It’s no secret that Game of Thrones is, by far, HBO’s hottest property right now. Based on the still unfinished novels in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series by George R.R. Martin, each episode in the HBO series seems to steadily raise the stakes and become more captivating than the last. Telltale has been doing the same thing as of late, and this has been especially true with the critically acclaimed The Walking Dead games. So as they put out success after success, how can Game of Thrones fail?
What Is It?
Game of Thrones, Episode 1: Iron from Ice is Telltale’s attempt at bringing their tried-and-true point-and-click method of storytelling to the land of Westeros. In fact, the game’s chapters actually act as a companion piece to both the HBO series and the books, so the game is definitely better suited for fans of the series.
Iron from Ice begins during the events toward the end of the third book and third season of Game of Thrones. So if you haven’t read A Storm of Swords or aren’t at least caught up to the beginning of the fourth season of the TV show, you’ve been warned.
The episode follows House Forrester, a noble family residing in the north of Westeros, seated in Ironrath–settlement nowhere near the status of King’s Landing, but is essential for the land’s defenses.
Why Should I Care?
Beyond its inaccessibility to newcomers, followers of the series should feel right at home with Telltale’s style of storytelling. The game emulates the format of both the books and TV show by moving the plot by following different characters, but before going over that, it’s necessary to know just a little bit more about the issues facing Westeros and House Forrester:
House Forrester is a house barely hinted at in the Song of Ice and Fire lore, but their presence is of utmost importance. Ironrath and House Forrester are second to none when it comes to the craftsmanship of their ironwood, the ideal wood when it comes to creating shields and other defensive equipment. Among their biggest supporters was House Stark, well regarded among the north, but because of the wrongful and public execution of Ned Stark, House Stark’s prestige is at a downward point, leaving House Forrester at the lower end of the food chain and is on the cutting block for rival houses in the region.
First, we’re introduced to Gared Tuttle, a squire to House Forrester, in the midst of the Red Wedding. The Red Wedding marked the deaths of several members of his family, turning Tuttle into sort of a wounded warrior without a warrior’s skill, half seeking revenge and the other attempting to continue to be a noble for House Forrester. His role in the story seems to be that of an escaped convict whom we think is a good guy–kind of like Jon Snow.
Another character we take control of is Ethan Forrester, a youth forced to take over the seat of Ironrath after the events of the Red Wedding. His role is that of a leader with no military sense or experience when it comes to leadership sensibility, as the biggest task he’s faced with in the episode is to choose a Sentinel, or second–hand to his seat.
The last character we’re given control of is Ethan’s older sister Mira Forrester, who resides in King’s Landing, ruled by the young King Joffrey of House Baratheon–or so he thinks. As a handmaiden to Lady Margaery of House Tyrell, who is to be wed to King Joffrey, Mira is relied upon by her house to gain sympathy from the royal family in hopes of keeping the house safe.
The three characters we’re given control of have very different roles in the story that put the player in an unenviable position of choosing how the story progresses. Unfortunately, similar to other early chapters in the other popular Telltale games, there’s really no controlling the conclusion of the chapter. This isn’t surprising, considering Telltale has mastered the act of making players think they have control of the plot when they really don’t.
The rough part is that throughout most of the game, you really won’t know what to say or do as any character. There’s no right or wrong answer to anything, but even randomly choosing a response or action could lead to a response that still makes the player feel bad. Like the series insists, as important as it is to win wars in Westeros, politics is really what rules the land.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Though the lack of true control can be looked at as a negative, this combined with the episode’s shocking conclusion very accurately portray what Game of Thrones is all about, and that’s what makes it such a pleasurable experience.
As an avid fan of the TV show, I do have to admit that it took me more than a few episodes to really get into the series. This is because of the fact that it throws so many characters, names, places, and issues at you that it really becomes overwhelming–and then, all of a sudden, they throw in a gruesome death or sex scene to regain viewer attention. Though Iron From Ice doesn’t feature any brothel activity (yet), players should definitely know that there will be a fair share of scenes that aren’t for the squeamish. The game tries to alleviate confusion by giving access to an in-game Codex which explains who everybody is and what they’re all about. I didn’t see it at first, but I thought of it as a godsend when I actually came across it, and this was after my first playthrough.
That being said, the game itself looks decent. Considering this is the first time Telltale has come out with an episodic series with the PS4 and Xbox One at the forefront of development, this comes as no surprise, but that still doesn’t mean the visuals came polished. The art style in Game of Thrones is comparable to that of a renaissance oil painting, which definitely has its differences from the art style seen in graphic novels as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The problem is you don’t expect a focal point in an oil painting to move. There’s a lot of that in the game, and as a result you’ll see a lot of specks fly around moving characters in the game, and it doesn’t at all look intentional.
Issues with the art style aside, the episode is well written, and the fact that Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage (who play Cersei and Tyrion Lannister in the HBO series) have lent their voices for their characters really adds to the authenticity of the overall presentation. In fact, the scenes featuring the Lannisters and Ramsay Snow alone are really what make the game worth playing for fans of the series.
But is it worth the $6? At this point in time, I can’t say that it is. Again, while it has as authentic a presentation as Game of Thrones can give, especially since it comes equipped with the HBO series’ intro and theme, the fact that it’s inaccessible to newcomers makes me wary.
Telltale’s Back to the Future made me want to go back and re-watch the movie trilogy.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead made me a fan of the AMC TV show.
Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us was just good despite not really knowing anything about the comic book.
Telltale’s Game of Thrones is not going to get you at all interested in the book or TV series.
That being said, it also isn’t uncommon for Telltale to make the first episode of their episodic games available free either. Again, the episode is quite the experience, and I expect the rest of the game to be just as great, but this is $6 that only the most dedicated fans of series will or should spend.