Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron From Ice
First posted on 10 March 2015. Last updated on 10 March 2015.
Game of Thrones
The season is comprised of 6 episodes:
- Episode 1: Iron From Ice
- Episode 2: The Lost Lords
- Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness
- Episode 4: Sons of Winter
- Episode 5: A Nest of Vipers
- Episode 6: The Ice Dragon
Game of Thrones is a very popular American television series based on A Song of Ice and Fire series of high fantasy novels written by George R. R. Martin. I find it a bit ironic that a drama series apparently influenced so strongly by medieval history and medieval themed role-playing games is now the subject of an episodic adventure game series developed by Telltale Games.
Having played the first episode of this adapted series, Iron From Ice, I am not convinced at all that it is a game. Certainly, it does not fit as an adventure game by any definition that I recognize. There are no puzzles for you to solve, and there are only a few locations where you can explore and interact with your surroundings. Additionally, there are a number of action sequences (Quick Time Event challenges) where you need to escape death quickly by following onscreen directions with appropriate key presses, though these moments are far and few between.
Rather, most of the interaction in the game is by way of choosing from various responses when talking to other characters. Even then, there seems to be little real choice being offered. The game makes promises that your choices will alter the outcome of the story (akin to interactive fiction), wherein the different decisions you make will lead to different endings. However, in this episode, I feel that the ability to influence the story seems more cosmetic that material. I have played the entire episode twice, while making deliberately different choices on each playthrough. While some of the individual scenes have played out a little differently, the overall storyline remains the same and key events happen in the same way each time.
The game's story concerns the family of House Forrester of Ironrath, who tend the largest Ironwood forest north of Westeros. House Forrester is known for its skilled craftsmen who can fashion the valuable ironwood into much sought after weapons. The family is featured only minimally in Martin's novels, so much of its history and characters have been specifically written for the game. This means that the story is sufficiently self-contained so that it can be enjoyed by gamers who have little to no familiarity with the novel or television series.
You play as 3 different members of the Forrester household in this episode: Gared Tuttle who is a squire to Lord Gregor Forrester, Ethan who is one of Gregor's sons and becomes Lord of Ironrath when his father is killed, and Mira who is Ethan's older sister and has been sent to King's Landing to serve as a handmaiden to Lady Margaery Tyrell who is soon to become the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. After House Forrester's army is massacred in a treacherous attack at the start of the episode, Gared is entrusted with the task of taking both Gregor's sword and a secret message back to Ironrath. On the way home, however, Gared becomes embroiled in a fight with members of House Bolton who are Wardens of the North. The rest of the episode revolves around the conflict that subsequently develops between House Forrester and House Bolton.
The characters models look very good and are generally convincing, though lip synchronization is not perfect in close-ups. The voice acting is equally good, with most of actors portraying the Northerners having appropriate North of England accents. Fans of Game of Thrones will be pleased to know that the few characters in the game that also appear in the television series are voiced by the same cast.
The episode is short, playable in only a few hours, and meant clearly to be a setup for a much longer story. The episode ends inconclusively and is followed by a brief trailer for the next episode. The game automatically saves your progress, fortunately at frequent intervals, and can support up to 4 game saves in parallel. There is also an option to rewind any saved game to preselected checkpoints, though any progress onward will be overwritten if you choose to replay it.
The game is currently being released only as a digital download and installs with no problems. The game can be played in either full screen or windowed mode. Most interactions in the game are made using the mouse only. Dialog choices appear at the bottom of the screen, after which you have a very limited time to make your selection. I have found the mouse control to be a little erratic, and more than once I have ended up selecting either the wrong choice or none at all. On the other hand, the few action sequences are controlled using both the mouse and the keyboard. Large arrows appear on screen to indicate which direction your character needs to move to avoid death (which you select by pressing the W, A, S and D keys), and circles show where you need to use the mouse to grab a weapon or take some immediate action. In some critical moments, you also need to press the Q key repeatedly and quickly until the action is completed. You press the E key to direct your character's escape.
If you die, the game reloads automatically at the start of the previously failed sequence for you to try again. Not infrequently, I have found that I need to play each sequence a few times to familiarize myself with the correct order of key and mouse presses. None of the sequences are particularly challenging, however.
There are only a handful of locations in the game where you can control your character to roam around freely to explore your surroundings. In those locations, circles indicate the hotspots where your character can look at an object, read, talk to another character, or rarely, pick up an item.
In all, Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron From Ice is sufficiently interesting that I have enjoyed playing through the episode, though I feel that my involvement in determining how the story and characters develop in the series has so far been only minimal. The game has the aesthetics of an animated film and may be more enjoyable to experience as such. While it may appeal to fans of the novel or television series who will see it as a welcome addition to the cannon, it is a disappointment to any adventure fan who wants to play it as a game.