Lord Forrester. Lady Forrester. Rodrik. Asher. Ethan. Mira. Talia. Ryon.
The painting in front of me shows all of the Forrester family. As I stand there in their keep I don't really reflect upon the people in that painting, I merely give it a glance and walk on.
It is not until later, when I realise that I get to play as some of these characters, that I begin to realise just how well thought through the first episode of Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series is. How there are clues that foreshadow future events. How choices bring about consequences - not just for the character making said decision, but for all the other playable characters and the continuation of the story. This becomes very clear after my first playthrough. Weaving all the story threads into one cohessive tapestry is no simple task, but Telltale have done a wonderful job and I feel confident that they will carry on along the same path in future episodes.
With Game of Thrones, Telltale Games have once again built on a well known franchise. However there are no saucy sex scenes to be found here, but more sharp swords and talk of honour. It should be noted that the game doesn't really attempt to explain the universe to newcomers, and instead relies on players coming in with a great deal of knowledge. It is recommended to at least have seen the TV series before embarking on the game.
The first impression of the game isn't the strongest. The story appears overly linear for the first half hour. There are fewer choices than expected, and instead I find myself looking at the clearly outdated visuals (that felt old when The Walking Dead first launched). The introduction is full of action and guides you through the control scheme, but it's after the first thirty minutes that Game of Thrones really kicks off.
Gared, the first character you meet, comes across a bit lukewarm at first. Sure, his father dies in front of him and he has the full trust of Lord Forrester, but then what? As an errand boy who has worked for the Forresters for many years, he's not exactly a key player in the power struggle. After having gotten caught up with Lord Whitehill's people (via murder) early on in the episode, I understand his place in the plot that follows, but as a character he's the one I like the least. That said, his destination in the upcoming episode is extremely exciting, and that makes me look forward to his continued adventures nonetheless.
It gets better when I take control of Ethan, a young man who has been groomed as the next head of the Forrester clan. Does he want to stay a child or is he ready to lead? There are some interesting choices early on that immediately offers some drama. My favourite sequence is when Ethan is forced to stand against Whitehill in a tough verbal bout regarding Gared's actions. What's right and what's wrong? Telltale play with our emotions throughout the script and you never quite know the consequences of your choices. It's a cruel world and what may seem an obvious answer may yield unexpected consequences. Some well known faces from the TV series (and books) will appear in the shape of Ramsay Snow, Cersei and Tyrion Lannister, and Margaery Tyrell, and there are naturally some highly charged scenes here.
The first encounter with Cersei and Tyrion happens as you play Mira Forrester, the oldest daughter in the family. As a servant for Margaery she finds herself in King's Landing and is forced to answer for her family's actions against Whitehill. It's an excellent example of how cleverly linked the three playable characters are. While they are located in different places their actions still impacts the others. Sometimes positively, at other times negatively. Your choices will carry over to subsequent episodes. Decisions that appear mundane now, may very well come back to haunt you later on. Where will the key that my Mira chose to steal take her in an upcoming episode?
I chose to play through Iron From Ice twice, in very different ways. This in order to gauge how the radically different choices affect the experience going forward. One thing is obvious, most of the choices in this first part lead to the same events. It may seem a little disappointing, but I firmly believe that these choices will have consequences further ahead. Naturally the plan is to continue with two save files for the duration to see just how branching the adventure really is.
What doesn't help Game of Thrones is its visuals and the lack of progress evident in the game mechanics; it may feel overly familiar to those who have played through a couple of seasons of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. If you enjoyed the latest games from Telltale you will no doubt enjoy this one as well. It's difficult not to admire how well this episode sets up our expectations ahead of the ones that will follow. It's a very strong start to a series that could end up being absolutely brilliant, if Telltale Games manages to wrap it all up neatly in the end.