Yes, I know – we’re a little late to the party in regards to Telltale’s latest licensed series. Having finally had chance to get hands-on with the first two episodes, we’re going to rectify that slacker approach and deliver a double bill of reviews, so expect the next one to be on-site in the very near future. Before we get started, I’d like to point out that my aim is to keep spoilers to a minimum at the very least, so don’t worry – you’ll be able to read our reviews and still be traumatised with maximum effect afterwards.
Telltale Games having proven their chops with gritty, engaging adventure titles over the last few years, so the excitement level for their Game of Thrones adaptation has been rather high, for me at least. The good news is that the first episode, Iron From Ice, manages to capture the essence of the HBO series (minus the sexposition and casual nudity… for now, anyway) so fans of the show should find their expectations met for the most part.
Quick overview time – players will control the fate of five characters aligned with House Forester, bannermen to the Starks and the north of Westeros. Unfortunately for them, Iron From ice begins as a certain wedding is reaching its memorable end, and it gets pretty predictably grim from there. Cue the usual combination of QTEs, timed selections of Hobson’s choice, and plenty of far-reaching consequences, as the player attempts to secure a future for the Forrester’s and their allies.
In that regard, Episode 1 does a great job in building up the tension. Even as a fan of the show, and knowing the greater events that have happened and are to come, the sense of uncertainty for these characters under my watch made each decision just as strenuous as it would be watching an episode on my TV. This is almost certainly helped by the show’s cast lending their voices to their in-game counterparts, delivering performances that aren’t phoned in (and before you ask, yes, even Peter Dinklage does a good job this time around.) More to the point, the dangerous faces that fans will recognise feel all the more intimidating when your character comes face to face with them.
Even the new characters of Gared, Mira, and (especially) Ethan feel like true citizens of Westeros, with plenty of similarities to the Starks in terms of their loyalty and love to their house. It makes them likeable and relatable, which is no doubt thanks to the fine writing and voice acting performances, but that does lead me to one of my criticisms. Some of the accents used are occasionally off the mark, both in terms of regional authenticity and the ability to hold them throughout a sentence. Yes, I’m nitpicking, but it’s something that I definitely noticed while playing.
While we are only at the start of a grander tale, it’s quite clear that the first episode is a setup for larger things, as a lot of the choices presented to the player are actually variations of the same path. That’s not to say that there aren’t important decisions to make (oh, there are some very interesting morality tests throughout, believe me) but expect the real divergence to appear in future episodes as the board is set for the greater game. Possibly of thrones.
With it being based on a live action show, the cel-shaded approach could have easily caused problems. Thankfully that is not the case, as Telltale have managed to be faithful to the visual design used on the show whilst keeping their signature style, with certain locations coming off as picturesque thanks to their artistic approach. Admittedly, the character models for established cast members such as Cersei and Tyrion are more detailed compared to those specifically created for the game, but I found any differences were easily ignored the more invested I became in the story.
Because that’s the thing – we’re all there for the story, and it’s just as well because with it being the same game engine that Telltale have used for the last few years, it means the same old issues will no doubt arise (and infact have already done so on Xbox One. *sigh*) One thing I did notice playing the PC version was that the controls came across as far more gamepad friendly than they have before, especially on the main menu. That said, if you have been able to overcome the foibles of previous Telltale games you should be fine here.
The important thing is that as a setup for the rest of the series, Iron From Ice does a fantastic job of introducing us to the plight of House Forrester, delivering tension and intrigue the HBO show is known for, and has twists and turns even at this stage. It will be interesting to see if anything meaningful will arise from the game considering how it cannot ultimately affect the greater narrative around it, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. I’m enjoying the storyline so far, and I already fear for those under my care because, as the saying goes, “you win or you die.”
- Great replication of the Game of Thrones atmosphere.
- Fantastic setup for the rest of the story.
- Great performances by the cast…
- … although the inconsistency with the accents is somewhat annoying.
- The animations are starting to look a little aged now.
The Short Version:
Despite the limitations of its aging engine, Telltale have managed to replicate the world of Westeros in its cel-shaded art style. More than that, the dangers and intrigue from Game of Thrones are there, and if Iron From Ice is any indication, we could be in for an enjoyable yet emotional charged journey to save House Forrester.