Review: Game of Thrones: Episode One – Iron From Ice (Sony PlayStation 3)

gotcoverGame of Thrones: Episode One – Iron From Ice
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Interactive Drama
Release Date: 12/09/2014

Much like last year, Telltale isn’t content to have just one episodic game series out at a time. Besides Tales from the Borderlands, we now have Game of Thrones. GoT is a completely different kind of license to work with though. Instead of wackiness and violence, we get heartbreaking depression… and violence. It’s also going to run six episodes instead of the usual five. With the show and books as hot as ever, the game has a lot to live up to. There’s some good news/bad news here.

got1This game follows the exploits of House Forrester. Pretty much unheard of until now in the series, they nonetheless have an important role in the story. The game starts the night of the Red Wedding. If you’re behind on the show, you’ll want to avoid this game like the plague because of the spoilers. Anyway, Lord Forrester and his heir are both killed in the ensuing struggle, and the game follows the rest of the House as they try to move forward from there.

Episode One follows three characters in particular. There’s Gerard, Ethan, and Mira. Gerard is the late Lord Forrester’s squire. When things go south, he’s entrusted with delivering a message back home. Ethan is the heir to the House, and much of the episode is based around his struggle to become the kind of leader his father was. Mira is a handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell, and therefore in King’s Landing. As a northern girl trapped in the south, she’s torn between trying to appease those around her and doing whatever she can to help her family.

got2These three interconnecting stories are all quite interesting. The new characters shine brightly, and you’ll have a hard time picking a favorite. However, this is GoT. Things are not going to end well. That means characters you like will die while characters you hate only grow more powerful. Telltale’s unique form of storytelling exacerbates this fact. Building up a character only to watch them die is gut wrenching to say the least. My only complaint is that not all of the returning characters are treated equally. In particular, Margaery comes off as a weak version of her show counterpart. Overall though, it’s incredibly interesting stuff that will keep you playing from beginning to end.

Now comes the bad news. This game is perhaps the least graphically refined TT game since Jurassic Park. It’s probably even worse than that. The textures are horrible. In motion, they often resemble smeared water colors. Character models don’t fare much better. They animate poorly, look plastic, and often have parts of their bodies bleed into the background. Add in the usual clipping issues, framerate drops, and constant pausing for loading/saving/trophy notification, and this game simply runs horribly. The art style is strong though. It manages to salvage some pleasurable visual moments. Still, this game simply wasn’t optimized for the PS3. It’s almost unplayable at times.

Using the show’s music and actors, the game does quite well in the aural department. Peter Dinklage sounds much more lively then he did in Destiny. The new cast does quite well also, and the accents don’t become overbearing. It’s pretty high quality stuff all around, although problems arise because of the game’s technical limitations. In particular, characters will be cut off mid sentence. I suggest playing with the subtitles on, so you don’t miss anything important.

got3GoT doesn’t break the TT mold when it comes to the gameplay. For the most part, the game is on rails and simply asks you to make a selection now and again. Most of your choices have little effect on the game, but allow you to add your own personal flare to the proceedings. For example, you can play Ethan as a scared young man, or as mouthy brat. It’s up to you. Silence is always an option as well, but rarely leads to more interesting bits of dialogue. Either way, the meat of the story will play out the same no matter what you do.

Occasionally, you will be allowed to wander around and explore a bit. Compared to other TT games, you get to do more of this than usual. These areas aren’t very large, but there are often fun bits of lore that you can uncover. For example, you can go over the entire Forrester family by looking at a family portrait. This gives you an idea of who everyone is as well as your characters thoughts on them. Stuff like that is always appreciated.

got4As you might expect, you’ll end up in some big action sequences throughout the game. When these pop up, it’s all about the quick time event. You’ll flick the stick, mash on buttons, and try to react as quickly as possible while a scene plays out. Failure doesn’t always result in death, but too many mistakes will send you back a bit to try again. Like in previous games, these QTE’s are getting less intrusive. The inputs are smaller or more out of the way. This lets you see the action better without not being able to see what you need to do.

Episode one doesn’t change things up much at all. It’ll run you two hours to complete, and then show you how your big choices compare to others around the world. This is always one of the more interesting aspects of TT’s games. More importantly, these technical issues are beyond old at this point. It’s clear that TT is just counting the coins in the bank and not putting much effort into the “game” portion of their games. You can hire the best writers in the world, but if the game doesn’t run, no one will see it.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150In typical Telltale Games fashion, Game of Thrones is a mixed bag. While it has a interesting story that follows three very different characters as they try go make it in a post Red Wedding world, it also has sever technical problems. It’s a visual mess, and the game has issues even running. These problems are often distracting to the point of interrupting key moments. While it might be worth the price for GoT fans, things really need to improve in the second episode.

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