Game of Thrones, Episode One: Iron From Ice Review (Xbox One)
Telltale Games has combined with HBO's 'Game of Thrones' to create the perfect storm of something you can't talk about until everyone has had a chance to experience it. Oh, the frustration of knowing what happens before everyone else who's played will surely be a point of contention amongst friends, but we wouldn't have it any other way. If you thought HBO was ambitious in attempting to adapt George R.R. Martin's series into a television show, Telltale is doubling up on that risk by interjecting its tale right the midst of the most tumultuous time in Westeros. And it's doing it with entirely unknown characters to boot. It's a hell of gamble. Guess it's a good thing Telltale is just so damn talented.
House Forrester is caught in the middle of a power struggle for the northern territories of Westeros. The family is as old as the ironwood trees that make up most of the wolfswood. In Telltale's Game of Thrones, you'll play as three different members of the family (with more to come), each with new challenges set in front of them based on the events occurring during the second and third season of the show. It's a challenge to discuss much of the story without spoiling some of the great plotting, but in your time with this first chapter, you'll encounter all the emotions a great 'Game of Thrones' episode can evoke. There'll also be a few cameos from familiar faces at King's Landing, which should be more than enough hints to know that very few good things are in store for the Forresters.
As it spotlights an entirely new family, Telltale's adventure doesn't require any previous knowledge of the books or the television show. However, even the slightest bits of info you may have gleaned from the office or family get-together will certainly help. Those of you who've been devotedly reading and/or watching will have an even greater appreciation for the narrative unfolding around House Forrester. What's more, even in just a short time, Telltale manages to make each of the characters you play as interesting, which is astounding given just how much is happening all at once. Characterization could have been thrown to the wolves, but it wasn't, and we're eager to see just how these Forresters are further shaped by the events that have befallen them.
There's a bit of action in this episode, as one would think would be customary of a fantasy (and Game of Thrones) story. Telltale's actually done a remarkable job balancing the political intrigue and emotional moments with the adrenaline-pumping ones. It truly feels like you're merely interacting directly with the show itself. Of course, as this is a Telltale adventure game, the only person you have to blame for every single bad decision a character makes is yourself. You're in total control, for better or worse, and though you've had consequences for actions in games like The Walking Dead and Tales from the Borderlands, the weight of decisions in Game of Thrones is immeasurable. Forget second-guessing; when you play the Game of Thrones, there is only regret.
That's not to say this first foray into the lives of the Forresters is without issue. The painterly graphic style is distinct and fits right in perfectly with the fantasy realm, but there were more than a few hiccups. Some character models were missing half of their faces during some segments, which was quite terrifying. The depth of field automatically turns things out of focus into slightly less detailed "paintings," however sometimes characters would wander in and out of the foreground and parts of their bodies would lose detail even when other parts were in clear focus. There wasn't anything absolutely detrimental to the experience, and the faster loading times on the newer console certainly made up for any slight defects elsewhere.
Outside of several of Telltale's other recent releases, it's hard to think of a video game that creates as many water cooler moments as the acclaimed 'Game of Thrones' show. This first episode is a bit dense, particularly for newcomers, but the attention to detail is meticulous and appreciated. Telltale's Game of Thrones manages to capture all the heart-racing moments and sweaty-palmed intensity fans have come to love. This episode sets up a sprawling adventure on the outskirts of the Westeros we know, and need more of immediately.
This review is based on a download of Game of Thrones, Episode One: Iron From Ice provided by the publisher for Xbox One.