Telltale Games has developed a reputation as one of the better story-focused video game studios, largely thanks to its critically-acclaimed "Walking Dead" episodic series, based on the hit AMC show.
The developer's latest project takes on TV's other smash-hit drama, HBO's "Game of Thrones," with the first episode released digitally across nearly every platform this week. A far as debuts go, the first episode of Season 1, "Iron From Ice," is a good start.
Instead of taking over any of the main or supporting characters from "GOT," gamers play from the perspective of House Forrester and its allies. Don't worry, familiar faces from the series such as Tyrion Lannister, Margaery Tyrell and Ramsay Snow play important roles in the events of Episode 1.
The game does a wonderful job of establishing the Forresters, a minor house in the North of Westeros, and making the player care about their plight. In this episode, players control Ethan and Mira Forrester, as well as Lord Gregor Forrester's squire Gared Tuttle, with the story beginning during a seminal moment in the TV series' lore. No spoilers here, but suffice to say House Forrester has a tough road ahead in the final five episodes of the season, which will release later.
Telltale's "Game of Thrones" features some of the most accessible gameplay to be found on consoles, especially for games not aimed at children. Mostly, the game is about making choices that will have consequences either in this episode or later in the season.The choose-your-own-adventure-type gameplay fits very well with a property like "GOT", which features plenty of action, blood and guts, but usually centers on secret plotting and politics. "Iron From Ice" does mix in some timed-attack scenes, but they're not the hardest to get through.
If there's one knock on this entry -- one that doesn't figure to change in future episodes of this season -- it's the visuals. Any issue with the presentation of the characters as semi-cartoony comes down to preference, but the animatronic way in which characters move and talk seems very dated given how far games have come. Telltale Games went and got the real actors to voice the real characters; why not have actors perform motion capture as well? It would make the game feel more cinematic.
Ultimately, that's not enough to ruin the experience. The fact that I was fully invested in -- and at times nervous about -- the decisions at hand speaks volumes about its quality. One has the freedom to make the characters develop unique personalities based on the choices they make. The whole story of Episode 1 lasts around two hours, but that's not too bad at a friendly price-point of $4.99. (The Season Pass, which includes this episode and the five to come, can be purchased as well.)
A game such as this offers some replay value as well, for those who want to see what happens when different choices are made. It's hard to recommend for those who have yet to watch the series or read the books (editor's note: read them!), but for the many fans out there this definitely is worth checking out.
"Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series -- Episode 1, 'Iron From Ice' " is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac and iOS