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A Song Of Ice And Fire has been adapted into video games before. Some of these games explored what it would be like to manage the army and economy of a noble house in Westeros. Others cast players as action heroes who slashed their way through the Seven Kingdoms. The latest adaptation focuses on storytelling by mimicking the way that the books and TV show explore a story from the perspective of multiple characters. Telltale Games had adapted other franchises like The Walking Dead by examining what the minor characters are doing in the background while the stars are away. It’s a little like the existentialist play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and this technique is particularly suited to the expansive setting of A Game Of Thrones.
Be warned: This game is not a good way for people to discover A Game Of Thrones, it’s intended for those who are already engrossed in either the show or the books. The designers have avoided overt spoilers, but the story takes place during the events of the third book, and the opening scene is set on the night of the spoilerific “Red Wedding”. The characters also reference many political developments that occur in the first two books, and a certain character is depicted as utterly evil, even though that revelation is used as a plot twist on the show.
Players who download this game hoping to see what all the fuss is about with the show would be advised to get well into the third season or third book before actually playing it.
However, the main events of the TV show are only a backdrop for this story. Telltale has taken a family who are briefly mentioned in one of the books, and made protagonists out of them. A key element in A Game Of Thrones is that the people vying for the throne all have alliances with “Bannermen” who provide soldiers and resources for their armies. Often these minor lords will appear in a scene or two, then disappear as the story returns to the major players. Telltale’s adaptation is centered on one such minor family, the Forresters who are Bannermen of the Stark family.
The story is explored from the perspective of several different members of the Forrester household. In this first episode, players will spend most of their time with Gared, a squire who serves the Forresters while not actually being a part of the family. He gets caught up in the sudden change of power that happens in the wake of the Red Wedding, when the Forresters find themselves on the losing side of the war.
Gared is a swordsman and he has a couple of action sequences. These play out much like the combat from Telltale’s other recent games like The Walking Dead and A Wolf Among Us. Players will have to quickly swipe in a direction to make Gared dodge attacks, or move through dangerous areas. Occasionally players will need to quickly select an object in the background for him to use as a weapon, or target an enemy.
These action scenes are rare in Episode 1, mostly in the beginning, but the Player will have to deal with the fallout of their decisions in combat. Game Of Thrones is a world where killing a member of a rival house can have drastic consequences. In previous games by Telltale, the characters would be held responsible for their decisions, but this game has multiple playable characters, and that means a character might be able to escape the consequences of their actions, but the Player is still stuck dealing with the repercussions. The Gared might get away with something, only to have another playable character pay the price.
Later episodes will have yet more playable characters, but this episode only has three. For a couple of brief scenes, players will control Mira, the eldest daughter of the Forresters. She is a handmaiden in the service of Margaery Tyrell in King’s Landing. Mira is caught between showing loyalty to Margaery, who might be able to help the Forrester Clan, but Mira also must appease Cersei Lannister. Players will have to engage in the same sort of courtly intrigue that perplexed Sansa Stark during her time in King’s Landing. Players who enjoy the forked-tongued dialog on the show, and the scheming that goes on in the throne room will take particular pleasure from Mira’s scenes.
The final playable character in this episode is Ethan Forrester, a young boy who suddenly finds himself placed in charge of the Forrester household and lands. Ethan gives players a taste of what it’s like to be a little fish in the vast pond of Westeros politics. The Forrester family has a grove of “Ironwood” trees that are an important asset to the Seven Kingdoms. This means that they are important enough to draw attention from the major players, but they are still underdogs who have to do as they’re told when the Warden of the North, or the King comes knocking. Poor Ethan has limited options when his enemies try to bully him into doing their will.
The game is filled with countless references that will only fan of the series will catch. They will know in advance why no one wants to get on Ramsay Snow’s bad side, there’s a scene in which Mira looks over the seating chart of the “Purple Wedding”, and of course there is the significance of “The Rains of Castamere” playing softly in the distance during the Red Wedding.
There are also appearances from major characters from the TV show, including Tyrion, Cersei, Margaery and Ramsay Snow, all featuring voice work by their TV counterparts, and modeled after the actors (Although they didn’t quite capture Natalie Dormer’s asymmetrical smirk).
Fans of the show who were burned by previous adaptations of the series will be very pleased with this faithful and new take on the franchise. A Game of Thrones has earned a reputation for callously killing and maiming its characters, and Telltale Games won’t hesitate to give a character The Sean Bean Treatment, so this game series promises to be particularly nail-biting in the episodes ahead.
Game of Thrones – A Telltale Games Series: Episode 1 Iron From Ice is available now.
Check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRMoVJReI9U.
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