When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. The show and the book make that abundantly clear. Seeing or reading how it all goes down is stressful enough – but when it’s suddenly on you to make the decisions that could destroy everything you hold dear? That’s a whole new kind of anxiety introduced into George R.R. Martin’s saga, and that’s what you get with Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron from Ice. It is an engaging debut that puts you in the hot seat. You can say all the right things and still have everything go very, very wrong, your fate changing irreparably because of someone’s malicious whim. It makes for a faithful adaptation of the source material and one Game of Thrones fans should enjoy.
Telltale’s Game of Thrones absolutely assumes that you are not only familiar with the show (or the books, though the game is based more on the world created by the show, using voices and likenesses of the cast) but also fairly up to date. Without too many spoilers, the game begins, and Joffrey isn’t married yet. However, Robb Stark is, and if you don’t understand the significance of either event, then you’ll be pretty lost during most of what happens in the episode.
The game makes no effort to explain to newcomers what a Maester or Septa is, why cozying up to Tyrion Lannister is not without its complications, or why it would be bad to be brother and sister the way Jamie and Cersei are. There is a codex in the game menu, but all it does is give you background on some of the key players that you come across.
The game follows the story of House Forrester and takes place during the same time as the 4th season of the HBO show. The House Forrester are a clan of Stark bannermen fighting to protect themselves from encroaching enemies after the fall of Winterfell. The player takes up the roles of three members of the house throughout the course of the game, and the narrative jumps back and forth between them – the eldest daughter Mira, third son Ethan and squire Gared Tuttle. Having access to three different perspectives helps to strengthen the game’s narrative. The story of the Forresters is woven into the tapestry of Westeros elegantly and sensibly, each character helping to communicate the wide array of influences that are at play.
Telltale is no stranger to taking an established franchise and adapting it into an adventure game. Their recent releases, The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us have proven that they can craft a gripping and immersive experience. While this game does feature brief sections of point-and-click adventuring and a few quick-time-events, these sequences do not really add much to the game. In each sub-chapter the bulk of the action takes place during the conversations, in a style that Telltale has perfected. The conversation sequences are timed and demand you quickly weigh your goals with the words your conversational partner wants to hear.
Almost every character you encounter and have a conversation with will remember what you said and how you treated them and could be waiting to pay you back in one way or another, either in this episode or in upcoming ones (more on that later). It’s this uncertainty about the consequences of your dialogue choices that add to the tension as you play.
It should be noted that this is just episode one of six so the experience is not one that could be considered stand alone. In order to experience the entire story arc a player will have to buy the upcoming episodes. Think of this less as a game with many upcoming sequels but more as one game sold in pieces. Telltale has had success with this episodic model in the past and it seems as though they will continue with it for the foreseeable future.
Everything you feel while watching the show or reading the book you will feel even more acutely as you play Iron from Ice because this time you’re not a spectator, you’re a participant. Telltale does an amazing job of immersing you in the machinations, intrigue and violence that are a hallmark of the franchise. Of course, this is also what many players will find appealing: the chance to finally test your mettle and force your will upon a familiar world where winter is coming.
Is it Hardcore?
Oh yes, very...
An enthralling first episode made specifically for Game of Thrones fans.