Game of Thrones Episode 1- Iron From Ice Review *Spoilers Inside*
*Disclaimer* The reviewer was given a season pass code to provide coverage. This doesn't affect his judgment
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Mac/PC (Steam)
Reviewing Console: Mac
Before having the privilege to play Telltale Games' adaptation of the hit HBO show, Game of Thrones, I had just one obstacle in my way-- watching the show. I didn't get addicted alongside everyone else because I wanted to wait until I read the books first before diving into the show. Of course, a coworker of mine heavily insisted that I get to watching pronto and I'm glad I took the advice! Been caught up on Game of Thrones is incredible important before trying to play through episode 1. For those who haven't finished season 4, I highly recommend staying away because a lot of moments will go completely unnoticed. What's the point of playing a Telltale game if you can't fully appreciate the story?
Game of Thrones starts off between seasons 3&4 of the TV show; during one of the best moments in TV history in my opinion. Players start out as Gared Tuttle, a squire to Lord Gregor Forrester of House Forrester right before everything falls to pieces. Players will not only be in control of Gared, but also four other playable characters at specific intervals. Each character has their roles to play based off the player's choices; having to manage five characters can appear daunting. I bring this point up because many of the decisions made with one character can affect the others as well-- for better or worse.
During episode one which is titled 'Iron From Ice', players control three of the five main characters. What really stood out to me in a negative manner is the lack of freedom in deciding who lives or dies. As we are well aware of, Game of Thrones has a nasty habit of killing characters off, whether they are expendable or favorites. One of the main characters, Ethan Forrester third-born son of House Forrester, is killed at the end of the episode. At first, I thought I simply screwed up with the 'politics' of Game of Thrones. However, I started to notice everyone coming to the same death conclusion and this lead to one thing: players have no control over who will die.
Now, I would be all well and good with this outcome... if the game wasn't described as having the chance to finish the season with all characters alive. In the press list email I received, one of the description states: "Multiply the actions of one character by five, and you're truly playing the Game of Thrones... where you win, or you die." After reading this, I assumed, as well as many others, all characters could still be alive at the season finale. After doing my research of asking various people of the gaming community, checking forums, wiki sites, etc., I found that no matter the choices made-- Ethan dies regardless.
For a while now, I've noticed how Telltale titles offer choices that make only minor changes to the overall story, but Game of Thrones suddenly make it more...apparent. At the very least, Ethan's death hit hard and swift, making me scream out "OH!" involuntary. Definitely a worthy GoT death scene.
Overall, I still greatly enjoy the developer's work and my issues with this glaring fault should not make others think any different. I went into this experience with the mindset that I would try to keep everyone alive until the end, only to find out my task is impossible. I must say though, Game of Thrones offered up some complex decision making moments and I hesitated at most of them. Maybe it's because I know how hardcore the show is and that atmosphere is most certainly present.
However, as recent installments show, the studio's projects are taking more of an interactive novel approach with little to no puzzle involvement. I'm no stranger to interactive novel-type games and I welcome more of this genre to be accepted into the industry, but I also do miss the puzzle elements Telltale once had. I see no reason why puzzles can't continue to have a strong presence within these games. I liked when I had to figure out which walker to kill first and how to do it in The Walking Dead Season One. Made the experience not only reflex skill but a thoughtful one too. Alas, I may be one of the last few people barking up that tree unfortunately.
+ More GoT to hold us over until Season 5
+ I thought the oil painting look suited the atmosphere
+ Complex, nail-biting choices
- The option to keep characters alive should have been included
- No puzzle involvement
'Iron From Ice' set the stage for the rest of GoT and it was a shocker. If the rest of the episodes match or exceed what the debuting episode did, we are in for a wild ride. Anyone considering to look into this should at least be halfway through season 4 of the show. Otherwise, not only will spoilers be abundance but also the experience as a whole will be cut in half. With those requirements said, I recommend Game of Thrones especially to those who are familiar with the format.
*Changing up the format, review score will be a aggregated score once all episodes are complete*