written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Another ambitious move from the folks over at Telltale Games, taking a much beloved HBO series and expanding on it in the best way they know how. Set during the time right at the end of the third season of the HBO series and set to last up until right where the fifth season starts.
In the first of six episodes, "Iron from Ice" sees the player controlling members of House Forrester, Stark bannermen. The episode starts during the events of the Red Wedding... spoilers... people die, so for folks who are fans of the HBO series you can expect much death and disorder in the coming moments.
Gameplay is largely like any other Telltale game, you can expect the words you say or the alliances you make to have deep repercussions for the oncoming narrative. Most events are dialog based but some do have a more action oriented approach. At times the character is forced to act quickly by means of quicktime events, failing some causes the game to just reload at an earlier checkpoint... others can have more lasting results.
Visually, the game takes an almost euphoric graphic style. Everything looked like a beautiful painting and even the more recognizable characters were given something of a new life in the game's visual style. Frame rate stayed constant and even during some of the more action oriented scenes, everything ran silky smooth.
As far as the story goes, much like the show, the narrative sees the player controlling different people during the duration of the episode. It's been confirmed that you will be controlling one of five members of House Forrester, the first episode sees the player controlling three of the five: Gared Tuttle... squire to Lord Forrester, Ethan Forrester... a young boy forced to grow up as the new head of their house, and Mira Forrester... handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell. After events following the Red Wedding, House Forrester faces a dire situation with the impending arrival of Ramsay Snow and possibility of losing control of their ironwood forest.
A battle fought on multiple fronts, much of the story has the player assuming the role of both Ethan and Mira, Ethan has to become the leader of his House while facing a crisis to family... and Mira tries effortlessly to enlist the aid of Margaery Tyrell for the sake of her family. I won't spoil it too much for you... but in true Game of Thrones fashion, you don't want to get too attached to any of the characters, like reading the books or watching the show... if you are a fan you know that no one is safe.
Some cameos from the show's cast make their appearance as well, with mainstays like Cersei Lannister and Tyrion Lannister (voiced by their respective actors from the show) along with both Margaery Tyrell and Ramsay Snow acting as major supporting cast members to the game's original cast.
This first episode didn't feel like, as a player, I was succeeding in any way shape or form, tragedy stalks every moment of this first episode. It's like you don't "win" you just "lose" a little bit less. This isn't a bad thing mind you, every moment left me at the edge of my seat. Personally, I can't wait for the next episode to drop... here's to looking forward to more death and despair... and how lovely it is.
I was stressed damn near every minute playing this, what a way for this first episode to launch. While slightly hard to follow all the action, this was a largely satisfying way to launch an ambitious series.
+ Gripping story
+ Gorgeous visuals
+ Amazing cast of characters
- so much happens this episode it was hard to follow at times
Story 4.5: Everything flows well, though hard to follow at times... it does manage to make this large cast of characters fit right at home with the established cast of the show.
Graphics 4.5: Beautiful visuals make for a gripping take on the first episode
Audio 4.5: Music and sounds are distinctly Game of Thrones!
Level Design 5: Point and click adventure games lead a very straight forward take on the world, which makes it hard to feel open. Every locale feels wide but easily navigatable.
Polish 5: This fits right at home with the HBO series...
Controls 5: From walking to selecting objects, everything controls well. If it ain’t broke…
Overall Gameplay 5: Easy to navigate, can’t ask for much more
Extras 5: Cameos from established characters bring a smile to my face. Getting the cast from the show is an even greater accomplishment.