As a big fan of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series, and as an even bigger fan of the Game of Thrones show (and the books, too), it should come as no surprise that I have been looking forward to the release of Iron from Ice since the new series was first announced.
Add into the mix the knowledge that, for the sake of continuity, the celebrities portraying the characters in the show are lending their voices, and likenesses, to the game, and you have one happy nerd.
Unfortunately, just moments into my experience within the first episode of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones, —as Tyrion Lannister put it ever so bitterly, the joy turned to ashes in my mouth.
The game I found myself playing was a clumsy, unresponsive, out-of-sync mess that was nearly unplayable during the opening act. My iPad Mini 2 should be able to run this watered-down version of the PC release with no problems whatsoever. After all, Telltale tuned the graphics way down to the point where almost everyone’s skin looks like that of a potato. Even the iconic opening musical sequence with the pop-up buildings was lagging, and that was literally just basic geometric shapes with low-resolution textures slapped onto them. This kind of unpolished performance is unacceptable and makes the iOS version feel like the unwanted cousin that had to tag along because they’re family.
But, before I completely turn into a keyboard-wielding Ilyn Payne, let me say that the voice acting in Iron from Ice was absolutely fantastic. Even though the game’s audio was about a half-second out of sync and had a tendency to stutter over itself throughout the entire game, the voices were delivered with such skill that I got goosebumps more than a few times.
I quickly learned to avert my eyes from the mismatched mouth movements of the characters and instead looked around the rooms as they spoke. If it wasn’t for the fact that I needed to be constantly aware for the Telltale’s signature quick-answer question prompts, I would have just closed my eyes and pictured it as an episode of the show. It was that good.
Most of the action sequences (i.e. quick-time events) take place in that horrible first act that I previously mentioned. The action scenes dictated a few rapid moments of swiping left and right to dodge and roll out of the way. Due to the framerate bouncing up and down constantly, sometimes by the time the prompt was displayed on the screen it was too late for me to even interact with it. Only by repetition was I able to successfully get through a segment that had me rolling out of the way of some horses. I had to spam-swipe before the prompt even came up for it to register in time.
And that’s just one example.
After I slogged my way through the opening fights, the game ran tolerably better, though far from being an optimal experience. The vast majority of your time in Iron from Ice will be spent doing battle; not with weapons, but with words.
Staying true to the source, Iron from Ice relies heavily on the politics of Westeros, and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can mean all kinds of the wrong results. This is where Iron from Ice manages to shine.
If you have ever wondered how well you would fair in a tense confrontation with Cersei Lannister, you now can do so for the meager price of $4.99. You are not prepared, she is brutal. Her scene was probably the most intense part of the entire episode.
The first three acts do an excellent job building up the tension, albeit with different types of aggressors. After the third act (where you encounter Cersei) the game slopes downhill a bit, as far as pacing goes, until the very end of the episode when it ends, not surprisingly, with a cliffhanger.
As someone who gobbles up every bit of Game of Thrones lore that I can, I didn’t mind the slow moments in between the more important set pieces, as they allowed me to explore these newer characters more in-depth.
Players looking for a quick run through with their favorite characters from the books and show might be a little turned away by the fact that Tyrion, Margery, Cersei, and Ramsay are only in the episode for a handful of moments each. The majority of the game revolves around new characters entirely.
I am hoping that Telltale gets around to fixing the voice syncing issue, as well as whatever is causing the lag, because as it stands they have a great bit of Game of Thrones lore going on here, but it is just so heavily damaged by the delivery that I can’t completely recommend it just yet.