Game of Thrones Episode 1 Review: Iron From Ice


Developer: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games

Platforms: PC (Version Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS, Android

Release Dates: December 2, 2014 (PC, PS4); December 3, 2014 (Xbox 360 & Xbox One); December 4, 2014 (iOS); December 9, 2014 (PS3)

(This Iron From Ice review will try to remain spoiler-free of this game’s important content, however it can make passing references to books 1-3 of the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, or seasons 1-3 of the HBO television series Game of Thrones.)

Telltale Games specializes in storytelling with plenty of twists and turns, so their collaboration with the world of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire just makes sense. Both are famous for strong characters, difficult choices, and complex plots. But perhaps the greatest storytelling challenge Telltale faced in setting a game in the world of Westeros was fitting a completely new story into the already well-developed web of intrigue, backstabbing, and unexpected death that George R. R. Martin created. Fortunately, Telltale fits their puzzle piece in gracefully.

You Win…Or You Die

Episode 1 of Telltale’s Game of Thrones is entitled “Iron From Ice” after the words of House Forrester, the game’s title family. Over the course of six episodes, you will play as five different characters who are either members of the house itself or have close ties to it, and experience their adventures across Westeros as they attempt to hold their house together in the midst of wars, kings, thrones, alliances, and betrayals. The game takes place beginning at the end of the third season of the HBO series, or toward the middle of the third novel, A Storm of Swords. It opens at the Red Wedding, which any die-hard Game of Thrones fan could tell you is a huge turning point in the series.

Unfortunately, if you’re not already a big fan of the series, you’re going to be pretty lost within the first few minutes. The game assumes you know who the Starks and Freys are, what King’s Landing and Casterly Rock are, and why anyone should care. The world of Westeros is complex, full of alliances, broken promises, and traitors. If you’re new to Game of Thrones, I’d highly recommend picking up the first three books, or watching some of the series first to gain perspective.

The World of Westeros

Unlike other Telltale games stylized similarly to comic books, Game of Thrones uses softer tones, colors, and outlines. This gives the game a touch more visual realism, and helps the surroundings look more natural. While this makes it a bit harder to discern which objects are important and which are not, it also means you must look for clues harder when roaming freely, keeping a watchful eye for things of import. The blood speckling the ground, the mysterious key, and the window view aren’t obvious, and encourage you to, during your rare moments of exploration, comb every nook and cranny. The disadvantage is that sometimes during action sequences the button cues were difficult to see and react to in time, as they blended in so well with the environment. Nonetheless, those reactions were smooth once I figured out what to look for.

The three main characters you play as are usually devoid of beneficial information when examining things, and most of the optional dialogue options are uninteresting.

Telltale effectively renders the actors that fans of the TV series know and love already into the style of their game naturally, but the graphics aren’t visually stunning at any point. In fact, there were multiple occasions where I was distracted by the hilt of a sword disappearing into someone’s waist, or someone’s legs sticking in and out of their tunic in odd ways. Characters walking can be slow and clunky at times, though when in conversation their movements look natural and fluid. In short, while this certainly isn’t a game you play expecting gorgeous visuals, there were several moments where I was distracted from the storyline by weird quality.

Valar Morghulis

Game of Thrones uses the same style of gameplay we’re already familiar with from previous Telltale games. It plays like an interactive visual novel–you will mostly be watching cutscenes and making dialogue choices between a variety of options given to you, including silence. There are several action sequences that involve hitting WASD at the right times and in the right directions, or choosing the appropriate item as quickly as possible and using it on an object. Q and E are also used during moments of intense struggle. In the game’s few exploration sequences, you can roam an area with WASD and interact with objects or people.

The action sequences are exciting and fast-paced, with very little penalty for failure–you just start over from where the sequence started. They don’t need to be difficult to be effective, though. Those moments of tense dodging, swordfighting, and crawling under burning carts help give the player agency, something that is just as important in Game of Thrones as it is in other Telltale games. I felt thrills of panic and excitement as I made my way through screaming crowds to my destination, dodging various obstacles as I went. Such action sequences were nicely spaced throughout the story, giving me a break from conversation that would have grown tedious otherwise.

On the other hand, I would have liked to see more exploration. There are only a few sequences, and in those there are few places/objects/people to interact with, and few, if any, are of consequence. The three main characters you play as are usually devoid of beneficial information when examining things, and most of the optional dialogue options are uninteresting.

Iron From Ice

Of course, Telltale being Telltale, this game shines in it’s choice-making system, and character development. You play, in typical Song of Ice and Fire fashion, as three different characters, switching between their stories at critical moments. You begin as Gared Tuttle, squire to Lord Forrester and on the battlefield with him, and also spend plenty of time as Ethan Forrester, the middle son of the house who remains at home, and Mira Forrester, the eldest daughter who is serving as a lady-in-waiting to Margaery Tyrell in King’s Landing.

The game effectively throws the player into the heat of the moment as the Forresters and their friends play the game of thrones with hopes of winning or, at the very least, surviving.

While it’s understood that none of the decisions you make will have a drastic impact on major plot events, the player’s choices play a huge role in shaping who these three characters are. Is Garred a loyal squire to his lord, a self-interested coward, or an ambitious planner? Is Mira true to her family first, or to her own interests? Will Ethan became a harsh, demanding leader or a gentle pushover? It’s up to the player, and the decisions you make in one story will affect the other two, and how the characters view one another.

Not only do you shape the characters themselves with your decisions, but the choices you make affect who your allies and enemies become. It is wise to be careful who you speak to and what you say, because Telltale once again proves to be stellar at not giving the player any clues. At multiple points, I found myself at a loss for which decision was really better than another. In some cases, there is a better answer, but in others, there is none, and often it’s impossible to tell. The game effectively throws the player into the heat of the moment as the Forresters and their friends play the game of thrones with hopes of winning or, at the very least, surviving.

While this episode never hit the emotional highs that I felt while playing The Walking Dead, the characters are all unique and intriguing, and constantly kept me guessing. Even the villains are interesting, if positively loathsome most of the time. I was worried that the game would lose my interest by switching between POVs constantly but, as with the books, I enjoyed the breaks between scenes and seeing the ties between the main characters. And, of course, because it’s in Westeros, there’s plenty of surprises and plot twists that you don’t see coming. Don’t get too attached to any of the characters, big or small. In typical George R. R. Martin style, anyone can die at any moment for any reason.


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The first episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones is largely a setup for what I’m sure will be an excellent series. It introduces you to the main characters and settings and lets you get a feel for the game, but doesn’t ultimately stand out as an amazing game or a must-play…at least, not yet. There’s enough excitement, interest, and development in Iron From Ice that I’m hooked to continue and find out what happens to the Forresters. All in all, it does what it needs to do: provide an interesting setup for what’s to come. And, knowing Telltale and Game of Thrones, the future of the Forresters will be something no one expects.

(A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.)