Game of Thrones, Episode 6: The Ice Dragon Review [Xbox One]
The finale to Telltale's Game of Thrones first season has been a long time coming. For months, we've been lying in wait for the moment when the Forresters would be able to exact their revenge, and stake the true claim to Ironrath. It's been an tumultuous journey to get to this point, to be sure, but no one person's story in Game of Thrones ever goes quite the way it was envisioned. In the past year, we've done everything we could to try and make sure the Forresters didn't meet a horrible fate, and to ensure things worked out for the family struck with incredible tragedies. But we forgot one crucial thing--there are no happy endings in Westeros.
Admittedly, the recap of our previous decisions at the start of this episode was more helpful than before. It'd been so long since we last verbally and physically sparred with our detractors in Telletale's Game of Thrones, we almost forgot most of the choices we'd made along the way. All of them were probably wrong, but when your entire family's future is on the line, you tend to do whatever it takes in the moment and hope things work out in the end. It's a terrible strategy for longterm planning, but sometimes the heart and mind aren't working in conjunction, and you act impulsively to protect those you love. We're no strangers to how the world of Game of Thrones works, and politicking is a major part of making sure you're able to see another day dawn. Not all of our decisions worked out quite that way, however.
Of course, if you've been playing along this whole time, or if you're familiar with the show or books at all, you know that when you play the Game of Thrones, just one small conversation can lead to your downfall. The Forresters have been on the wrong side of the game for too long, and the build-up to the finale gave us the slightest hint that maybe just one thing could go this family's way this time. The ultimate mistake however was putting the fate of an entire house in our hands. We thought we were ready. We'd planned, and played along with various lords and ladies and sellswords and scoundrels. We'd established clear motivations for everyone involved, and though it didn't win us many friends in King's Landing, it looked like the Forresters were positioned to come out on the other side of this sprawling story only mostly, slightly scathed.
"The Ice Dragon" is chock full of the ramifications for all the decisions you'd made to this point in the series. It's quite a shock when some storylines that were put in motion months ago have consequences that rear their ugly heads seemingly out of nowhere. Telltale does give you the opportunity to dig yourself into a deeper hole a few times, though there are options to try and reverse the poor moves you'd made on the board in the Forrester name. Again though, every move has a price, and those prices are paid in full this episode, regardless of who's paying. Asher (or Rodrik depending on how your previous episode went), Gared and Myra all have dire moments in the finale, and none of them will ever be quite the same again. Telltale's done a remarkable job juggling all the variables and letting you make the mistakes that will change the course of the Forrester lineage for decades to come.
Telltale's Game of Thrones doesn't stray too far from the formula established by creator George RR Martin in that even when things are at their most optimistic, there's a darkness lurking on the outer edge. For every small victory you've had as these characters, there are terrible things returned ten fold onto the Forresters. It's often hard to watch all your hard work go up in smoke (and blood) when you've thought you were doing the right things. Obviously, you can be as callous or cowardly as you like, or some mix of the two, but no matter how well you think you're playing, the rest of Westeros' denizens are just that much better at the game than you. If you thought it was hard to watch families you had no control over meet horrible fates in the books or the show, those feelings are magnified tremendously when it's all your fault. We wouldn't have it any other way.
It wouldn't be a true Game of Thrones tale without some dramatic twists at the conclusion, and Telltale's story has a few that were true eye-opening moments. Gared in particular experiences some things that would normally shatter a man's world view, but more importantly reveal a great deal about HBO's version of Westeros. Some of these revelations haven't even been seen to a great degree in the novels, so it's a pleasant surprise to see many secrets of the world first-hand in this game. What's even better is the way the conclusions for everyone's disparate narratives come together to tease the next season. Wrapping up all these storylines with a nice little bow would have left this episode feeling rushed, but after how quickly the last episode rushed though events, the methodical pace of "The Ice Dragon" works to its advantage. Telltale gives the resolutions (such as they are) time to breathe, and the pacing of "The Ice Dragon" feels much more natural and fluid. Sure, there are still some unresolved questions and adventures, but as Game of Thrones has shown in print and on TV, you've got to leave a little something for next time.
Telltale's Game of Thrones was not the most consistent adventure the developer released this year, but there were enough strong moments strung together to make this first season a memorable effort. There were a lot of threads to manage both as a player and on Telltale's side, and the Forrester's stories could have been a jumbled mess in lesser hands. Fortunately, everything came together in this finale exactly as it should have, and Telltale delivered a compelling and tortuous (in a good way) Game of Thrones story that's able to stand side by side with the show and books.
This review was completed using a download code of Game of Thrones, Episode 6: The Ice Dragon provided by the publisher for Xbox One.