Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, Episode 1: 'Iron From Ice'
Review by Seth Robison
Rama Rating 9 out of 10
Have you ever watched HBO's adaption of the George R. R. Martin fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire known as Game of Thrones and thought that you could hold your own in the kind of jousting matches that have nothing to do with horses? Think you can successfully jab and parry with your words in a kind of combat that is just as deadly as if you were using blades? Well, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, Episode 1: 'Iron From Ice' is here to dissuade you of that notion with an introductory experience that is humbling, brutal and completely riveting.
Literally taking a single page out of one of Martin's tomes, Telltale features the canon House Forrester, an ancient vassal loyal to the Stark family in the expansive North of Westeros, filling it out with it's own cast of characters, and immediately imperils them by making them active, but background, participants in the events of the third and fourth seasons of the TV show. Needless to say, a viewing of the show is a prerequisite for fully enjoying the game. In a slight, but tonally perfect, departure from the past Telltale interactive story formula, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series splits the game's perspective between three player characters and swaps back and forth between them as if the POV style of books were translated into the televised version (there will be other playable characters in future episodes as well).
In each sub-chapter the bulk of the action is conversational in nature, in the style that Telltale has perfected. The timed conversation sequences demand you quickly weigh your goals with the words your conversational partner wants to hear, knowing that somewhere in the game's code those characters are remembering how you are treating them and could be waiting to pay you back in one way or the other.
Nowhere is this better illustrated then in a lengthy sequence where you must attempt to petition Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (who, like all of the TV show's stars appearing in the game is voiced by the original actor, Lena Headey) for help as a member of a family who was hostile to the Lannister's ambitions. To make matters more complex, you’re also in the presence of not only Cersei antagonist Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), of whom you are a faithful handmaiden to, but also Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister of whom your plight is good humor to use to annoy his elder sister. The conversation, held in the shadow of the Iron Throne, is as engrossing as any moment from the show or in any game in recent memory.
The actors' performances are solid, the clear upturn in Dinklage's work here rather than in other recent games is a testament to the quality of the material and the depth of his character. Visually the game adapts a 'painted' style rated then going to a straight TV-style visual representation. Overall, it was a smooth and attractive choice, though some of the faces/bodies, animations, and crowded backgrounds suffer.
While the game does feature a scant amount of point-and-click adventuring and a few wonky QTEs to do some world-building and to remind you that you are in a dangerous medieval world, these sequences add little overall experience, the critical action again seems to take place solely within the conversations. If the game so far suffers from anything, it is the amount of unpacking it has to do to set up this new corner of Westeros and it's demographically Stark-like family of noble men, women and children as they hope to survive a critical downturn in their fortunes. It also has to manage the feeling that you get that the two-hour experience is just arranging pieces on the board for a game (if you will) that won't play-out for months.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, Episode 1: 'Iron From Ice', out now as a digital download for PC/Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and iOS, is more than the best way get your Thrones-style fix of violence, dark humor and dramatic gut-punches before the new season. It delivers a more universal experience rarely found in games: a tense exploration of a family in crisis caught between their honor and forces they can't control.