As Ramsey Snow, a particularly gruesome character in HBO’s uber-popular Game of Thrones television series, says: “if you think this has a happy ending you haven’t been paying attention”. That sentence is prophetic as Episode Four in Telltale’s videogame adaptation creates an atmosphere of hope before immediately snatching it away. The pieces are definitely beginning to move into place, even if those places might not be where you want to go.
The Forresters, the central family of the series, are still a house in crisis. Their family members are scattered throughout the lands of Westeros and Essos and it seems like they have few friends. Their enemies are within their walls and there are traitors and cutthroats abound. I mentioned in my previous review that the game’s developers must have it in for the poor Forresters, but in Episode Four they do more than their fair share to pick them back up again.
For those who have played the previous episodes, or for those used to experiencing Telltale’s brand of interactive storytelling, the look and feel of the game will be familiar. The same cel-shaded art style returns and it seems that the developers are becoming more confident in their craft – characters that originally looked a bit blurry and off-focus are now fully fleshed and greatly detailed. A particular highlight is one of Daenerys’ dragons, which is fantastically detailed and animated.
That’s not to say, however, that the game is without its hiccups. On more than one occasion a texture popped into view or a jittering element in the background distracted me from the action. Despite this, environments and characters are well designed and it’s a testament to the game that after a time you simply slot yourself into the world the developers have reimagined.
As with most Telltale games, the action is moved along by various dialogue choices and conversations in which the player can choose a multitude of options (or choose to remain silent). This is interspersed with some minor point-and-click sleuthing and furious quick-time event sections. At this point in the story the player will know roughly which character will be the one in the thick of the action and which will be exploring, but the prompts still caught me off guard at points.
Episode Four certainly picks up the pace as far as the story is concerned. Indeed, with only two more episodes to go it’s no wonder that various players are beginning to make their moves. Along the way they will meet and interact with a number of prominent characters from the TV series and books, including Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, all fully voiced by their HBO counterparts. It is the Forresters who take centre stage in the episode, though, stepping out from the shadow of the TV cast to really show what they can do.
Asher Forrester, a world away from his family in Essos, is a cheeky sellsword for hire struggling to get to grips with his new-found responsibility in raising an army to sail across the sea. Rodrik Forrester is continuing his road to recovery from the horrific injuries he sustained at the Twins and is finally beginning to step up to the plate in dealing with the enemies within and without his walls. Gared Tuttle, squire to the house, is torn between his Night’s Watch vows and finding the mysterious North Grove, where the hopes of his house may lie.
It is Mira Forrester, a handmaiden in service to Margaery Tyrell in King’s Landing, that takes centre stage in this episode, though. Where before her character had been a timid girl getting used to the backstabbing ways of Westeros’ capital, now she has grown into quite the schemer herself. Before I would roll my eyes and sigh whenever it was time to play as her and now I look forward to it.
Therein often lies the issue I have with Telltale’s imagining of the world of A Game of Thrones. Often times I will know how to manoeuvre my way out of logical traps and obvious leading questions, but the character I’m playing does not. This results in having to choose the best of a bad bunch of dialogue options and feeling deflated when it doesn’t end well. On top of this, while Telltale are renowned for creating reactions to your every choice, they are also criticised for how relatively little this matters to the overall story. The writers obviously have a plan for each character and your choices will rarely mean that one person dies while another lives.
That’s not to say moments where important decisions are thrust upon you aren’t without their tension. In the moment their exhilarating and at times heart-wrenching. It’s only when you’re coming down from that excitement that you wonder just how much your decision really differed from the other.
With a host of new characters entering the fray and things beginning to hot up in the plot, it seems that Telltale’s series is building steadily towards its crescendo. The tension that is built throughout is palpable, and even though Episode Four may seem like it’s a stage for the next two episodes to launch from, it has its own unique twists and turns. The writers certainly pull no punches when it comes to the treatment of the characters and provide the player with a number of moments of both elation and dread. These combine to form another breathless instalment in a series that matches the television and books it’s based on blow-for-blow. Once again, I’ll be on the edge of my seat waiting for the next instalment.
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
With a host of new characters entering the fray and things beginning to hot up in the plot, it seems that Telltale’s series is building steadily towards its crescendo. The tension that is built throughout is palpable, and even though Episode Four may seem like it’s a stage for the next two episodes to launch from, it has its own unique twists and turns that make it stand out from the rest.