Published on December 8th, 2014 | by Chris Scott1
Game of Thrones Episode One Review
Summary: If you are a fan of Game of Thrones and Telltale’s style of dialogue-heavy adventure games, this is a must play.
Game of Thrones, the HBO series based on author George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series of books, may look like a traditional fantasy tale. There are kings and queens, knights and knaves, and even a dragon or three thrown in for good measure. But its focus isn’t on swashbuckling heroes, magical monsters, and good defeating a clear evil. Instead Game of Thrones is a series about political maneuvering; everyone is a chess piece, and surviving means playing the game using whatever assets you have at your disposal.
I think it is because of this non-traditional approach to fantasy that the series has become immensely popular. Well, that and the copious amounts of nudity and sex.
The series has ventured into the realm of video games on a few previous occasions but those attempts have been marred by a basic misunderstanding of what makes the property tick. Telltale Games latest entry into their growing library of ongoing adventure series looks to right that wrong by focusing on the deadly political chess game being played.
Unlike the more recent Telltale adventure games, Game of Thrones asks its players for at least a basic understanding of the goings-on of the series outside of the game experience. If you plan on playing this game, having seen through at least episode nine of Season Three of the HBO show is a prerequisite. While the game is stand-alone in many respects, it takes place between some pivotal moments of the show and those events directly impact where, when, and why things are happening in the world of Westeros.
Episode One: Iron From Ice kicks off outside The Twins during the marriage of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey, an event known afterwards as The Red Wedding. Players take on the role of Gared Tuttle, the squire to Lord Forrester, a bannerman of House Stark. As the tragic events of The Red Wedding unfold, it is Gared who is tasked with returning Lord Forrester sword and final commands to his house. These events set House Forrester into disarray and force the small house to play the deadly game.
The remainder of the first episode is spent making decisions and forging alliances, both in-house and without, that will impact House Forrester and its future. Players will take on the roll of three characters in the game, the aforementioned Gared, the young lord Ethan, and his older sister Mira. I found Gared to be the least interesting of the three as his choices always seemed easy to make. Ethan and Mira, however, provided some of my favorite experiences in a Telltale game to date.
Ethan is tasked with becoming the new Lord Forrester and as such he must deal with House matters directly. He has a small council of trusted advisors but, as is to be expected, none of them agree on what the best course of action is. I played Ethan as a compassionate, if a bit naïve, good hearted person. This direction angered particular portions of my house but it felt like the right thing to do for his character. Of course, when playing the game of thrones, the right thing often leads to heartache.
Ethan’s sister Mira serves in King’s Landing as a handmaiden to Margery Tyrell (voiced by actress from the TV show Natalie Dormer). I played her as sweet and subservient but with a hint of smarts. I felt she knew her place but when tasked with playing the game, she would know how to react. One particularly pivotal scene sees Margery ask Mira to massage Queen Cersei’s fears that her family was loyal to the crown. The interaction with Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is extremely tense and nerve racking, but also satisfying in a way that The Walking Dead game never was.
It is this ability to manage the affairs of a noble house and play politics with the big guns that make Game of Thrones successful. And it makes Iron From Ice successful enough for me to ignore its most glaring flaws. Flaws like Natalie Dormer giving a terrible voice acting performance for Margery and the animation and visual design of her character being outright tragic at times. I mean, how do you make one of the most beautiful women on the show look so awkward? And how does her primary actress give such a flat performance?
Speaking of Margery, one of my biggest problems with the game revolves around her as well. I followed her instructions to a tee and when Cersei asked me a rather pointed question, I answered it as I was instructed by Margery to do. Margery gave me a sour look like I’d betrayed her. It is reminiscent of one of the final encounters in The Walking Dead Season One where the game’s logic broke because I didn’t play it how the game seemingly expected. Still, I found these issues to be small and at worst slightly annoying. At least Dinklage redeems himself for his Destiny performance here and interacting with Tyrion is a highlight.
As a fan of Game of Thrones and Telltale’s style of dialogue-heavy adventure games, I feel that this is a must play. Even with some of my hang-ups, I thoroughly enjoyed my time participating in the political landscape of Westeros. It is hands down the best Game of Thrones video game to be released. However, if you are not a fan of Game of Thrones, this isn’t a good entry point and if you aren’t a fan of Telltale’s style of games, this isn’t going to turn you on.
This review was written with material provided by the publisher on the Xbox One console. For more on our review process, please read here.