There is much that is unsatisfying about the first episode of Telltale's Game of Thrones, but there is one scene that steals the show.
Note: This article includes spoilers about Telltale's Game of Thrones episode "Iron From Ice". Not huge spoilers, but spoilers nonetheless ...
Like the George R.R. Martin books, the game takes a meandering path around Westeros, sometimes stopping to dwell on uninteresting tableaux. (At one point, we are literally staring at a painting.) But this is an acceptable price to pay, because Game of Thrones will always return to the thing that delivers the goods: the Lannisters.
I adored the scene in Episode One when Mira Forrester is standing in the Great Hall of King's Landing, haplessly appeasing the formidable, terrifying Cersei. Also in the scene are Margaery Tyrell and Tyrion Lannister.
It's a fast-moving dialog-choice section in which Mira, a handmaiden to Margaery, must demonstrate loyalty to the crown and to Cersei. The Forresters were previously loyal to the Starks, and are now forced to bend the knee to the Lannisters and their vicious northern henchmen, the Boltons.
This should be a dull scene, because, upon entering the hall, Margaery, who we are eager to please, has basically instructed Mira to tell Cersei whatever she wants to hear. And yet, while there are options to be rebellious or craven, there is a special satisfaction in hitting the cleverly disingenuous button each time, which seems to tell Cersei what she wants to hear, without saying anything at all.
There is a mounting sense of unease though, because Cersei is not to be gulled so easily. The player realizes that, at some point, you are going to have to suck it up and kiss Cersei's arse. Worse, the questions she puts to you are in danger of humiliating Margaery, and in doing so deliver disaster to a wider plot achievement. Hitting the button that will get you through the scene becomes, itself, an exercise in self-abasement. It makes me really angry about these haughty, cruel Lannisters.
This is where Game of Thrones is at its best, and where the game delivers satisfaction. Verbally sparring with Cersei, while Tyrion throws in amused observations, is exactly what I want from such a game. The Forresters are an okay set of people, promoted from passing mentions in the books to protagonist status, and the particular time-setting and location of this story is well-chosen, but ultimately, all I want to do is hang out with the book's major characters.
In a slightly earlier scene, when I first understand that I am playing as Mira (the game cuts between Forrester clan members) she is standing in a room in King's Landing. There is a knock at the door. I almost flew to open that door, with the fierce hope that I would get my first look at my boss, Margaery. I was greeted by a grubby scullery boy. Surely, the writers were having a cheeky bit of fun at the player's expense.
Like most people of good sense, I've long had a crush on good old Margaery, intensified when the HBO people cast Natalie Dormer to play her. When she does appear, as an early example of a well-known character, we really feel like we're in this world, as opposed to playing some crummy spin-off (even if Margaery's in-game features are tiny bit triangular, almost reptilian.)
I suppose the games in the next few episodes will follow the pattern of the first, in which dialog sections are intercut with point-and-click adventuring and "press X to avoid being filleted" combat mechanics.
For me, there is only so much satisfaction I can derive from charging around a muddy field while men-in-beards clang sharp weapons and yell "fucking die you fucking fuck" at each other in Lancashire accents. It's about as magical as a Friday night in Runcorn.
But getting to grips with proper Lannisters, Starks, Tyrells and Targaryens is what we are paying for here, and the more of them we can see in this series, the better.