Sons of Winter, the fourth episode in Talltale Games’ Game of Thrones series is out and once again Telltale continues to impress with its storytelling. Only the, admittedly minor, audio and video glitches keep the experience from being perfectly smooth. While this game does adapt to choices made, be prepared for some potential spoilers of both previous episodes as well as the HBO series, if you’re a season behind.
The Story So Far…
Some brief background for those who have not read about previous episodes. Much like the series the game follows a variety of characters all over the GoT world, primarily from the Forrester family. The Forester’s are essentially your stand-ins for the Stark family since Telltale’s game series runs concurrently with the series. Your favorite characters make appearances but you do not control any of them. Instead you make decisions for Rodrick Forrester, the new lord of Ironwrath since your father was killed in the aftermath of the Red Wedding, his sister Mira, handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell, Gared Tuttle, the former squire to Lord Forrester who has been sent to the wall for entirely understandable reasons, and Asher Forrester, the exiled son who is looking to return home and help his family.
My major issue with episode 3 was that I didn’t feel like the story progressed very far. Most of the characters were in exactly the same place at the end of the episode than they had been at the beginning. In episode 4 we do get a decent amount of forward progress. Roderick, who spent the last two episodes either acquiescing to the Boltons and Whitehalls in order to keep his land safe, or being punished, for not doing so, finally has an opportunity take some action against the people occupying his home. The most interesting character now though has to be Mira. She has seen the most change as a character, or at least potentially so, as she’s given the opportunity to play politics at King’s Landing and is able to use information to her advantage in a way that would make Tyrion Lannister proud. Sadly, Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion is one of the characters we don’t get to see in this episode. It’s for understandable reasons if you’ve seen the show but his character has been a joy to interact with.
The problem with most moral choice systems is always that things are a little too obvious. There’s usually a clear right and wrong answer and you simply pick which you prefer. You’re also usually rewarded for being consistent in your responses. Telltale has always done a good job of muddying those waters a bit. The “good” answer isn’t always obvious and you also have the freedom to start out being reasonable, and then snap and punch somebody if you feel it’s appropriate. Game of Thrones takes this one step further as often it feels like there are no good answers to choose from. Much like the story it’s based on, just when you think you have the upper hand, something comes along and stamps you down again. Knowing the source material, and previous episodes, also shows you that you some decisions can kill you. It’s both invigorating and frustrating. It also makes you consider your choices more than you might otherwise. One moment in this episode gave me one of the most nerve racking decisions I can remember in games.
Unfortunately the other thing that Telltale is fairly consistent in is game bugs. While some have seen major game breaking bugs that corrupt save files, the worst thing experienced here are some audio and video issues. A drunken brawl in the middle of the game took place without most of the sound effects of the various objects breaking. Pausing the game during a cinematic usually meant the next line of dialogue would disappear. At a couple point stutters in the video prevented me from hitting a Quick Time Event within the time limit. These items are only a minor annoyance, but they are annoying, and they can take you out of an entertaining story when they happen at the wrong moment.
All things considered Telltale’s Game of Thrones has been an entertaining series and Episode 4 has been no different. If you’ve enjoyed Telltale’s other series, like The Walking Dead, then odds are you’ll enjoy this, whether you’re familiar with the source material or not.