Saturday, October 17, 2015

Game of Thrones Episode 1 Review

Telltale has managed to score another popular franchise with Game of Thrones.  This series is all about bloodlines and betrayals, so it seems like the perfect fit with the choices and consequences model that Telltale has used for all of their games since The Walking Dead: Season One.

The game follows the noble house of Forrester, a clan that provides the realm with strong equipment made from Ironwood trees.  The Forrester clan has only been mentioned in passing in the novels on which HBO's Game of Thrones is based.  This gives Telltale a lot of freedom to make their own characters, while still making it fit right within the continuity of the Game of Thrones world.

Like 400 Days before it, this game has several different protagonists, and their stories will weave in and out of each other as the episodes unfold.  Game of Thrones is told in six episodes, so this format should serve this game much better than its predecessor, as even though the story was interesting enough, one episode was not enough time to get to know each of the protagonists.

The game opens with the death of the head of the house Forrester, and each member of the house, from the family members, to the loyal servants, must make choices to try to keep the house going in their leader's stead.  As with all of Telltale's choices and consequences games so far, this episode doesn't reveal too many consequences yet, but it does seem that this format could lead to a good deal of consequences down the road, especially as each protagonist makes their own choices.

Choices are hard to make in the Game of Thrones world, as good people usually do not live long, so it should be interesting to see what follows.  There is a good chance that the game will enter even murkier waters than the morally challenged protagonists from Tales from the Borderlands.

The game is presented in an interesting art style that resembles a painting, with heavy brush strokes apparent on the backgrounds, but it's especially apparent on the characters.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but it's actually quite pleasant once you do, especially in the backgrounds.  The eyes of the characters have a bit of an uncanny-valley quality, however, but it's not too distracting.

The music and voice acting is always top notch in Telltale's games and it definitely shines here.  The music uses the soundtrack from the television show mixed with an original score.  The licensed music makes the game feel like it's part of the Game of Thrones show, while the original score fits the tone of each of the scenes wonderfully.  The voice cast is fantastic as well.  Each of the protagonists are voiced excellently, and they are joined by some of the cast from the HBO show as well.  As with Telltale's CSI games, some of the actors from the show sound more wooden than others, but they all work well, and add to the authenticity of the game.

Outside of the choices and consequences, the rest of the game is presented in quick time events. Telltale does need to mix things up a bit, as the QTE's are becoming Telltale's go-to game play device, and they're getting a bit tiresome at this point.  It's a shame there's no puzzles or at least some direct control action sections, as the direct controlled action from the middle of the first season of The Walking Dead would have really worked well here.

The first episode of Game of Thrones manages to be an exciting premiere episode, story-wise.  The finale is one of the most memorable moments I've seen in a Telltale game so far.  It's something that Telltale hasn't tried before, and is certainly quite the cliff-hanger for what's to come.  The music and voice acting is also top notch, matching the excellent standards set by the story.  The painting-like art style is a bit jarring at first, but works well once you get used to it.  The game play however, is a bit lacking.  The choices and consequences do seem like they could be used quite well in the setting of Game of Thrones, but most of the consequences from the choices made in this episode will come later in the season.  The rest of the game play consists of quick time events, which is a shame as Telltale has shown that they're capable of more compelling gameplay with the puzzle based or direct action based gameplay in some of their other seasons.  The latter could have definitely been used well in the Game of Thrones setting.  Even with it's shortcomings, however, the excellent story and presentation make Iron From Ice an intriguing start to the season.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

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