Thursday, December 4, 2014

Episode One of Game of Thrones is a Good Start For Fans - The Take Your Time Review

Quick Note: Episode One has certainly set the stage for what is to come. The tone and depth of the series is here, but if you haven't seen any of the show or read the books, you will probably be lost. But if you like Telltale Games or Game of Thrones, this is worth checking out.

For quite some time fans of the Game of Thrones series have been looking for a game worthy of it's namesake. Though previous attempts have failed, it looks like Telltale Games may have the secret sauce to make the ambitious, interwoven story work in the video game realm, though newcomers may get lost in the attempt to make a story that is relevant to the TV series.

Episode One: Iron From Ice introduces players to House Forrester, loyal banner-men of the Starks for generations. As the game takes place in the television show universe, the story interweaves these new characters with the well known cast to create an interesting side story that takes place between the end of season three and the beginning of season five.  Much like the show, the story takes place through the perspective of multiple characters in multiple regions of the world. 

Familiar faces are sprinkled in with the new to make the game feel like it belongs with the TV series.

In episode one, players will take on the roles of Gared Tuttle, squire to Lord Gregor Forrester, Mira Forrester, the eldest daughter and handmaiden of Margaery Tyrell, and Ethan Forrester, the next in line to succeed Lord Forrester. There's little else that I can go into, story-wise, without hitting a few spoilers, but suffice it to say that any concerns that this game would not live up to what George R.R. Martin and the writers of the TV series have crafted can be cast aside. This is ,indeed, a Game of Thrones story, filled with politics, tough choices and twists.

The new characters are well rounded and stand out on their own next to the likes of Queen Cersei  and Ramsey Snow, which is saying something. In fact, more often than not I found myself wanting to go back to the new characters. It's not that I didn't appreciate the inclusion of well known characters, but rather that I wanted to learn more about the new ones I just met rather than familiar characters attempting to steal the spot light.

The voice work, both for new and familiar characters, is spot on and really helps nail the feeling of the TV series and bring the characters to life. Peter Dinklage received some flack for his work on Destiny, but he really brings Tyrion to the screen in this game. 

The painting-style graphics fit well into the Game of Thrones world.

The biggest jump away from the TV series is the art style. Graphics are developed to emulate the real life characters, yet accentuate them with a painting like aesthetic. It's a style that is really hard to capture, even in screen shots, because the movement of the character is what really brings out the smooth, paint like texturing. 

That being said, the textures can also appear blurry. There were multiple times in the night that I would have to turn away from a character who was standing at the perfect angle for their outline to blur, causing them to be painful to look at. It's not a deal breaker by any means, but it is something that is pretty much impossible to not pay attention to. But overall, the style works very well with characters we know and love, and makes the tale feel like it is taking place in an ancient tome, which is really cool. 

Gameplay for Iron From Ice is very passive, which is to be expected from a Telltale Game. The first two chapters introduced the combat system, which is a set of Quick Time Events dealing with pushing your joystick one way and tapping a button. This isn't a bad thing, because the action comes second in most Telltale Games and the same can be said for the Game of Thrones franchise, as it's always been about the characters and the story over big action scenes, and the sequences appear enough to keep you on your toes, but not overwhelm the player nor the story.

More so than previous Telltale Games, choices feel very ambiguous and less obvious.

The main gameplay mechanics are the choices, and boy are there some tough ones. The best choices come when there is no clear outcome to be seen, and that can be applied to almost all of the choices given. This is important, as in previous Telltale Games it was often easier to decide what to do next, where as the Game of Thrones politically driven world is much more complicated and almost driven by ambiguity. It will be really interesting to see how well Telltale can incorporate these choices into the story, as Game of Thrones already has a very convoluted story, but if anyone can make it work, it's these guys.    

Overall, Iron From Ice did what it set out to accomplish: hook us into an original story and prove that Telltale can work with the Game of Thrones universe. There are no helping hints for new comers, so if you've never introduced yourself to anything Game of Thrones, this may not be the game for you, but fans of the series should give Episode One a shot, because it is setting up what looks to be another interesting wrinkle in Westeros and beyond. 

7.5 out of 10

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