Review: Telltale’s Game of Thrones- “Sons of Winter”
Sons of Winter, the fourth episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones series is now officially out and with it the continuation of the saga of poor House Forrester (aka House Not Stark). When last we left our somewhat doomed family they were being taken over by the ridiculously evil Whitehill family. With Rodrik struggling to keep control of his house, Mira torn between loyalty to her family and to her new life in King’s Landing, Garred forced to literally fight his past and Asher confronted with a freaking dragon, life has been pretty grim for the poor peace loving House Forrester.
You might be wondering why there isn’t a review of Episode 3…well, that’s because I didn’t do one. So there. BUT we still have our Let’s Play going on so if you’d like to catch up on what’s been happening, there’s always that.
Oh yes, and of course spoiler warning. I will be freely and shamelessly describing plot points from previous installments of this series. Be ye warned.
Unlike Episodes 2 and 3 which was mostly about recovering from the shock of Lord Ethan’s death and the consequent downward spiral of House Forrester, Episode 4 has the characters finally taking action to save their family. Squire turned Night’s Watch Gared Tuttle begins his quest for the mysterious North Grove after being accused of murder up at the Wall. Banished Forrester Asher meets up with the formidable Danaerys to try to convince her to lend him some of her Unsullied soldiers to bring back with him. Rodrick, who has some leverage with the captured Gryff Whitehill and an ally in Gwyn Whitehill, is on his way to the Whitehill stronghold to take back his kidnapped brother. Mira alone down in King’s Landing works to manipulate her way back into getting House Forrester in control of all Ironwood sales.
As you can see, the game continues to juggle many plot balls. As the series goes on, I’ve realized that this is the first time that Telltale has not worked with a singular storyline. With Walking Dead we solely played from the perspective of Lee. In The Wolf Among Us, we took on the role of Bigby Wolf. Here, we jump from plot to plot several times in an episode. It does make for interesting gameplay and allows us to fully explore the world of Westeros but it also makes for a somewhat disjointed experience.
Episodes in the Game of Thrones game are treated much like the episodes of the television series. The transitions between plot lines though are not quite as smooth. I have yet to truly be invested in any of the main characters. Who can really blame me since I only really spend about twenty minutes with each character per episode. In a television series, this would be enough. In a video game though it doesn’t translate quite as well.
That’s not to say there’s nothing good about this series though. It’s obvious that Telltale is slowly learning how to pace these episodes and Episode 4 does well to mend some of the faults of past installments. The choices made in previous episodes, for instance, seem to actually have been given a little more weight this time around. Your treatment of Lady Margery might determine how easily you get into a party. The decision to capture Gryff Whitehill rather than killing him could very well determine your success in the negotiations for Ryon. This is a welcome change from other Telltale titles where most choices seem superfluous. That weird coalboy is still hanging around though.
The relationship between Asher and his sell sword pal Beshka continues to be the most complex and my favourite of the series so far. My game partner and fellow GEEKPR0N writer Dan did not feel nearly the same way and it was somewhat agonizing to watch him ignore poor Beshka’s hurt expressions as we basically forced her to go back to the city that enslaved her as a child. That was the sort of reaction I was looking for through the entire game series.
Even up at the Wall which is normally my least favourite area of any Song of Ice and Fire story, Telltale manages to mine some unexplored story potential in Gared’s friend Cotter. What happens if a wildling were to become a part of the Night’s Watch? It got me more interested in the activities north of the Wall more than I’d ever been either reading the books or watching the series.
There are still some of the usual hang-ups: the gameplay, despite having some more choices, is still very much a story teller’s rail shooter; some characters seem fated to hate you no matter how diplomatic you are; that weird coal boy is still around…
However despite that, we are now over the halfway mark for the tale of House Forrester and the action is ramping up wonderfully. While this game might not have grabbed me in the same way as previous Telltale title’s did, at the very least I have started to become invested in the fates of these characters. Game of Thrones might be a slightly different endeavor for Telltale to take on, but it is one they are thankfully learning from. I’m looking forward to see what they have up their sleeves for a conclusion.