I hate Ramsay Snow.
The sadistic black sheep of "Game of Thrones'" House Bolton puts the "bastard" in "bastard son."
His reptilian eyes, his loony stammer, his delight in gorily torturing people for no other reason than psychologically dominating them — everything. When someone puts up a fight against King Joffrey for the title of "The Biggest Butthole in Westeros," you know they're bad.
So as Telltale adapts HBO's wildly popular fantasy drama into another episodic video game adventure, beginning with this month's "Iron From Ice," these are the kinds of prejudices I carry with me as I pick up the controller.
And that's what separates "Thrones" from previous Telltale arcs "The Walking Dead" or "The Wolf Among Us." Sure, the former's AMC cousin conditioned me to fear the zombie apocalypse and the humans surviving it. The latter's cast of classic fairy tale characters won't be familiar to only the most sheltered player. But never before have I, from the very outset, harbored against a Telltale character the kind of weapons-grade hatred that I do against Ramsay Snow.
So as I inhabit the muddy boots of members of House Forrester, the protagonist faction of Telltale's series, I'm not etching the kind of player-character bond I did with "The Walking Dead's" Lee and Clementine, or "The Wolf Among Us'" Bigby. With them, I started with a clean slate. I gave people a chance, and generally was a nice, reasonable guy.
Not in "Game of Thrones." With "Iron From Ice," I soon learned that my attitudes toward just about everyone in Westeros — attitudes that have hardened over four seasons of watching the HBO show — will rule what I say and do. So when I find out Ramsay Snow is coming to my forest castle of Ironrath, I don't even try feigning courtesy — I treat him like the volatile little creep he is.
This effect wasn't limited to Ramsay. In "Iron From Ice," I also found myself in the precarious orbit of the Lannisters at King's Landing. Again, I didn't go in blind — I tried playing the titular game as Queen Cersei interrogated my character, a handmaiden to queen-to-be Margaery Tyrell, about her loyalty to Joffrey in light of House Forrester's alliance with the Lannisters' sworn enemy, the Starks.
So basically, I lied through my teeth. But it wasn't that easy. With Tyrion Lannister stoking the tension like the little troublemaker he is, my supplicating answers didn't quite allay Cersei. Like I'd learn with Ramsay, a passing familiarity with these snakes is no preparation for actually handling them. Telltale is too crafty for that.
The use of multiple protagonists from House Forrester also gives the game the same epicness as the ensemble drama, and allots Telltale much more, ahem, storytelling leeway than the single-character setup of its previous series.
Otherwise, "Iron From Ice" doesn't reinvent the wheel. It's the usual well-paced rail of quick-time-event action and timed dialogue choices. But by setting a tale in the wicked world of "Game of Thrones," and importing your feelings therein, Telltale has crafted an altogether fresh kind of fantasy.