Game of Thrones: Iron From Ice Review – Into the Dark Forest

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Posted December 11, 2014 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Video Games

Developed by: Telltale

Produced by: Telltale

Release Date: December 2nd, 2014

Released on: Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, iOS, OSX, Android, PC 

Reviewed On: PC, with an Xbox 360 Controller

If, like so many seem to be, you are enamored with the world of Westeros, Telltale’s Game of Thrones is for you. The entire game feels like an homage not only to the HBO TV show, but also to George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels. Iron From Ice is crafted from the ground up to emulate the feel of the existing fiction, simultaneously telling a new, interesting story, while respecting all that has come before it, and even incorporating key elements that fans will be undoubtedly be able to recognize. So if, like me, you are all caught up on the books and the TV show, and are longing for new content in the world of Westeros, then there is really no reason not to take a gander into the sect of the world that Telltale has carved out for the first episode in their series.

Before playing the game, it may seem a bit on the inaccessible side, except for the most hardcore fans. Truth be told, the Forresters, who make up the protagonists of the story, have been entirely irrelevant to the series. Anyone who tries to tell you that the Forresters were fleshed out and developed in the books, and obviously you missed it because you just watch the show, is lying to you. This is the first time the Forresters have gotten more than just a passing mention in any fiction taking place in Westeros. It’s a testament to the storytelling prowess of Telltale, then, that over the course of an hour and a half, I came to care deeply about the new characters introduced here.

Despite the game’s relatively short span (it is, after all, an episodic series), you will jump between three different characters, and just as many locales. In this way, the Iron From Ice is actually quite similar to the books, in that you will experience the game from multiple viewpoints. In addition to the three characters, the game introduces a wide and varied cast, largely consisting of Forresters and their allies. When the game kicks off, it puts you in the role of Gared Tuttle, squire to Lord Forrester, and nephew of Duncan Tuttle, a key adviser to the Forrester household. As Gared, you will go through a lot within the game’s fast paced introduction sequence. As the player, the power is in your hands to push Gared in whatever direction you choose. Because he has never appeared in the world before, you get to decide who the character is.

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The same is true of both Ethan and Mira Forrester, the other two playable characters. As far as I’m concerned, these characters are defined by the actions that I took while playing as them. In this way, I feel like I have left my own little stamp on the world of Westeros, which is empowering, but, at times, devastating. I latched onto each of these three characters, and as a result, I thought over each and every one of my choices to an alarming extent – more than I ever did in The Wolf Among Us, or even in The Walking Dead. By the time I finished the game, I simply could not believe the results of my actions – and I knew that, despite this being a game, I had walked myself right into everything that happened in the game.

While I enjoyed every little scrap of the game that I experienced (which has been fairly significant, considering I have gone through it more than once), I do have to admit that the King’s Landing sequences, in which you play as Mira, were not as interesting to me as the rest of the game. While I appreciated the political subterfuge, this largely has to do with the fact that I had already met all the characters. Tyrion, Cersei, and Margaery (and Joffrey, though you don’t actually see him in the game) were all prevalent here, and I just wasn’t as interested in spending time with characters that I already love as I was in spending time with characters I barely know. I cherished the time that Mira spent away from pre-existing characters, as it was in these scenes that I truly got a sense for who I wanted Mira to be. This may not be an issue for everyone, but learning about the Forresters was far more interesting than exploring lore that I was already familiar with.

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Back at Ironrath, the stronghold of the Forresters, I explored every dialogue option, wanting to know as much about the House and its allies as possible. I spent most of my time playing as young Ethan Forrester, the next Lord of Ironrath, probing for every bit of lore I could get out of the supporting characters. This was closely followed by the amount of time I spent insulting other Lords (getting to call Ramsay “Lord Snow” in a mocking tone was one of the game’s best moments, though it may not have been the best course of action). The reason that the Forresters are interesting has nothing to do with their status. At the end of the day, who cares that they have some valuable tree? That particular plot point is one that would be extraordinarily easy to lose interest in, if it weren’t for the characters.

I know that I’ve already put a significant amount of time into the characters, but I feel that it is important to emphasize that this is very much a character driven story, as is most of Westeros fiction. If that isn’t your thing, it’s likely that you won’t get full enjoyment from this game. The plot isn’t bad, but the entire game is driven by the characters, and, without them, the whole thing would likely be prone to collapse.

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Now that I’ve beaten how great the storytelling is to death, I guess I’ll move onto the actual gameplay. Those familiar with Telltale games will be quite used to their adventure game style gameplay. If you’re looking to cut down swaths of enemies with a broadsword, this is not the game for you. Iron From Ice is very much just an interactive episode of the TV show, which some will appreciate far more than others. Generally, this doesn’t bother me. My only real issue with the gameplay was that the introduction is stuffed full of annoying quick time events, that demand quick reflexes, and, to be honest, a PC with slightly better specs than the one I played on. Eventually, I just switched to an Xbox 360 controller, for simplicity’s sake. After that point, the game became a far easier, and more enjoyable, experience.

I don’t think that I can recommend this game enough. Anyone who is a fan of the TV show or novels should pick this up. It’s a quick experience, that doesn’t demand a ton of skill with gaming. In fact, as with many Telltale games, this is built for more casual gamers, individuals interested in the source material as opposed to complex game mechanics. Telltale easily makes up for the lack of traditional gameplay with its stylized look, and with its complex choice and morality system, which no other developer seems to have been able to emulate.

 


About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.