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Game of Thrones: Iron From Ice Review
Vicious, merciless, and relentless – obvious ways to describe George R. R. Martin’s fictional world of Westeros, where betrayal is as common as poor plumbing. HBO’s own take on Martin’s novels has found immense success mainly due to show runners D.B. Weiss’ and David Benioff’s prodigious effort to remain as close to the source material as possible. Developer Telltale Games, more famously known for the, arguably, equally callous The Walking Dead game series cleverly follows in the same footsteps. Its video game adaptation of Game of Thrones retains the same brutality and political drama that the public have swooned over for in the past four years, but this time we get to make those tough decisions.
The first episode in six, titled Iron from Ice, does what a pilot should do: introduce original characters while setting the tone for what follows. In Telltale’s series House Forrester takes center stage, located in the Northern region of Westeros, whose loyalty lies with the Starks. A fair bit of warning first, as the game is for existing fans of the show in that it requires knowledge of the complex story; anyone that hasn’t seen seasons three and four should look elsewhere for their introduction to this world. Though this shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a negative, as this allows for more immediate and satisfying storytelling for fans of the source material and for Telltale to deliver.
Unlike Telltale’s past games, where you assume the role of one specific character, this series mimics the structure of the TV show (and books) by jumping between three main leads, which are all varied by their social status. You have squire to Lord Forrester Garred Tuttle, new lord of Ironrath and the Forrester family Ethan Forrester, and handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell in King’s Landing and the older sister to Ethan, Mira Forrester. By having three equally interesting characters to follow, I always found myself in uniquely tense situations and choices to make.
Garred’s scenes are action heavy and simple at heart filled with your usual Quick Time Events, which aren’t challenging; whilst both Ethan and Mira are always responsible with making important decisions that directly impact what follows next in the story. Garred immediately stood out to me as the most relatable one due to him being a squire, and his one stand out moment stems directly from an aftermath of an earlier action sequence. Mira’s story solely takes place in King’s Landing, where she’s tasked with gaining help from Margaery Tyrell and fending off any doubts malignantly thrown at her about her loyalty from Queen Cersei.
It’s in Mira’s narrative thread where you’ll get to interact with characters from the show like Margaery and Cersei, with fan favorite Tyrion here as well. They, surprisingly, play a pivotal role in the original story arch that Telltale concocted, and all three have memorable moments with Mira. It was encouraging to see that someone like Tyrion wasn’t included in the game simply because of his popularity, and that there’s more depth involved with his inclusion to this story. Though, since we all know where each character will end up, it’ll be interesting to see just how consequential your choices made with them will be.
With Ethan I had to make the most searing and inedible decisions and rightfully so, as you get to role play as a lord with him and that carries with it a heavy burden of responsibility. Deciding who to name my sentinel (right hand man) is a prime example, as this particular decision will have the most profound impact on the narrative going forward.
The pacing is rather impressive considering the fact that this is the first time Telltale opted to tell its story this way. All three stories complement each other splendidly, as all three leads want to help and preserve House Forrester in their own way. Furthermore, the voice acting retains the same sublime quality we’ve come to known from Telltale, with actual actors from the show excellently voicing their characters. The game also sports an art nouveau aesthetic, with character models and settings looking like paintings coming to life.
This helps give off a cordial effect with the character models looking mostly impressive – the likeness from the TV characters is on an excellent standard. However, this doesn’t carry over to the environments as they mostly feel humdrum. Strangely the settings that look the most dull are the ones from the show, and that might be down to the fact that we’ve already been severely exposed to them for four seasons.
Unfortunately, “Iron from Ice” is also marred by your usual standard of glitches found in most Telltale games. There aren’t as many here though, as I only encountered a few texture pop-ins and frame rate drops here and there. But on a positive note, the game does open with the same title sequence as the show: fully recreated for the game.
Telltale Games has had an impressive year, and they capped it off with a fine pilot for their own take on Game of Thrones. Though I suspect there are more stimulating times ahead for me in this series, Iron from Ice expertly captures the show – from the pacing and characters, all the way down to a heart-wrenching ending that we’ve come to suspect, and love from the TV series. It’s an impressively fastidious effort on Telltale’s part, and I’m anxious to see where they take me next.