It’s fair to say that the end of Game of Thrones left a sour taste in people’s mouths, myself included. But my appetite for more tales from Westeros and the world of Ice and Fire was stoked again with the rather good House of the Dragon. But that series is over and I’ve got a Drogon-sized hole to fill.
Gaming usually does a good job of offering some form of tie-in to pull one’s attention (for example, Marvel Snap popped up as phase four of the MCU came to a close. Yet, while there are plenty of Game of Thrones games out there, not many have grabbed my attention or critical acclaim — particularly when it comes to mobile games. But Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows on Apple Arcade bucks that trend in an oh-so stylish way.
Created by That Silly Studio and published by indie game darling Devolver Digital, Tale of Crows is an Apple Arcade exclusive that’s playable on Macs, iPhones, iPads and Apple TV. It works across these platforms, as it’s not an action-packed or movement-heavy game like some other Apple Arcade titles.
Rather, Tale of Crows is what’s commonly referred to as an ‘idle game’ in that you carry out a few tasks, then leave the game to its own devices while those objectives are completed.
In practice Tale of Crows does this by centering on Westeros’ the Wall, a giant barrier of ice and rock designed to separate the wild lands of the north from the more civilized lands of the south.
Tale of Crows' story revolves around the telling of a tale that takes place before the events of Game of Thrones, where the Wall’s guardians, the Night’s Watch, are at relatively good strength. Players assume the role of Lord Commander dealing with tasks and problems as they pop up, be it a stranger will ill tidings or a need to send rangers out beyond the Wall.
With light atmospheric music, this story is told via text prompts and quick decisions, letting your imagination fill in for the lack of cutscenes. It’s oddly engrossing as you’re forced to make tough choices where the obvious right choice is far from clear, if there at all.
That’s not to say you’ve got nothing but text to look at. Quite the opposite. Tale of Crows presents a minimal interface centered around a picture of the Wall — drawn in a scratchy fashion as if done with pencils rather than digital paint — a map, and a close up of Castle Black, the main headquarters of the Night’s Watch.
You can zoom in to peruse segments of the Wall, all while a gentle, slightly ethereal soundtrack plays, mixed in with wind sound effects and the odd cawk of a raven delivering a message.
The latter is when the action takes place in between the quiet or idle moments. When a raven arrives it brings with it new information, say a report from rangers or a request for help from neighboring castles along the Wall.
Messages from beyond the Wall are particularly neat as they will show a new picture, say of a distant part of the wilds or a rain-streaked mountain top.
These messages are both intriguing, and flesh out the world beyond Castle Black on both sides of the Wall. But they can also contain dark words, with an air of mystery and threat. And sometimes outright battle with the White Walkers.
This really sets the scene and I found myself pulled back into the land of Westeros and its northern struggles, despite the main TV series ending more than three years ago.
And the idle nature of Tale of Crows means you can easily dip in and out, whether you're on a commute or just want something to do while you sip a morning coffee. In fact, I reckon it would make a great partner to the books; send off a bunch of ravens in Tale of Crows and while you’re waiting for them to return, dig into the tales of Tyrion, Arya, Brienne, Ned, and more.
The chilled music alone makes Tale of Crows a good game to have on in the background on one’s iPhone or iPad, though it also looks great on my MacBook Air M2.
So if like me you’re after a bit of a GoT fix while waiting for George R.R. Martin to finally complete The Winds of Winter, then I compel you to give Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows a go on Apple Arcade.
If you're not a Game of Thrones fan then there are other compelling Apple Arcade exclusives, such as the weapon-grade nostalgia hit that's Lego Builders Journey, and Bleak Sword — a low-fi pseudo Dark Souls game that'll suck you in with just a few swipes.