Caution: This review contains a few Iron From Ice plot details, so don't read ahead if you want to be totally surprised. If you do keep reading, don't come after my head.
I just finished playing Iron From Ice, episode 1 in Telltale Games' six-part series set in the "Game of Thrones" universe. And man, is it ever good. There are deaths, betrayals and exiles galore (you know, a typical day at the office in Westeros).
In a way, the game,, is a perfect fit for Telltale's typical point-and-click, episodic style of gameplay featuring dark storylines. Decisions you make impact the way your story unfolds, and all along the way you wonder whether you're making the right choices. Should you kill that man who's wronged you? How, as a lord of the house, do you handle a mild act of betrayal by one of your subjects? Will you get kicked out of King's Landing or worse if your response to a question upsets Queen Cersei?
There are many tough decisions to be made in Iron From Ice as you weave through the personal stories of a handful of members of House Forrester, a northern house with allegiances to the ill-fated House Stark. When you take the reigns of the lord's squire for the first time, you're thrust into the middle of the Stark camp outside the Red Wedding, and must find a way to survive and keep members of your house safe from the advances of House Bolton and its sadistic and psychopathic heir Ramsay Snow (Iron From Ice takes place before he takes his rightful name as Ramsay Bolton).
The same sort of gut-wrenching feelings many viewers have watching the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin's books arise throughout Iron From Ice, as characters you start to connect with are frequently banished or killed in a flash.
I felt like I was really coming into my own with the decisions I made playing the young Lord Ethan, who takes over after his father and older brother are killed in the aftermath of the Red Wedding. Then, in the game's closing scene, where Ethan invites Ramsay Snow into Ironrath, Ramsey takes a sword to Ethan's throat just after they reach what seems to be a mutual agreement. I screamed at the screen, hoping the psychopathic Snow hadn't really done it, but there Ethan was, lying on the ground in a pool of blood as the credits began to roll.
This is "Game of Thrones" at its grittiest, and though everything looks bleak for the prospects of House Forrester's survival, you can't help but be compelled to try to lead House Forrester to victory when the house is at (or, perhaps beyond) the point of no return.
Whether House Forrester ends up winning the Game of Thrones or meeting its fate, I can't wait to watch how the story unfolds in episode 2, which brings the former squire you control in the game's opening scenes into the Nightswatch to cross paths with Jon Snow.
Game of Thrones episode 1, Iron From Ice, is now available for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and iOS, with prices ranging from $25 to $30 (£16-19, AU$30-36) depending on the platform. It'll land on PlayStation 3 and Android later this month. Be sure to read our sister site GameSpot's full review of the first episode. And when you sit down to play Iron From Ice for yourself, remember what we tell the god of death: not today.