Telltale’s Game Of Thrones Episode One: ‘Iron From Ice’ Review
Our house will not fall. We will be ready
It was only a matter of time before Telltale was given the reigns to the most popular television show on the planet, especially after the whirlwind success of another prized license, ‘The Walking Dead’ comic series by Robert Kirkman. The opening episode of Telltale’s Game Of Thrones ‘Iron From Ice’ is a strong start, with convincing original characters and plenty of tough decisions to ponder and be haunted by thereafter.
‘Iron From Ice’ takes place between season 3 and 4 of the television series, but later episodes have been slated to go up all the way to the beginning of the 5th season. Hence, do not approach this game as a way to introduce yourself to Game Of Thrones, it has been crafted to appeal to existing fans, one who’ll know exactly what the Red Wedding entails for instance, since the game literally begins during that fateful night.
It mimics the show with regards to its narrative structure, with the story revolving around the perspectives of multiple characters. In Telltale’s iteration, the focus is on House Forrester, longtime bannermen to House Stark, the player subsequently takes the roles of Gared Tuttle, squire to Lord Forrester, Ethan Forrester, the third-born son who must step up to rule the Forrester seat as Lord despite his tender age, and finally Mira Forrester, the eldest daughter and handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell in King’s Landing. These leads are a pure, heartwarming group that prove yet again Telltale has a deft hand in creating deep, likeable characters for the player to assume the role of.
This remains Game of Thrones however, and the episode explicitly reflects the cruel reality of the world these characters must survive in. Being good or noble doesn’t mean anything and due to the fallout of the Red Wedding, House Forrester has been brought to its knees; forcing the player to tackle some particularly tense decisions even this early on in the story. For instance, do you as Mira attempt to convince Margaery to lend aid to your house even if it puts your life and hers in jeopardy? Quite a large number of the decisions from this episode are very intriguing from the big-picture perspective, despite being the earliest in the series. There’s a nerve-wracking realisation that your decisions will ripple through to later episodes; the consequences are inevitable even if they’re often not immediate.
These decisions also benefit from the natural ‘greyness’ that accompanies the world, the definitive right and wrong doesn’t really apply here. Faced with a thief for example, you get three options, chop off his fingers as a warning to others, let him live but send him to the Wall or grant him mercy. Be too harsh could risk losing the support of the people, to show mercy could mean showing weakness. In this example, you have the opportunity to mould Ethan into a harsh or lenient lord by your choices, and none of the options are inherently right or wrong.
All the characters from the show who appear are authentically voiced by the actors themselves too including Margaery Tyrell, Queen Cersei, Tyrion Lannister, and Ramsay Snow. The art style is a bit hit and miss, the oil painting aesthetic does not translate kindly to frantic action scenes or extended character interactions; but the likenesses for the famous cast are quite well-done, Ramsey’s menacing gaze has been captured as well as Cersei’s signature sneer for instance.
The narrative framework has been intricately established in ‘Iron From Ice’, and House Forrester seems a shrewd pick to base the series on. They’re significant enough in the world to go to places or events the game wants to explore, but not important enough to be involved in the battle for the Iron Throne and interfere with the big blockbuster events from the show and books. Their tale echoes the tragedy of House Stark in key elements, familial bonds, duty and cruel fate, but it feels a lot more intimate, a desperate struggle of a family for everyday survival rather than waging an epic war. This could be criticised by some who view them more as observers rather than power-players, but the entirety of the episode communicates their position clearly and really helps to separate it from the books and show. A quiet, but furious struggle, you may not be contesting the Iron Throne, but the stakes remain as high as it gets for the players involved.
‘Iron From Ice’ is a strong start to Telltale’s foray into Game Of Thrones, the more grounded nature of its side-story stands out in a world that has previously focused on the big clashes and major players. Moreover, frequent tough decisions gets the player absorbed in House Forrester’s plight, whilst a shocking ending signs off the episode in a powerful way.
+ Strong lead characters
+ A lot of tough decisions
+ Shocking ending
-Art style is patchy with stiff animation