Disclaimer: I’m a huge fan of the book series on which Game of Thrones is based on, however my opinion of the show is far less positive, past season 1 the quality of writing has declined horribly, and whilst some changes from the books have been absolutely fine, others have utter tarnished what the series could have been. However the acting (for the most part), the set/costume design and special effects are all flawlessly executed.
The last two attempts at adapting either George RR Martin’s epic fantasy series or the hugely successful HBO adaptation into video games has resulted in a fairly average RTS and an abysmal RPG. However given Telltale’s style and success with franchises such as The Walking Dead and Fables, they are possibly the developer whose style best suits the heavily character driven narratives and themes of Westeros and Essos. Given the nature of this world is a large amount of dialogue and character interaction, with any action taking place only sporadically and quickly, the conversation/choice interspersed with quick time events seems the most fitting genre for Game of Thrones, and it’s pleasing to announce that it works wonderfully.
In Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series Episode 1 – Iron From Ice, the player assumes one of three roles this episode, a squire present at the Red Wedding, the acting Lord of Ironrath (the Forrester stronghold) young Ethan Forrester, and his sister Mira in Kings Landing, handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell. Each is has their own story, which weaves into the overarching narrative seamlessly, the characters all feel unique and no dialogue option feels out of place for the character. The overarching story is utterly compelling, with intrigue and violence dogging you every second, not only that but every decision you make is nail bitingly tough, often with no right answer. Often the decisions you make will be ones you regret, enforcing the theme of consequence with strict but fair outcomes for your choices.
There are criticisms to be found within the otherwise beautifully structured narrative experience, if you aren’t a fan of Telltale’s style, this game is not for you. It plays like a series of interactive cutscenes rather than a game, there is no set of core mechanics to perfect, no puzzles to figure out, only choices to be made and quick time events to pass. Needless to say the formula isn’t to everyone’s taste and this game is arguably the worst of Telltale’s recent products in terms of lacking “gameplay”. However if the reduction of the gameplay allowed more time and resources to be poured into crafting the characters and narrative it has been worth it simply due to the quality of what has been crafted. Although the main characters do heavily borrow from the characters of House Stark in the books and show it is interesting to have an influence on their outcome and influence their personality in what ways you are able.
Then there are issues with graphical fidelity, previous Telltale titles have used a cell shaded comic book art style, this game is similar but mixes in an oil paint colour pallet, in the foreground this makes characters and items look great, in the background…..not so much. Edges especially are very blurry and the foliage also looks like it’s cut out of paper in places, this can be very distracting when there is not much going on and sometimes ruins the immersion in an otherwise gripping scene. Another thing to mention is the music, whilst for the most part it works well, there are a couple of moments where it sets a wildly different tone to the events onscreen, making what should have been a very sad scene seem fractured and confused.
The voice actors working on Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series Episode 1 – Iron From Ice did a sterling job, in particular the voice actors for the children who do an excellent job of conveying all the complicated emotions of children being thrust into the world of violence that is the game of thrones. Unfortunately some of the lip syncing is a little off, it’s a tiny annoyance but an annoyance nonetheless. Telltale included some of the largest roles in the show into their game and fortunately their respective actors provide the voices and likenesses, whilst Peter Dinklage gives a good performance, his inclusion in the game does feel a little forced, like Telltale decided they had to include Tyrion in the plot because Tyrion is arguably the show’s most popular character. The standout here is Iwan Rheon, who gives a performance that outclasses his onscreen one (most likely due to Telltale’s writers being more competent than HBO’s). Every scene he appears in is a tension filled and you feel like your character’s life is on a knife-edge next to the psychopath that is Ramsay Snow.
The last complaint to make is that some of the optional interactions within the world seem like handheld exposition, for example early on there is a painting of the Forrester family and the interaction allows you to click on each member to hear your character describe them. Given the game already features a codex that has all these descriptions, which can be accessed through any time through the pause menu, it seemed hugely unnecessary to have these chunks of clunky dialogue when player can easily find them in a much more appropriate form with a few button clicks.
Everything else is very run of the mill from Telltale, the combat is all based on QTEs but still feels satisfying rather than patronising. However as this is episode 1 of the of the Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, the spectacle isn’t particularly high and everything does feel like it’s building towards a crescendo, but only time will tell if Telltale’s series will live up to the quality of the books, it’s already on par with the HBO show, and it would be unsurprising if in future episodes that Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series turned out to be far superior.
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