challenge. Also, success makes each subsequent attempt harder, but each challenge gives you the opportunity to spend gold ( again, that’s in-game premium currency) to reattempt or wipe away “debuffs” that hurt your odds. The system seems to rely too much on gambling with your real life money in order for a player to do very well. But, the developers need to be paid to live in the real world so shrug. Bottom line and JMO – Tales, while fun, is the most play-to-win addition to the game that we’ve seen and may (and should) put off a lot of players.
The team responsible for Game of Thrones Ascent has always been aware that what makes their product special is in it’s ability to function seamlessly as a social media platform as well as role playing game. The team manages their own forums and pushes weekly builds to improve player experiences, address known bugs and issues, and announce upcoming changes and progress. The crew clearly takes time to interact with their players with friendly blog posts and frequent gifts of items, gold, and boosts to production time, which helps even out the divide between players who play for free and those who will fork over real life cash for virtual currency and items. Their dedication to creating a fun game that people enjoy pays off in both of these expansions and no doubt players can expect that their praises and criticisms will be noted and addressed in tangible improvements in the weeks to come, including starting a new AvA phase that was stalled by the expansion launch.
Senior Staff Correspondent
(Dragonglass Citadel Alliance)
Before we begin this week, I’d like you all to time travel back to sixth grade, okay? Just think about all the crazy things going on in your head at that time. Think of how desperately you wanted to hit puberty, or how terrified you were of hitting puberty, or how embarrassed you were that you’d already hit puberty. Think of all the Disney movies you’d watched, or the stories you’d heard from older siblings, about love and life and prom.
Game of Thrones has a million marketing tie-ins, and one of the most unique products we’ve seen from a television show so far is the Game of Thrones beer collection. In collaboration with Brewery Ommegang, the Game of Thrones beer collection features a different seasonal beer launched in limited releases. So far, there have been 5 beers: Iron Throne, Take the Black Stout, Fire and Blood, Valar Morgulis, and the recently-released Three-Eyed Raven. From a brunette ale to a dark saison hybrid, each beer is unique in theme and flavor.
But how do these beers measure up? Are they for beer aficionados only, or will fans of the show who enjoy a casual beer also enjoy them? We decided to pit our resident brew expert, Tushar, against beer newbie (but Game of Thrones fangirl) Mia to bring you their thoughts on the three most recent Game of Thrones beers.
Fire and Blood
Named after the words of House Targaryen, Fire and Blood bills itself as a red ale with fruity, malty notes. As implied by the name, the beer has a red hue.
Mia – Beer Newbie
The first thing I noticed is that it doesn’t have the dark beer smell which, to me, is unappealing, so that’s a plus. The first time I tried this beer, I distinctly remember saying the name was unfortunate, because it tasted like blood and burned dirt. This time around, I guess I’ve grown a taste for beer, because I actually tasted fruity notes. There is a lot of flavor in this brew, but luckily, no bitter aftertaste. It is a lighter beer than I expected from the color. Overall, I would drink this beer again, though it’s not my all-time favorite.
Tushar – Beer Journeyman
This brew actually came randomized with one of three different labels for each of Daenerys’ dragons. Looks like Mia got Drogon on hers, but mine was Viserion looking angry as hell.
Fire and Blood is brewed with ancho chilies to give it a bit of a kick. But don’t worry, you’re not going to burn your face off or be breathing fire when anyone utters Dracarys. The ancho gives Fire and Blood a short-lived punch (presumably the fire) that decays pretty quickly and gives way to some mild fruity sweetness and malt flavor. This is called a red ale (naturally, the blood) but the red ales that I’ve had over the years vary wildly in hoppiness and fruitiness – the only consistent characteristics is that they were darker than ambers, not as heavy as darks, and had a range of fruitiness from bottom to top.
Mia’s experience, at least the second time around, did have her finding those fruity notes characteristic with a red ale, but that spice and heat to me differentiates Fire and Blood. With the spice from the ancho and that red ale sweetness, I’m sure this would get the seal of approval from House Targaryen.
I could definitely marathon some Game of Thrones and enjoy this brew on the fine spring Sunday evenings while the show takes over my TV at 9pm.
Valar Morghulis was created for fans, by fans with an online contest determining the style and name of the beer. An Abbey Dubbel ale, Valar Morghulis is malty and has notes of caramel, toffee, ripe fruits and burnt sugar.
Mia – Beer Newbie
I had the fortune to try this beer at the San Diego Comic Con ceremonial keg tapping event last year. I wasn’t excited about going to a beer tasting, but I was excited about Game of Thrones. Suprisingly, this was the first beer that I’ve ever tried that was almost enjoyable. It’s got a much lighter flavor, so it’s not as intense as some of the other beers I’ve tried, but not watered down, either. To me, it tastes almost summery. Is it delicious? No. Is it tolerable for getting drunk on beer? Yes. Of all the beers, this is the one I’d purchase again. The only downside is it’s hard to pronounce.
Tushar – Beer Journeyman
Delicious. Straight up and down. Fire and Blood is advertised as a Dubbel, which is a Trappist style ale known for being a bit on the heavier side with fruit flavors. For those of you who beer regularly in more of a crafty way, this would be close in style to those chalices of Chimay Red you enjoy so much. I found Valar Morghulis to be more flavorful than other dubbels I’ve had, with strong notes of cherries and other dark fruits, and it was surprisingly easy going down. Even pouring it slow gave it a head of foam in my glass that stayed through the entire drink and tasted only moderately carbonated. It’s a delicious brew, but not something I could kick back and sip on bottle after bottle. So while this one isn’t something that should be the entire of a beer night, I would love to stock a few more bottles of this limited edition offering.
While the beer’s very good, not sure how the name ties into the style. Sure, valar morghulis means “all men must die” in Valyrian, but not sure of the connection of an abbey dubbel to the House of Black and White or the Faceless Men. Then again the name and style were determined by fan contest, so that’s kind of expected.
Either way, Valar Mozugis – “all men must drink.” There’s a little lesson in High Valyrian for you kids from Tushar of the House Nene, first of his name, Mayor of Brown Town and Protector of the Realm.
The newest beer in the Game of Thrones collection, Three-Eyed Raven is a Dark Saison ale, a hybrid style. It is almost black in color, this brew is yeasty, peppery, and crisp.
Mia – Beer Newbie
This is not a beer for a beer newbie. Three-Eyed Raven is VERY dark, bitter, and heavy. For me, it left a beery aftertaste that was bitter and unpleasant. Unlike the other two beers, I couldn’t discern any deeper flavor other than bitter beer. (Bitter like Bran? Who knows.) It tasted awful to me, but hey, I’m the Jon Snow of beer, so what do I know? Both me and my drinking partner couldn’t finish this beer.
Tushar – Beer Journeyman
Like Mia said, this isn’t a beer someone just starting out in their beer journey should take their opening sips with. Pouring dark like the wings of the raven itself, this beer does have some sweetness to it that can get lost in what some could consider a bitter finish. I didn’t experience the extreme bitterness Mia did – I found the hoppiness and spices characteristic of a Saison, even though those flavors were toned down a bit here. At the same time it did not have the heaviness that comes with a dark beer like Ommegang’s Game of Thrones beer #2, Take the Black Stout.
Three-Eyed Raven is a dark saison ale, which actually I don’t think I’ve ever tried before. Generally the saisons I’ve had (also called farmhouse ales) have been much lighter in color, hoppy and spicy with a good bit of carbonation. Take a look at Ommegang’s own Hennepin as an example – it’s light with citrus and spice flavors. So what’s the deal with this one? Ommegang’s Mike McManus answers that one: “When we zeroed in on Bran’s storyline with HBO, we knew this was the perfect opportunity to brew something with many different characteristics and attributes – a beer that’s not truly one thing or another. It is definitely the most unique beer in the series to date, which is very exciting.”
He went on to say more on how it associates to Bran – “We’re certain those fans will be just as surprised by the complexity of Three-Eyed Raven as they were by Bran’s discovery at the end of season four.” OK, Mike, we see where you’re going here. You could say it’s a… Stark… departure from the first four brews. Maybe with a dual personality between dark and saison like the old man and the raven?
Mia Moore / Tushar Nene
@xoMiaMoore / @tusharnene
On the heels of the “just okay” premiere episode of Game of Thrones, we were gifted a wonderful second episode ripe with character development even as the realm threatens war at every turn. From this point forward there may some spoilers, so please read at your own risk!
Right away we are taken to the Free City of Braavos, complete with towering Titan statue, and our favorite wayward Stark orphan brought to the steps of the House of Black and White where she is promptly turned away (Kindly Man, my ASS!). Arya must make her way in the strange city with no friends, no money, and nothing to keep her company, save for the grim prayer she whispered to herself every night. She knows she has no choice but to make this work, and after a brief encounter with thugs in an alleyway, she is whisked off to the House by a familiar “face.” Will she find safety in future episodes?
To the north, in the city of Meereen, Daario lead a small group of Unsullied to find a hidden outpost of the Sons of the Harpy, and after a rousing (yawn) speech about fear, one guy is found hidden in the walls. Daenerys’s council discussed what to do with the Son, and opinions differed on how best to deal with the traitor. Barristan lingered behind to warn Dany about showing crazy displays of power, and she heeds him…for now. Her already fragile grip on the city as she decided on her courses of action reached a head, as her prisoner is executed out of loyalty without her consent. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Dany has impossible decisions to make, and the ominous hiss of the freed men and women of Meereen left us all wondering what’s to come for our dragon queen.
Tyrion’s journey to Meereen is devoid of his fascination with the history of Essos as we see in book, and we instead get a rambling sort of conversation from Varys about Tyrion’s purpose and colorful symbolism about boxes. Insert witty dry remarks from Varys about the amount Tyrion has been drinking, and that’s literally all we have to go on this week for this odd couple.
Back across the sea in King’s Landing, Cersei started to unravel as she received a gift from Dorne: a snake with teeth bared, and a one of a kind necklace belonging to Myrcella dangling from its fangs. Her biting tongue wounds the only person willing to listen to her, and so Jaime vows to travel South to Dorne to bring Myrcella back, and enlists Bronn for help. Her paranoia disappears into a cold, condescending demeanor at a meeting of King Tommen’s small council and she names creepy Maester Qyburn as new Master of Whispers in Varys’ absence in the name of the King. Tired of her imperious attitude and lack of good direction for the realm, Kevan Lannister spurns Cersei in front of the others after he is not granted position of Hand (a title she took as well as being Queen Regent).
Tensions also rise in the royal court of Dorne as a vengeful Ellaria, paramour of Oberyn, exchanged heated words with Prince Doran Martell about a course of action following Oberyn’s death. She mentions the country wants war and action, and the Sand Snakes stand with them, but Doran recommends restraint much to her anger.
In one of the bigger deviations from the books, Brienne and Pod encountered Petyr Baelish and Sansa Stark in an inn. Brienne confronted the two, exchanging a quick banter with Baelish after swearing fealty to Sansa, who will not have her in her service. Needless to say, Petyr expertly delivered a veiled threat, and Brienne fled at the first opening with Pod right at her horse’s hooves, and her eyes staring after Sansa Stark. They watch Baelish and Sansa ride West, their destination still unknown.
At the Wall, Stannis tempts Jon with legitimacy and the official surname of Stark if he would bend the knee to him as the true king, and hand him the loyalty of the North. It’s all Jon has ever wanted…before he swore the vows of the Night’s Watch. What’s a bastard to do?! The rest of the Wall is preoccupied with the election of the newest Lord Commander and the choice seems clear, until Samwell Tarly nominates Lord Snow. His character shines here as he vouched for the character of one befitting of the title, no matter how young Jon Snow might be, and no matter how many enemies that would make for the young man.
Tons still awaits us this season, and we are practically beside ourselves with the angst of waiting since we are playing the good game and watching weekly with the masses!!