Game of Thrones (Iron from Ice): review

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Game of Thrones documents life in the North of England. When the age-old tensions between North and South come to a head, and the house of Kay moves on the house of Windsor – with Lord Peter and his squire Vernon leading the charge – the world will at least have some idea of what to expect, thanks to the books and TV series; and now, also thanks to the episodic videogame (let’s forget about the other game that nobody bought).

We’d like to assure the humourless amongst you that we do not in fact believe Game of Thrones to be some sort of documentary. It is of course a massively successful, and still ongoing, series of fantasy books penned by George R.R.R.R.R. Martin which has, in recent years, produced the twisted offspring of an equally popular TV show. The two mediums diverge in their telling of the tale in some points, and this here game is canonical so far as the TV series is concerned. Playable characters are taken from House Forrester, who hover on the outskirts of the original story; but characters and actors from the tellybox will be making appearances. Indeed, it’s not too long before Cersei and Tyrion make an appearance in the first episode. Yes, that means that Peter “that wizard came from the moon” Dinklage lends his voice. His performance here though is a hundred times better than that in Destiny (but only a hundred times, so still not brilliant).

If you’re a fan of Telltale but not Game of Thrones, don’t be put off by the funny names above that mean nothing to you. Yes, you’ll definitely get the most out of the experience if you’re familiar with the GoT universe (specifically up to and including the fourth series of the talky box version), but it most definitely works as a standalone fantasy tale. The harsh and dirty world is a great fit for Telltale Games, too. Poverty lives in close proximity to luxury, the politics are brutal and unforgiving, and there are always people willing to take your life in a heartbeat no matter what your social status. The company’s trademark demand for tough choices produces many great moments here.

“But my lord, I have only three chocolate fingers left! I need them for my family! I’ll take your place where they’re playing dodgeball by the wall, but please, leave me my delicious chocolate biscuits!”

A less desirable, but still very much present, Telltale tradition is technical wonkiness. In fact we have to say that this is, without a doubt, the most loosely put together episode of a Telltale game that we’ve ever played. Episode one only lasts for three hours or so, but during that time we encountered two minor audio glitches, textures that varied from ‘okay’ to ‘atrocious’, two instances of a playable character teleporting a short yet nonetheless impressive distance, and one instance of the game imploding and kicking us to the Xbox One dashboard for no apparent reason.

Somehow, we found all this easy to forgive. Iron From Ice quickly and smoothly builds a dangerous, unstable, believable world full of varied characters both predefined and newly brought to life. There are no easy choices, and this fits both the license and the developer perfectly. Acting quality may be variable but there are no particularly bad examples, and the writing is more than good enough to stand tall alongside the parent material.

“Yes I have tickled you for three hours straight, and I will tickle you for three hours more, and there’s nothing you can do about it! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

The experience isn’t perfect. Aside from the problems already outlined above, Telltale’s choice & consequence system has immediately noticeable wobbles here. If you don’t choose and act with great consistency – and human beings rarely do – there will likely be an example or two of characters reacting to you in a way that doesn’t quite fit perfectly with what you’ve done. It’s not nearly enough to spoil the episode, but it may raise an eyebrow in terms of the series’ potential to develop according to your choices. This is however balanced by certain immovable objects in the story, such as a suckerpunch ending to episode one that will send you reeling and begging for more.

Besides, at one point somebody dies by having a horse fall on top of them, which is unintentionally hilarious.

critical score 8

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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