A Game of Thrones: Episode 1 "Iron from Ice"
After the success of The Walking Dead
and The Wolf Among Us
, Telltale Games takes on George R. R. Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire
, better known to HBO fans as A Game of Thrones
. The result, an amazing and thought-provoking first-installment that will have gamers truly invested in every decision they make.
The story takes place during the events of ‘The Red Wedding’ and the aftermath that ensues. Breaking away from the traditional model of playing as a single character throughout the series, Telltale Games presents gamers with the opportunity to play a number of different characters tied to House Forrester, a family loyal to House Stark. In Episode 1, you have the ability to play three different characters: Gared Tuttle, a squire for Lord Forrester; Ethan Forrester, Lord Forrester’s third-born son; and Mira Forrester, Lord Forrester’s eldest daughter. The ability to play different characters is a great decision on Telltale’s part, as the different points of view match perfectly with the style of Martin’s books, and allows the gamer to truly see how their actions are impacting other characters in varying locations. The supporting cast is brilliant, with a number of well-known characters making an appearance during the episode, and newcomers carving out their place in the world.
Unlike The Walking Dead,
which does a better job of blending dialog with analog movements, A Game of Thrones
focuses heavily on timed dialog decisions throughout the game; where every choice made has a serious consequence. The first sub-chapter provides the most situations where the gamer will be forced to make quick movements with the analog stick to either dodge or duck, instead of being killed by one of the numerous swordsmen sworn to bring an end to House Stark, and all those who support them. In the end, it is not a bad change because fans will know that dialog is a huge component of the series. Furthermore, the fact that decisions must be made in a certain amount of time adds pressure to each decision. The game is designed to make it more strenuous selecting a dialog decision, that will impact the rest of the game, then pushing down on the analog stick to avoid a sword swinging at your head. And that’s where the beauty of Telltale Games’ design comes to the forefront in A Game of Thrones
Like the series itself, the game is bloody and gut-wrenching. It can be hard to become invested in your character for fear of their potential demise, yet it’s almost impossible not to love or hate other characters based on their words and actions. Telltale does a wonderful job keeping true to Martin’s overall theme and tone, which leaves the gamer wondering if any sentence could be their last. As Cersei famously said, “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.” Character development is again at the forefront of Telltale’s agenda, and the diverse characters you’ll play and interact with provide the game its depth and direction. Every character, no matter how small on the grand scale, is involved in the story in an important way; something very few games effectively accomplish. Lastly, there are four save slots, allowing the gamer to choose vastly different directions during the series to fully experience all the game has to offer.
Graphically, the game looks like any other Telltale game, which of course isn’t the reason you play. The characters resemble the same oil-painting style seen in their previous games, which provides just enough life to the character without focusing solely on the graphics. On the contrary, the backdrops are gorgeous and bring to life new areas of Westero’s the HBO series hasn’t introduced. The first time you see Ironrath, you’ll be in awe of the Forrester’s home built amongst the rocks and trees found in Wolfswood.
Understanding that the world of Westeros is a dreary place, a lot of the sequences favor a dark atmosphere to go along with the mood of the dialog. Low-lit interior halls, shaded groves within the forest, and sequences set at night place a dark ambience over the game. However, Telltale does an excellent job of staying true to visuals fans are familiar with when switching between set locations, and a prime example is the switch between the dark halls in Ironrath to the brightly lit room in Kings Landing where Mira talks to Margaery about her family’s predicament.
The place A Game of Thrones
truly shines is in the voice acting; with the actors from the show providing the voice talent for their characters. Whether it’s being questioned by Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) about your loyalty to the crown, or tested by Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon), hearing familiar voices truly bring the characters to life within the game. Fans of the series will no doubt smile the first time Tyrion Lannister, voiced by fan-favorite Peter Dinklage, makes a witty remark about his sister Cersei. It’s this level of detail and devotion to the series that truly separates A Game of Thrones
from Telltale’s previous games, and makes the dialog focused game feel more appropriate. The ambient noise found throughout the episode also adds credibility to the locations, and provides additional tension to the gamer’s experience.
There are a few minor issues, to include voices not synching properly during a dialog segment; the occasional jarring of a character when the camera moves; and your action on the analog controller not being recognized, resulting in your death. However, these issues are insignificant compared to the amount of things Telltale gets right throughout the game.
Overall, the game is a great start to the series. For fans of the series, the game is a must; especially with the long waiting period between seasons’ on HBO. For people who aren’t fans of the series, the game is still great; providing a deep, rich, and emotionally driven story that will suck you in from the start.