A few frustrating hours in Westeros
IN THE Game of Thrones game, you win or you reload your save to get an outcome that doesn’t end in traumatic, bloody murder. Those familiar with the live-action series – and I would suggest you need to be to get the most out of Iron from Ice – will be aware that it only takes until the end of the first episode to turn really dark, really fast. This isn’t your grandma’s high fantasy tea party.
Telltale’s new interactive episodic game, in the same vein as their Walking Dead tie-in or The Wolf Among Us follows the story of House Forrester – a lower house in Westeros, that nevertheless finds itself caught up in the events of the Red Wedding. You are left to flee home to Ironrath, where the Forresters control the wood used for most of the weapons, which Game of Thrones tends to need a lot of, to deal with the aftermath and prepare for the arrival of Westeros’ resident ultra-sadist, Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon). In conversations with other characters, you are given options for the dialogue, which can go one of many ways – will you be confrontational, or sympathetic? As Lord of House Forrester, will you be merciful or just? Your relationships with other characters may also change as a result of your decisions. Though, like certain characters in the TV series, all the careful thinking in the world sometimes won’t save you.
Iron from Ice is frustrating because it is, at its core, bureaucratic; the first episode is built around two incredibly tense scenes – one of which, regardless of your moral choices, is as shocking as you can expect in Game of Thrones – and in the meantime, you are left to pick up the pieces on behalf of your house by navigating the labyrinthine politics of the world, at one point facing down the terrifying Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) herself. There is strife and obstacles at every turn. But the frustration isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In one chapter you are tasked with appointing a new right-hand man for House Forrester and it took me a good ten minutes to decide between the two candidates, watching the swords being sharpened for a possible incoming storm. It’s the kind of frustration you get from fighting a boss in more action-oriented games – it’s about the importance of allies, recognising your weaknesses (and those of your opponents) and making the right moves at the right time.
Since House Forrester has no immediate connection to the events unfolding in the TV series, the dramatic opportunities for the next episodes of Telltale’s Game of Thrones have the capacity to go to some very engaging places while we wait for Season Five of the show – provided the House doesn’t burn down, first.