Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: Gared is imprisoned for the murder of his Brother, Asher helps Daenarys storm Meereen and Rodrik hatches a plan to take Ironrath back for the Forresters.
Was it just me or did the latest episode of Game of Thrones, The Sons of Winter, feel a little broken up? Sure, having several stories on the go is a staple of the Game of Thrones style and was one of the things I most applauded in the first episode of Telltale’s new series, but here the pacing does seem thrown off a little by one too many cuts. One moment we were picking up where we left off with Gared Tuttle. After avenging his father (reluctantly or not, depending on the player), Frostfinger has his sentenced to death on the Wall. The only way he can get to the mysterious North Grove beyond the wall now is to break out of the cell and betray the Night’s Wat… oh wait, nope, we’ve cut to Asher. Malcolm and Beshka. There is a pretty cool sequence where Asher butts heads with potentially the one woman in Westeros, who won’t succumb to his charm (clue: she has a pet dragon). The beloved Khaleesi trades witticisms with Asher, eventually striking out a deal that involves Asher going along with her Unsullied, as she frees the slaves in Meere… but we don’t get to do that, because it is time to head off to Ironrath, to see what Rodrik is getting up to. And, as predicted, before the misery of that situation can truly sink in, we’re back in King’s Landing to see Mira try her hand one more time at the game of thrones, even if her available allies are shrinking by the moment.
It is a shame that the pacing doesn’t allow you to truly resonate with any of the emotions at play, because the story is, as ever with a Telltale Games product, highly enjoyable. Rodrik’s storyline finally breaks from the stagnant depression that it was trapped in. As much as I enjoyed the Game of Thrones-esque futility, as a gamer, I was in desperate need of a win. And this episode, more than any of the others, definitely feels like a level, where you start winning. Whether or not you succeeded to match your houses with a marriage, your bride-or-not-to-be raises you a small army to help take on Gryff Whitehill. You are now given the choice between putting up a fight or not, made a little more difficult because Ryon is still a hostage with Lord Whitehill. The whole Rodrik storyline is made much stronger, because of this light at the end of the tunnel, especially when it climaxes at a tense showdown with Ludd Whitehill in his own stronghold. That choice is one of the more nerve-wracking ones and if it wasn’t for a few wise choices I made earlier on, I have a feeling that my ending could have gone much worse for me. It creates this ‘what is going to happen next?’ feeling that only Telltale Games can muster up, especially as your friends’ storylines go down wildly different roads. Other benefits in the story are the development of Beshka’s character. While Asher still provides the more light-hearted and enjoyable side of the game, Beshka is allowed a moment to reflect on her past. It is a particularly good moment that expands one of the more original creations of the game. Hopefully, other creations from Telltale Games will get a deeper exploration, hinted at by a revelation with Cotter in the Gared storyline and a tapestry that suggests that the Whitehills are more than your snarling, over-the-top villains.
To Telltale Games’ credit, they do try and do more than just tell an interesting story. Realising that they might be losing their original renown in the gaming world, because we have seen them peak with Walking Dead and slowly lose their spark over the course of their other offerings, they try to bring the action. And yes, it is quite fun with some witty one-liners and some brutal kills that earn a wince from the gamer, but it feels so forced. Asher and Beshka take on Meereen’s guard, but the whole sequence is riddled with poor frame rates and meaningless quick-time-events. Action in a Telltale Games product should only really serve to give a favourite character a bad-ass moment, like the Walking Dead having Lee Everett cut his way through a horde of zombies or, if you want an example from this episode, Rodrik putting a move into practice, taught to him by Royland in the opening sequence. Here, it is ropey and, while it means to offer a satisfying change of pace to the heavy dialogue scenes, it doesn’t work as well as you imagine Telltale Games hoped it would. Instead, the highlight of this episode comes from the least expected place. Mira, as ever in the dangerous King’s Landing, becomes her very own Master of Whispers, in a prolonged scene at Tommen’s coronation, where she gathers information and uses it against her enemies. Seeing the nervous handmaiden become as adept a player at this political game as Tyrion, or even Littlefinger, is truly satisfying, suggesting that Telltale Games should focus on these moments more than the QTE fight scenes.
Final Verdict: Episode Four feels a little off, especially with lacklustre fight sequences, but the story is so strong, it is still a must for any Game of Thrones gaming fan.