Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: The Whitehills declare war on the Forresters, meaning that Asher, Gared and Mira need to push harder than ever to rally some support for their house.
The Game of Thrones series for Telltale has been dragging its feet for some time now. It just isn’t the dream match we originally thought it would be. Sure, Telltale Games have been doing exactly what we expected them to. We are given an immersive and true-to-the-show setting that we can dive into and Telltale add in the nail-biting choices and heart-wrenching emotion. However, at the same time, all of these things are just a little too slow for the gamer to really get a hundred percent behind. Game of Thrones works best, as it inches closer to that horrific conclusion, but, as a game, this slow approach just makes each episode seem a little hollow. As you finish your two hour gaming experience and feel only slightly closer to the end of the story, it becomes hard to compare it to the other great Telltale products: The Walking Dead and the Wolf Among Us.
However, A Nest of Vipers could be the best instalment yet, finally giving us the kick we have been waiting for. In fairness, Telltale don’t really change the way they do things, still giving us four strands of stories and we jump in between the lot of them, given hard choices, shock twists and quick time events to handle. But the key difference is that this is the penultimate episode, so we have finally got to the heat of the action. The episode starts with Ramsay Bolton terrorising Rodrik and Talia. Ramsay might very well be one of the most despicable creations of the show, but he is too much fun to condemn in the same light as Game of Thrones’ other villains. In fact, Iwan Rheon seems to come alive in the video game setting, chewing some meaty dialogue and giving A Nest of Vipers the jolt to life it needs in its first chapter. That entire scene is shocking, brutal and does the important job of laying the ground for the next two episodes. Strangely, Rodrik’s story isn’t the most important factor in this episode. There is a twist with the mysterious traitor who has been helping Ludd Whitehill, but for the most part, Rodrik’s section relies on the choices you have already made. It is too late to change anything here, but that is part of the fun. Mira’s segment too, feels strangely trimmed, as you test your prowess at the political manipulation by coming up against first Cersei and then Tyrion, quickly learning that they are much better at it than you. It isn’t made obvious where that plot will lead just yet, but I am fine with that. One of the last few episodes’ problems were the constant leaping from characters. Cutting Mira down to the minimum and having Rodrik as a reminder of the stakes rather than an active part of the game means that the writers have more time to flesh out Asher and Gared.
Which is where the good really kicks in. Gared was last seen stranded Beyond the Wall with his two Night’s Watch brothers and Cotter’s Wilding sister. As we open back into the adventure, Cotter’s sister, Sylvi threatens to bring the adventure to a grinding halt. She wants to head South to join Mance Rayder, well aware of the White Walker threat to the North. Cotter wants to protect his sister more than he wants to protect you and Finn is fast becoming disillusioned at the prospect of finding the North Grove. One of the big themes of A Nest of Vipers is people letting you down. Throughout the game, we have done favours for people, pushed Sera up the ranks in King’s Landing, helped Daenarys and spared lives for the sake of your sweet, little sister, but in A Nest for Vipers, it becomes abundantly clear that some favours will not be returned. It is a very frustrating experience as Gared finds backs turned on him one by one, leaving him out in the cold. It is almost a shame when the action turns up and the plotline isn’t allowed to naturally hammer home the point. But one can hardly complain about the battle, as Telltale turn to one of their stronger points when it comes to writing: zombies. Yes, the White Walkers (or rather their wights), finally make an appearance, after their disappointing absence in the last episode. They are just as fun as you imagined they would be. They speak in an eerie death rattle, just like the cold, icy wind. They move quickly, providing a couple of good ‘can-Gared-get-to-his-weapon-fast-enough?’ moments. Sure, action is only good for so long in Telltale’s games, but it provides a good heating up of a rather stale plotline and even has a shocking finish to it. I can only hope that the White Walkers continue to make an appearance in the finale.
And then we have Asher. Asher has always been a bit of a strange one in this game. He is likeable, that’s for sure, and his chemistry with Beshka is often one of the better things about the series. At the same time, his strand of story has just felt so out of place, compared to the rest of the characters. It is easy to see that Telltale are using Asher as the comic relief to balance out the darkness of the other stories. When Rodrik’s plight is too much to bear, we can always count on some dry sarcasm and fun set-pieces over in Essos to cheer us up. The show uses the same trick, so why can’t Telltale? However, these moments never quite fitted in with the overall story, more focused on spectacle and action, over narrative. The fights were never as good as promised and the story feel so distant from everything else in the game, that it became hard to summon up the correct emotions Telltale wanted from us. However, as Episode Five drums up the action, Asher finally begins to make sense. In fact, here, he has the best role in A Nest of Vipers. Finally, he begins to head for Westeros, via one group of savage sellswords that could be a saviour for the Forresters. All he needs to do is complete one battle. And what a battle! You take on the deadly Bloodsong, coming across as an Oberyn-esque rogue, both charming and brutal on the battlefield. Asher, for the first time, seems incredibly vulnerable, even if his Northern sarcasm doesn’t quite seem to realise it yet. The fight is tense, gripping and makes you feel incredibly cool, when you nail a quick-time-event. Yes, maybe it suffers from the same flaws as some of Asher’s other fight scenes, but it feels much more fun than previous entries, as though Telltale have finally got the mechanics right. There is also the great dynamic between Asher and Beshka to compliment. Their dynamic is so clever, as Asher needs to exploit Beshka’s weaknesses to get his family the army they need, but you begin to wonder who deserves his trust more. Asher was exiled by his family, whereas Beshka has never left his side. Taking away our awareness of the other stories, would we really be forcing our dear friend into these awkward situations for a homeland that abandoned you for falling in love?
However, A Nest of Vipers doesn’t really come into its own, until the ending. Two of the stories finally link up, our heroes coming face to face, at last. The happiness of the moment is short-lived, of course, as is Game of Thrones style. The episode ends with a heart-breaking choice that really makes A Nest of Vipers iconic. You look back and realise all of the clever details that have gone into lining up this decision. Depending on your choice, Episode Six could be a very different experience for every gamer, which is what Telltale do best. Winter is definitely coming.
Final Verdict: Finally, Telltale crank their series up a notch, making their best Game of Thrones episode yet.