In the Game of Thrones, you only have to choices: You win or you die. Westeros is a dreary and dangerous place where life is unfair, and doing the right thing often results in terrible, often fatal consequences.
While you know well which path to take, getting there is pretty tricky. It’s pretty obvious with the bloody (not to mention occasionally shocking and frustrating) Game of Thrones TV show, and seeing it all go down is nerve-wracking. But what if it’s all up to you to make the decisions that could destroy everything you hold dear? The anxiety has just been raised to a whole new level for theA Song of Ice and Fire saga, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with the first episode of Telltale Games’ six-part Game of Thrones game, Iron from Ice.
Game of Thrones Episode One – Iron from Ice is an episodic point-and-click graphic adventure fantasy drama video game that is based on the world, characters, and events on the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin and the award-winning HBO TV drama.
Released in December 2014 for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android, the game series begin towards the end of Season 3 of the TV show and end just before the beginning of Season 5. It follows the episodic format found in other Telltale titles like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Tales from the Borderlands, wherein the player’s actions and choices affect future events.
In the first episode of the game series, the story centers on the rulers of the Ironwood, House Forrester, whose members (including 5 playable characters) attempt to save their family and themselves after they end up on the losing side of the War of the Five Kings. In the game, you’ll traverse familiar locations like the King’s Landing and The Wall, as well as new locations like Ironrath, the seat of House Forrester.
Before anything else, a warning:
Do not approach this game as a way to introduce yourself to Game of Thrones as it’s made especially for existing fans, which means that it requires you to have a good amount of knowledge of the story. Iron from Ice begins with a massive spoiler for those who haven’t seen the first three seasons of the TV show or read through the third novel, A Storm of Swords. For that matter, we advise you to just skip this review until you’ve familiarized yourself with the story and gotten that far in.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the gameplay.
Iron from Icefollows the same structure as the novels and the TV show by jumping between the perspectives of different characters. These characters include Garred Tuttle, Lord Forrester’s squire; Ethan Forrester, who must step up to rule Ironrath in his father’s absence; and Mira Forrester, Ethan’s older sister and the handmaiden of Margaery Tyrell in King’s Landing. Each of these characters has a significant role to play in attempting to save and protect House Forrester, each of whom maintains the pace with a few difficult decisions to make.
Garred’s scenes involve simple and straightforward fast-paced event-style action that’s not too challenging, although it breaks up the dialogue with brutal bloodshed we’ve grown accustomed with in the Game of Thrones. This sets the tone that raises the stakes of the diplomacy that follows suit. Garred’s decisions of whether he should save everyone or make some sacrifices for the greater good leverages the anxiety, thanks to the ticking clock that adds urgency to almost every dialogue choice.
Garred’s more important quests is to deliver a secret to select individuals, which is a little silly because you’ll never know why he has to do it in the first place. You have to check it out yourself what would happen if you choose to randomly blurt it out given the opportunity – or not.
Ethan’s perspective has some of the strongest scenes in the game. His heated negotiations with the lord of a rival house, while being guided by his advisors, are written and acted well. Later on in the game, the player will make a decision to choose which of his advisors should be elevated above the others, which carries weight not because it has any major impact on the game, but for the consequences for the future aggressive or diplomatic stand of House Forrester. Better still, the player gets to decide their own version of Ethan, whether he gets to be a cold-hearted brute or a benevolent lord.
Mira’s scenes in King’s Landing, the capital city, are an excellent change of setting and mood from the gloomy atmosphere of Ironrath. What’s more, playing her small part in the struggle for power between Margaery and Cersei adds more intrigue to the plot. The decision of how much to ask of Margaery and how far to bend to please Cersei – and whether to trust offers of help – make the most exciting and interesting scenes from a bigger perspective.
Overall, acting is just as superb as Telltale’s past games. What’s more, some characters from the TV show also made their appearance in the game, including Margery Tyrell, Cersei Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, and Ramsay Snow – all of whom are authentically voiced by their TV actors.
The portrayals, however, are slightly marred by the occasional glitchy animations, with characters or limbs that sometimes warp into place or momentarily disappear. And while the art style looks good, the brushstroke effect on the background can sometimes be distracting, especially when the camera moves and the strokes tend to shimmer around.
That aside, it’s important for players to know that the choices made in Iron from Ice have little to no significant effect within the two-hour section of the story. In fact, the game stands as a prologue, making it a great start for the series that gives you a glimpse of what’s to come.
Iron from Ice completes your gaming experience with a powerful and shocking ending that will remind you of the harsh world the characters are in, as well as the major events of the story that are going to be beyond your control.
Game of Thrones Episode One – Iron from Icerepresents the cruel reality in Westeros, with the knowledge that being noble and good might mean the downfall of House Forrester and the other characters you control. The first episode raises the level of excitement and anticipation for future episodes and delivers a strong and provocative ending of its own.
As a side story to the TV show, it means that you won’t get to decide the fate of Westeros, but it’s a solid proof that the future of House Forrester puts enough at stake to make better choices. One choice often shuts the door to another, or you need to make a few important decisions quickly. It won’t be too far to see enough ahead to know if you just messed up or not, and when there are a lot of threads connected to you, things can quickly fall apart in seconds. This brings a whole new kind of excitement and unease to players, as virtually every choice is, in some way, a life-or-death situation. This is probably the most effective use of Telltale Games’ decision-based model so far, and combined with Game of Thrones’ high-stakes scenarios, you’re sure that things will never feel dull.
Game of Thrones Episode One – Iron from Iceisn’t perfect. There are some parts that could have been better, but we’re pretty sure Telltale knows what they’re doing, and nothing proves that the Forresters belong in the canon so well as the classic Martin shocker that kicks off the entire experience. Is it unavoidable? Why not play the game once more and make different choices? You’ve got plenty of time. After all, winter is coming.