Game of Thrones: Episode 1 – Iron From Ice Review

Having read over 5,000 pages of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, I have been left with a huge amount of respect for both the books and the TV show. They are able to incorporate multiple narrative threads, horrifying deaths, deep and detailed lore, constantly-developing characters and a setting that is both beautiful as well as harrowing, into a tale of war, family and honour. Telltale’s Game of Thrones has succeeded in capturing the essence of this world perfectly, brilliantly beginning an adventure that has me thirsting for more.

Similarly to Telltale’s other efforts, Back to the Future and The Walking Dead to name but a few, Game of Thrones is a point-and-click adventure game that focuses heavily on choosing dialogue options and making choices that will affect the outcome of your own story; various threads are weaved to craft events to your liking. Stages may be confined, but exploring them is also encouraged, as it allows you to delve further into the richness of the Seven Kingdoms.

You begin the first episode at The Twins, during the events of The Red Wedding (fans of the show or the books will know exactly what this is, and will wish that they didn’t) and follow the members of House Forrester as they attempt to protect their family from the oncoming onslaught brought on by the War of the Five Kings. This house and its supporters has a host of interesting and likeable characters, but at times it does feel as though they are being represented as a bunch of mini-Starks; the sternly fair father, the reluctant wife, the daughter at court and the far-away son are all present entities. As it stands in this first episode, their similarities hold them back from being wholly original.

Three of the Forrester clan are playable characters; their stories are interspersed with one another, and take place in various locations throughout Westeros. Gared Tuttle is a squire left searching for justice and revenge; Ethan Forrester is forced into a difficult position of power that he is ill-equipped to handle; and Mira Forrester is an elder daughter struggling to appease her royal hosts as she deals with life at Court.

The first two of these threads are great, and I love the characters within them, but I feel that Mira’s sections are less interesting; that they are basically conduits to push in well-known figures such as Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister. However, I remain optimistic and am hoping that this is just a taster for what is to come, and that these chapters will be further expanded on in the coming episodes. Despite my qualms, I still feel that Mira, along with Gared and Ethan, are well deserving of players’ care and attention through the choices that they have to make.

These choices are emphasised as important from the get-go, and in the true spirit of Game of Thrones, choosing poorly leads to a number of immediate and bloody deaths. Some decisions later in the episode are a bit more difficult to pin down in terms of their morality; neither seems good nor bad, leading to a general uncertainty when approaching them. This isn’t a bad thing however, as the moral greyness adds suspense; I was truly oblivious as to where certain decisions would take me.

Having said that, there are times it is obviously necessary to side with one character over another, as long and drawn-out debates are made between opposing sides. This comes across as slightly forced, and most of the time it feels like having cartoon devils and angels on your shoulders, squabbling over military negotiations, or whatever else takes their fancy.

Decisions here rely heavily on scenes of confrontation, and thankfully, Telltale is able to iron out some major game play hiccups and stutters, improving upon the fluidity of combat. With Game of Thrones, sword battles are a given, and their fast paced nature is aided superbly by the fact that it doesn’t run like trash on consoles (I’m looking at you, The Walking Dead). The combat also heightens the stress of any situation, as you’re aware that your human characters are inherently vulnerable to the bladed edge of your enemy’s weapon; you are no longer fighting decrepit zombies, or dealing out justice as an immortal werewolf.

The realism incorporated here is expertly transfers across mediums from television to video game. Not only is the game incredibly violent, but it also includes those all-too-familiar shocking moments that the series is famous for. One in particular, which I won’t spoil here, had me holding my mouth in shock; I was shaking, and could feel a tear coming on; pausing it while I calmed down was a necessary step in my recovery. This highlights the true power and emotion that this first episode holds. It reduced me to a wobbling mess, and yet I still wanted to play more.

This may have shaken me to my very core, but Iron from Ice’s deeply disturbing tone is mixed with one that is both jovial and humorous. Throughout the episode there is a hearty feeling of camaraderie amongst the northerners, and Peter Dinklage does add a touch of witty sarcasm to the proceedings in his voicing of Tyrion Lannister; a performance that makes up for any wizards that came from the moon. The visuals also perk up the game’s dire overtones, and a particularly pretty watercolour aesthetic is used to great effect.

Iron from Ice is a great beginning to a season that will undoubtedly bring more moments of horror, suspense, and intrigue. Despite some flaws, I am still thoroughly enamoured by Telltale’s ability to craft wonderful stories, with interesting characters, and tense decision-making scenarios. I hope this trends continues in Episode 2, but until then, I think that some Milk of the Poppy is absolutely necessary (to help calm my frazzled nerves).

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