Tell me, is there a more irritating subset of people on Earth than those who use the fact that they read the A Song Of Ice And Fire books to ruin the TV show for the rest of us? Possibly anyone who says ‘would of’ or people with 'atheist' in their Twitter bio. As such I shall tread lightly here, because one thing that Telltale’s tie-in does have in common with the HBO mega-series is moments of high drama that are prime spoiler fodder for anyone so inclined.
What it doesn’t seem to share – as yet, anyway – is Mr G R R Martin’s enthusiasm for portraying carnal delights; winter may be coming, but that's about it so far. More problematic in gaming terms is the divergence of aesthetic. Telltale’s visual approach is well-known by now, but somehow doesn't chime quite right here. It's not solely the cartoon stylings – witness how this can be turned towards something darker in The Wolf Among Us – but more an issue with character models and environments. Everything's too sanitised, too Disney. (That said, I don’t actually recall the animated feature in which the young lord has to decide whether to lop off a pauper's fingers or send him into arctic exile).
As this point it's probably about as worthwhile explaining to you how to keep blood pumping around your own body as it is the setup of a Telltale project: there are QTEs, dialogue choices, moral quandaries, a dash of violence – you know the score by now.
What we do have here is an increased number of player characters when compared with the developer’s recent output: this first episode contains three, but there will be five in total. They all belong to House Forrester, with Iron From Ice initially placing you in the shoes of Mira and Ethan, children of the head of the family, Lord Forrester, and Gared Tuttle, his lordship's faithful squire.
Timeline-wise, proceedings kick-off on the night of the Red Wedding. As such, the balance of power in the North shifts from the Starks to the Boltons, and House Forrester, long-time bannermen of the former, ends up feeling the repercussions. It’s here where the game really excels, as you attempt to toe the line between force and diplomacy to ensure the ongoing survival of your clan. Choices feel murky and impactful, especially when playing as Ethan – even if the true divergence of the possible pathways isn’t likely to be as wide as it may appear.
The voice acting from the known characters – Tyrion, Cersei, Ramsay Snow and Margaery Tyrell all feature – is perfectly fine, although the script is at times slightly twee (barring some awkwardly shoehorned swearing). As debuts go this lags behind those of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, but there's promise… and the ending means you've GOT (*ahem*) to play the follow-up.
Not as confident as Telltale's selection of flagship franchises so far, but the ethos of the show is there in terms of tense confrontations and oh-so-tricky power games.
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