Review: Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 1, Iron From Ice (PS4)

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Title: Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 1, Iron From Ice
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.4 GB)
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Original MSRP: $4.99 (Single Episode) / $24.99 (Season Pass)
ESRB Rating: M
Game of Thrones: Season 1 is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 1 is the latest episodic point and click adventure from Telltale Games. Without spoiling anything if you are behind in either the book or the TV show, if the term “Red Wedding” doesn’t ring a bell then I would suggest you catch up to that part before you start playing this game. To be more specific, the beginning of the game takes place during the events of the book A Storm of Swords or the end of Season 3 of the TV show.

Depending on whether you just watch the TV show or have read the books, the House that your characters are affiliated with might be new to you. I have watched the show and read the first two books and have never heard of House Forrester. My girlfriend has also watched the show but is reading the fifth book A Dance with Dragons where House Forrester is mentioned. So far in the book, House Forrester is hardly mentioned but I don’t know if that changes later on or if they will be more prominent in the upcoming sixth book. Either way, House Forrester is aligned with Rob Stark, the King of the North, and is unique in that ironwood grows there. Ironwood, just as the name suggests, is wood that is as hard as iron which is very important in times of war.

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Much like the books and TV show Telltale’s Game of Thrones continues the tradition of jumping between multiple perspectives. In the first episode you play as: Gared Tuttle who is a squire for the Forresters, Ethan Forrester who is a young son of Lord Forrester, and Mira Forrester who is a daughter of Lord Forrester living in King’s Landing as a handmaiden for Margaery Tyrell. While you are not playing as known people you will still interact with well known people in familiar settings from the series who are voiced by their TV counterparts, but more on that later.

… I would have greatly lengthened the time to respond …

Just like the other games by Telltale, Game of Thrones will task you with moving your character around a small environment looking for things to interact with, present action based mini-games, or choose various options in conversations. If you have played The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us you will be familiar with the game mechanics. Compared to the old point and click games, Game of Thrones doesn’t really try to hide things for you to discover. Little white dots will show up on the screen that will help you find things. When the game moves to quick time events, prompts show up on screen that are easily identifiable.

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Just like The Walking Dead this game truly captures the feel of the subject matter. I was really sucked into the world and every moment felt like it was an extension of the TV show. However in The Walking Dead the actions need to be done immediately due to the threat of the Walkers. Choices have to be made in a split second because life and death literally hangs on the decision. Game of Thrones however is more nuanced in how the information uncovered. It is more subtle and something that might not be obvious in the first reading of it. That lead me to one problem I had with the gameplay, the conversation parts.

In most of the conversations you have a limited amount of time to read all the answers and select the one you want. Further complicating things is the heavily encouraged option of not responding. The game actually told me several times that sometimes it is best to say nothing. In the lands of Westeros it’s best to have some time to think of your responses. Given the choice I would have greatly lengthened the time to respond in most conversations. It is really important to understand all the possible ramifications of your selections and the short timer really hurts the game. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were other choices that you make that have no timer on them and you just select when you are ready.

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Additionally it would be very nice if your choices were more fleshed out and included who you were talking to. Given the option of telling somebody to be quiet when there are several other characters talking lead me to make a choice I regretted simply because I was confused as to who I was talking to. Again I am not saying that every conversation had to have longer times, but it would have really made the game close to perfect. The combat moments felt really satisfying and were quick-paced but not too quick. The same goes for the exploring of your environment.

… new locations feel just as real as settings from the book or TV show …

Just like the other games, Games of Thrones keeps track of your choices and those do influence your future experiences. Because of that I strongly recommend playing it through all the episodes once and only then going back and replaying the entire Season One if you are so inclined. The great thing about these types of games from Telltale is that your choices matter, so don’t replay just because you don’t like the results.

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Visuals:
Like other Telltale games Game of Thrones is like a cross between a painting and a living comic book. Since the concept of the game is that your actions matter, the fact that the characters look familiar but not photo-realistic helps to make the game feel like it’s happening in your head and not somebody else’s.

Additionally the new locations feel just as real as settings from the book or TV show. If you were not familiar with Westeros you would have a hard time deciding which location is barely mentioned in the book. The same goes for the characters. The game really looks gorgeous.

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Audio:
Game of Thrones really shines in the audio department thanks to the TV cast lending their voices to the game. None of the actors/actresses feel like they phoned it in either which adds to the realism of the game. Also due to the strong performances of the TV cast, the characters unique to the game raise up their performances as well.

Online/Multiplayer:
This is a single player game, though at the end of the episode you can see how your major choices compare to the rest of the community.

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Conclusion:
While this is the strongest game from Telltale, in some ways it feels like things were lost along the way. Of all their games, this feels the most true to the source material. Unlike previous efforts, this game had to tackle an existing franchise that is both in print and on TV. With Back to the Future Telltale was expanding on an established universe, while with the Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us they were working before established storylines. With Game of Thrones Telltale has to weave their story within an established universe.

Fortunately they’re up to the challenge and they’ve delivered a great first episode. The only thing holding the game back is that unlike previous titles, Game of Thrones is heavily dependent on conversations which don’t lend themselves to extremely short decision times. Also with so many characters talking at once it can be very confusing who you are responding to which can cause some issues. If they increased the decision times on some conversations or removed the time limit completely while giving some indication who you were responding to I would give this game a 10.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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