The final episode to Telltale's first season of Game of Thrones seemed to be all about answering two questions: what's the quickest way I can wrap up this plotline and what doesn't need answering now so it can be figured out in a future season? While there are some difficult decisions to make throughout the episode, none of them seem to be all that consequential.
Let's start with the good. Gared Tuttle's story continues to be the most interesting and unique aspect of Telltale's Game of Thrones in The Ice Dragon. The mystique and straight up fantastical nature of whatever it is he is looking for exactly is great.
What's not so great is that nothing feels resolved, nothing feels accomplished once you reach the end. What is the North Grove and why should we care about it? What was so important? Why does it need to be protected? Those questions go largely unanswered. Some dialogue and the situation Gared finds himself in certainly leaves room for speculation, but that's all it will be for now: unresolved.
With that said, the potential for more interesting things to happen with Gared is definitely there, though who knows how Telltale will choose to capitalize on it. I've said this entire season there has been great potential in which this final episode has proven it squandered. Here's to hoping they eventually do more with the Bran/Jon Snow hybrid story they have going for Gared right now.
Those of you that find the intrigue in King's Landing interesting will also likely be disappointed. Mira's story and point of view definitely comes across the most rushed, while at the same time seemingly the most significant. Rapid-fire events lead to her resolved fate far too quickly, the entire story crashing down in mere minutes.
There's a reasonable twist in there, though those familiar with A Song of Ice and Fire were probably suspect of it. It is that twist, though, that ultimately decides Mira's fate and leads to what could possibly be the most important choice ever placed in a Telltale game. However, like Gared's story, we cannot and will not know the outcome until future installments. And, again, the potential to do something really cool will likely be mishandled/thrown to the side for something easier.
The most significant storyline of all, though, is that of Roderick/Asher. The climax between the Forresters and the Whitehills—what is the fate of Ironrath?
Luckily, that question gets answered but brings with it a whole slew of new loose ends that don't get resolved. Without spoiling it, we're left with cliffhanger after cliffhanger when it comes to the fates of most of he characters left there. Without spoiling it, just know that the story ends with the greatest feeling that there is nothing the Forresters can do, nothing that will ever go their way.
Worse, though, this storyline is the one with the least amount of possible player agency. None of the major decisions, which feel incredibly important at the time, actually do anything at all. Playing through each of them going one way or another always led me to EXACTLY the same end, no matter what.
I can understand the importance of keeping such a big part of the plot relatively similar, but to devoid any choice of meaningful significance? It almost makes you wonder what's the point of making those decisions at all. What's worse is that the game presents the choices to you in such a way that they seemingly do lead to significant divergence in the plot. Even the way the summaries of your choices throughout the season imply the significance of said choices, but they don't do a whole awful lot in the end.
Narratively speaking, this episode is a mixed bag. Certain decisions will definitely make characters think differently about whatever character made that decision, but it doesn't really go beyond that. Not only that, but the characters in Game of Thrones must be very forgiving considering how quickly certain feelings are forgotten. Often the narrative effects of those decisions are fleeting, relevant only in a few moments.
The parts of the episode taking place at Ironrath are largely devoid of any real narrative significance, apart from choosing which of two characters should die. Even then, going either way only changes which model happens to be in place during one event. None of the actions change, none of the dialogue, none of the character reactions—nothing.
The other storylines have more, certainly, but Gared's is a little bit hard to get a handle on. With his story, we are given a nice moral quandary on whether Gared is an ends justify the means sorta guy, but other than that we are left with making decisions surrounded by characters that we don't know if Gared should care about offending or not.
I can't really go into Mira's story without giving away too much, but a lot is left to you as the player in ultimately deciding the kind of person she is in her most dire moments. Is she dignified, an emotionally broken kid, a survival by any means sort of person, honorable ...?
The final thing worth mentioning is that this was one of the technically worst Telltale episodes of any of their games I have ever experienced. You could hear a static-like noise when certain characters spoke. Some spoke quickly and had their dialogue cut off one or two words; sometimes entire sentences were skipped that I would not have known existed if not for subtitles.
While the animations during action scenes was quite good, it was pretty poor just about everywhere else. So much so that we are left with a death scene that rivals that of Talia's in The Dark Knight Rises in terms of being terrible.
This is all a shame, too, as Telltale has done a fairly good job in adapting the world of A Song of Ice and Fire and understanding what to do in some ways. However, they take some of what the series is known for too far, leading to detrimental effects. Bloodshed, death, surprise, and change are only compelling when it has meaning behind it—and man do I wish it was beyond hopelessness.
The Ice Dragon is a disappointing ending to a season that seemed to hold so much promise. Mistaking shock and surprise for engaging material, on top of the typical Telltale technical woes, leaves behind an underwhelming experience. There may still be some good craft in the dialogue and characterization, but that was wasted on a plot that seemed to take the easy, well-trod path we have all seen before, rather than try to capitalize on its potential in the end.
At least it wasn't as bad as the Sand Snakes in the TV show, though.
The Ice Dragon was purchased by the reviewer and reviewed on the PC with a controller.