Game of Thrones: Episode One - Iron From Ice (PS4) - ReviewJoseph Trotter , posted on 19 December 2014 / 3,493 Views
The juggernaut rolls on. A Song of Fire and Ice was a cult fantasy series far removed from the cultural mainstream until it was adapted into the television series du jour in 2011. Since then, its success has been colossal and relentless. It has made stars of its cast, prompted enormous book sales, and turned author George R. R. Martin into one of Times' 100 most influential people. That is quite the turn-around.
The inevitable adaptation into video games has seen several different interpretations. An eponymous RPG was released in 2012, its story written by George R. R. Martin, but was bemoaned for its mediocrity. When it was announced that Telltale Games was to produce an episodic series based within the time-line of the Game of Thrones, the proclamation was met with genuine intrigue. Telltale were, and still are, riding a wave of critical acclaim backed by strong sales of their unique point-and-click narrative serials. Their multi-award winning The Walking Dead proved their ability to turn a big license into something special, so they were the obvious choice to take advantage of Martin's narrative strengths.
For those sensitive to such things, it should be made clear that the Telltale games are an adaptation of the TV series, not the books. Actors reprise their roles, including Peter Dinklage as Tyrionn Lannister, Kit Harrington as Jon Snow, and Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell. The time-line of events corresponds closely to events in the TV series, using its particular angle rather than that of the books. This may annoy some, but when understood in this context they ought to be pacified.
Iron From Ice begins in Robb Stark's camp outside the Twins, where the Red Wedding is about to go down. Does that sentence make any sense to you?
If it does, follow on, because much of the game will be thoroughly absorbing. The narrative focuses on the travails of House Forrester - supporters of Stark during the Northern Rebellion whose fortunes change dramatically in the aftermath of the Red Wedding. Gared Tuttle, Squire to Lord Forrester, escapes the carnage and returns to the family's seat at Ironwrath. As might be expected, the narrative utilises The Game of Thrones' multiple perspectives; the episode is played through five different characters, each action affecting House Forrester. This gives a microcosmic effect to each decision, and each conversation brings multiple risks and rewards. Being Westeros, there tends to be more risk than reward.
If the previous paragraph (or any of this for that matter) made little sense, there is still enjoyment to be had from Game of Thrones. The narrative is strong and immediate; references to wider events are frequent but not forced, appreciated but not necessary. Story-strands hang and fall entirely self-sufficiently. Think of it like a historical fiction; a greater knowledge of the subject enhances the experience, but it is the immediate storyline that satisfies. A fan of the TV series will find greater enjoyment, but a newcomer should still find plenty to admire.
Those familiar with Telltale projects will be aware of their particular style of gameplay. Most of the game is spent interacting with others, exploring limited environments, and making timed, split second decisions. Action events are hangovers of the quick-time-event era, every move performed with a smash or sweep of the prompted button. It's light, never taxing, but it is a better way of getting from A to B than a pause screen.
Game of Thrones does not make the most of the hardware potential of the PlayStation 4. Faces are surprisingly jaggy, with bad lipsynching ruining the effect of impressively varied facial expressions. Backgrounds are of mixed quality; some terrific, some fazed and dull. Movement is stunted, but each character can be said to move in a way appropriate to their situation. The graphical style, comic book-esque and off-realistic, brings recognisable characters to life, giving them a vibrancy that a more photorealistic style could not. Strangely, Iron From Ice suffers graphically but appears to improve later in the episode. Perhaps it is because less is going on (less figures and movement) but this ought not to be an excuse.
The voice-acting, as with any Telltale production, is industry leading. Actors are superb and convincing, spoiled slightly by the lipsynching but not to the extent you do not believe in their performances. None are phoned in. The performances are backed by a stirring score, hopeful yet harsh, booming, crashing and floating in the background.
Game of Thrones has a lot of potential judging by this first effort, but needs a lot more polish before it really hits new heights. The narrative is promising, and although the gameplay is stunted it remains a thoroughly absorbing experience. You'll need to be absorbed, because there are at least five more episodes coming. I for one cannot wait.
This review is based on a digital copy of Game of Thrones: Episode One - Iron From Ice for the PS4, provided by the publisher.
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