Though Apple's App Store has been in the news for all sorts of reasons lately, one of the good news stories to emerge is that Apple Arcade is still adding fun new games every month. This month, we've updated our top 25 best Apple Arcade games list with new titles such as the third game from a beloved indie team as well as a new adventure set in the world of Game of Thrones. All of this, plus our Apple Arcade Game of the month and more can be found in our latest list of the best Apple Arcade games.
Apple Arcade Game of the Month - Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows
If your most recent interactions with the Game of Thrones saga have been a disappointing HBO finale and an oft-delayed book from George R.R. Martin, you'd be forgiven for giving a stern side-eye to a new video game based on the property. Despite that, one of Apple Arcade's latest additions, Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows, deserves more than the kind of distrust the Starks have for the Lannisters. By fusing the platform's unique features with atmospheric storytelling, Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows earns the distinction of the best new Apple Arcade game this month.
The complete saga of A Song of Ice and Fire is still slowly coming together at the keyboard-averse fingers of Martin, but that's not to say he hasn't already established an entire universe of rich backstory, and Tale of Crows smartly pulls from the pre-Jon Snow saga to weave its own narrative threads of political intrigue and fantasy action.
The gameplay looks simplistic at first. As members of The Night's Watch, players take control of several characters, each with their own personality traits that directly affect the outcomes of every decision you'll make. Think of Tale of Crows as kind of like the Mass Effect 2 suicide mission told through a text adventure-strategy hybrid game, all enveloped by some idle genre mechanics which allows the story to be told on a pace you prefer.
Early moments in the story spell out the gameplay loop. From the famously formidable North Wall, you'll send characters on Expeditions which unfold in real-time, accounting for their personality. For example, you may want to send someone more diplomatic to recruit the Free Folk north of the border, but suppose it goes south and your verbose liaison is left gutted in the wilds. Instead, maybe it's the "berserker" class Night's Watchman you'd rather send, but will he be too quick to draw his blade?
Moments like these give every action consequence and combine to carve out a grander series of stories that reveal the history of the North Wall. Even from behind the monolithic ice structure, you'll make difficult decisions too, like when you come upon a mysterious figure who seems to have all manner of answers not thought held by anyone alive. Do you trust them? It's on the property's already sturdy foundation that Tale of Crows finds its footing to expand on one of literature's greatest lore bibles.
While a text adventure-strategy hybrid like Tale of Crows is already enjoyable thanks to intriguing story threads to pull, it's made better by the game's smart use of the iPhone's features. Haptic feedback gives your dialog options a literal weight to them, a finality in your choosing who to send out to likely die, at times. It teaches players to first be sure of their decisions. Some great use of audio accompanies this feature which brings the game right up to the border of an audio drama. Though dialog is never spoken, your choices still come with some audiovisual interactivity like convoys heading out of town and dramatic music which hangs on every word you choose.
The game's use of real-time questing is extremely inviting to on-the-go play. It's not a game you can binge, instead relying on idle game mechanics which continue and complete in your absence. But they also don't leave you behind, like some games do. Quests will be wrapped up while you're away from the virtual Wall, but the story stops there, waiting for you to give the figurative greenlight with your next play session. With that, you can start a work commute (if anyone still has those), play a bit of Tale of Crows, and let your missions carry on until your lunch break or the ride home.
I'm like a broken record with this, but I'm frequently impressed with how Apple Arcade has managed to rewrite the rules of mobile gaming. Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows is the latest in an already impressive lineage to do so. Whereas other games on the platform have reimagined what things like in-game item shops and artificial progress stoppers can look like in a world without ads or microtransactions, Tale of Crows' own improvements to the medium come by way of its dramatic and engrossing story which deserves, but never demands, to be a timesink.
Defending the North doesn't have to consume your life like it did so many in the book and TV series. Instead, you can push back against threats natural and fantastical while waiting at the bus stop, waiting in line, or lying in bed, and whatever your destination, the Wall will still be there in the morning.
Turn to the next page to find our rundown of the best Apple Arcade games...