Telltale’s Game of Thrones epic is clearly enriched by familiarity with the franchise, in particular the HBO series. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The first chapter, Iron from Ice, opens directly on the eve of The Red Wedding and the upcoming five parts aim to span season four’s timeline. The developers have tapped into some kind of magic. Their sagas feature nearly identical gameplay mechanics, but still manage to feel simultaneously unique and accurate. Savvy direction distills the essence of every fandom they explore. And this drama-laden high medieval fantasy fits hand-in-hand with their approach to storytelling.
Telltale has not abandoned their use of original characters. After being treated to an awesome recreation of the miniature introduction, we enter the Seven Kingdoms through the eyes of the Forresters, a Northern family both loyal and similar to the Starks. The similarity is almost to a fault, and the new characters mirror their household dynamic in an almost formulaic manner. The honourable Lord Gregor and silently headstrong Lady Elissa bear a striking resemblance in both appearance and manner to Eddard and Catelyn. The eldest son, Rodrik, channels Robb’s bravery and military prowess. The eldest daughter, Mira, the newly assigned handmaiden to Maergary, is displaced among her enemies at King’s Landing, much like Sansa. Two characters somewhat represent Jon Snow, the exiled second-son Asher and squire Gared Tuttle. Young Ethan, like Bran, is left to practice hesitant and inexperienced rule over the Forrester household. His twin sister, Talia, vocally objects to the callousness that often overtakes rulers in Westeros. Granted, she’s more comparable to Sansa than Arya in her quiet actions. Ryon and Rickon are both minor enough that their sameness can be forgiven.
"Savvy direction distills the essence of every fandom they explore. And this drama-laden high medieval fantasy fits hand-in-hand with their approach to storytelling."
We’re given effortless access to a rotational plot in the exact vein as the show without resorting to playing the main characters themselves. And the solution feels slightly contrived. No, the characters themselves are not really identical, but the parallels are far too convenient. If anything, the Forresters are undefined compared to their counterparts. However, that’s also the crutch of evaluating a larger story on a piecemeal basis. There’s also the argument that congruity is purposeful and indicative of feudal times, meant to relay that our players are part of a universal struggle. Though it not may be groundbreaking, Iron from Ice lays a solid foundation.
The graphics take a painterly departure from Telltale’s signature cel-shaded style, and they’re every bit as gorgeous. Visible brush strokes not only add texture but cleverly disguise banding and pixelation. Navigating a scene felt like flipping through the pages of an illuminated manuscript. The sprawling interiors of King’s Landing are as beautiful as they are intimidating.
"Playing through the introduction affirms wholeheartedly that it’s a direct television tie-in, but it’s not just a welcome diversion until next year’s follow-up."
Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Natalie Dormer and Iwan Rheon lend their voice talents to their respective characters, making the world all the more convincing. Lena Headey brings Cersei’s indistinguishable cock-eyed grimace to life. Trying to allay her suspicions of handmaiden Mira Forrester’s treachery sparks as much anxiety as confronting the psychotically cruel Ramsay Snow. Peter Dinklage is equally excellent, and paves future redemption from his regrettable Destiny performance. Overall, the dialogue is in-line with the first-rate writing featured in the show and novels.
Truthfully, my first glimpses of the game through trailers and promotional stills left me skeptical, with the seeming preponderance of Westeros A-listers dominating the screen. Yes, A Song of Ice and Fire fans seeking a reinterpretation of the novels may be disappointed. Playing through the introduction affirms wholeheartedly that it’s a direct television tie-in, but it’s not just a welcome diversion until next year’s follow-up. At least, I think so. Perhaps that is my bias speaking. Maybe I have succumbed to HBOs shrewd marketing tactics; I won’t deny that I’m reeling in anticipation of seeing Daenerys and Jon Snow in the upcoming chapters. We love these characters because they’re multi-dimensional, believable and above all...likable. I like them, and am more than willing to spend time uncovering their idiosyncrasies.
Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC