Time heals all wounds, even when it comes to Game of Thrones’ divisive series finale, the infamous episode that shook the foundations of pop culture. Fans seeking a greater sense of closure than the show offered will likely have to wait quite a while before George R.R. Martin delivers The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.
To tide us over until then, Behaviour Interactive (Dead by Daylight), GAEA, and HBO offer Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall, a collectible turn-based strategy RPG or iOS and Android that takes place decades before A Song of Ice and Fire—just after the disappearance of Bloodraven, a Targaryen who served as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch—and sees you taking command of one of the order’s castles. What dangers lie beyond your castle remain to be seen, but judging from some early screenshots of the game, you may indeed encounter some White Walkers.
The game’s story is original, though players will be able to visit key moments in Game of Thrones history through the power of the Westwood Trees, which will unlock popular characters and events from the show. Returning characters include Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Jaime Lannister, Melisandre, and Tormund Giantsbane.
We chatted via email with the game’s creative director, Justin Jones, about what fans can expect from this all-new Westerosi adventure:
Den of Geek: What sets Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall apart from other collectible strategy games?
Justin Jones: There are certain staples in collectible strategy games that we wanted to honor, but more important was to find the perfect marriage of game design and brand immersion. We went into this endeavor as both massive Game of Thrones fans and longtime strategy players, so the overall player experience was designed through that lens. We believe the many decisions – large and small – that this perspective affected throughout the game’s development will make it unique.
More specifically, we have a lot for players to do with their units right out of the gates at launch – both in terms of game modes and ways to customize and upgrade. So there is a rich metagame ready to be discovered on Day 1.
To learn more about each individual component and why we selected it to be a part of our PC, keep an eye on our monthly PC Building Guide series.
The overarching story about Bloodraven’s disappearance is another very unique element. Of course, many games have stories, but we made ours a central focus in the player experience and not primarily a way to deliver tutorial text, for example. It intentionally has a darker tone than you would typically see on mobile to fully embrace the setting.
Last, we love tactics games so the idea of playing with Game of Thrones heroes in PvP and Night’s Watch units in adventures beyond the Wall just sounded like a dream. We let our love for old-school pen and paper RPGs influence us, but in a way that’s reimagined to easily play on mobile devices several times a day.
How narrative-heavy is the game?
There is quite a bit of story in the game with new characters and a campaign that takes you all over iconic locations beyond the Wall. We also consider live events as opportunities to tell stories.
We understand this is a mobile game and that the way players consume story is different. So we streamlined the experience of being told the story in a lot of ways. For example, you can always skip and then replay cutscenes from a Codex, and we keep the dialogue out of battle.
How much (if at all) will you be expanding GoT lore?
When I sat down to write the story, the goal was to explore the mystery around the disappearance of one of Game of Thrones‘ most fascinating characters – Bloodraven. And because he was last seen ranging beyond the Wall, that opened up an opportunity to also further explore those elements of weirwoods, ravens, ancient magic, darkness, etc. As far as that expanding Game of Thrones lore, you will just have to wait and see where the story goes!
Will references to the show be abundant or will the story focus more on the pre-series time period?
We chose the time and setting that we did to make our game world something new to explore, but also familiar enough that it still resembled the Game of Thrones story [fans] already know very well. For example, in our story, many of the houses in power are the same but the Targaryens are still on the Iron Throne.
References to the show are not abundant, but there are plenty of homages. Overall, we wanted our game to focus on the pre-series time period first and foremost, with a specific tie-in only if it was meaningful.
Will the game focus more on PvE or PvP?
Not to dodge the question, but honestly both. There are a number of unique PvE modes and quests to grind for loot in, and then a robust PvP mode to try your hand against other players. On top of all that, there are challenging live events to bring your best squads into and collect new heroes from.
Talk more about the time-travel interface and what it entails.
The ancient magic of the weirwood trees allows those gifted with the ability to use it, the power of seeing both past and future. The game’s story and characters give the full context for how that works so I can’t reveal that, but we’re very excited about what famous battles this could mean for our live ops roadmap.
What would you like fans of the show to know going into Beyond the Wall?
That we love the world of Game of Thrones, we love strategy and RPGs, and we believe our game is something innovative for people who like any of the above. That we’ve designed the game to be easy to learn, but hard to master so that any fan of any skill level can play. That we put a lot of craft (and a few riddles) into the mystery of Bloodraven’s disappearance. That we worked hard to make this game look and feel like an authentic Night’s Watch experience set beyond the Wall. And that we want this game to earn its spot as the fan’s daily touchpoint with their favorite fantasy universe.
Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall is coming to iOS and Android later this year.
Bernard Boo is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.