[Platforms:PC/Mac, Steam, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, Xbox One, Android, iOS | Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games | ESRB: M | Controls: Keyboard, Gamepad
Telltale’s story, set firmly within the Game of Thrones universe and timeline, started off poorly for the Forrester family, lords of Ironrath. It established our multiple lead characters and set a tone suggesting the series would be just as grim and unforgiving as readers of the books and watchers of the television show have come to expect. The second episode double-down and really let the Forrester clan, spread throughout Westeros and beyond, in rough shape. With episode three, The Sword in the Darkness, the situation is not improving for our protagonists. Yet, there are glimmers of hope. Which is a good thing, right? Let’s begin our look forward, by taking a quick glance back at where the story has brought us thus far.
Previously on Game of Thrones
Ramsey Bolton has put Lord Whitehill’s son Gryff in charge of a garrison in Ironrath’s keep, this of course after Ramsey has murdered young Ethan Forrester, the short-reigned lord of the castle. In King’s landing, Mira Forrester seeks to find ways to aid her family and may have found an ally in Tyrion Lannister. He may be able to secure funds for Forrester Ironwood, thus providing coin to her family, which they will in turn use to raise an army… of course Tyrion will expect something in return.
Gared Tuttle moves closer towards becoming a full brother in the Night’s Watch after his exile, earned from avenging the murder of his family. Meanwhile, in the deserts beyond the Narrow Sea, Asher Forrester and his mercenary companion have been found by the young man’s uncle. Asher is far away from home in self-imposed exile due to a conflict with the same Whitehills which now threaten his family at home. He is to some how find a way to secure a force of sellswords before returning to Ironrath.
Ironrath’s situation is dire, with a father and young son dead, the elder son, battered, crippled and barely hanging onto life has returned. Is Roderik in any condition to oppose Whitehill and Bolton forces now invading his landing, raizing the nearby villages and destroying the ironwood groves for their own gain?
Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness
Each of these characters has made choices which will affect their lives and their struggle moving forward. Mira deals with Tyrion, going against both Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister. She has the added difficulty of covering up the death of man she killed in self-defense. Asher has neither the money nor the influence to raise an army. He also has the Lost Legion mercenaries on his trail, looking for revenge. Gared still struggles against his forced exile at The Wall, with questions lingering about the hidden North Grove and how he can aid his people.
Despite the precarious positions of these people, Roderik Forrester, is perhaps in the most dire situation of all. He is still in bad shape. His recovery is slow and he will most likely never return to the warrior he once was. His people are starving to death, his lands and crops destroyed, and his home occupied by hostile forces. Somehow he has to find the balance between protecting his people and appearing subservient to his — for lack better word — captors. A balance that he, and I as a player found exceedingly difficult.
This is the strongest of the three episodes so far in terms of story. Creating tension is something that Telltale continues to improve upon, and each character is put under more stress than previously experienced – that’s pretty rough considering all that has occurred. They employ more usage of the sequences which pause and force a choice to good effect here. It doesn’t always mean life or death for an ally, but the psychological effects are palpable and their impact on the story down the line are almost guaranteed.
Technically speaking, Telltale still shows off a mixed bag of animations. Characters are often stilted in movement. In contrast specific animals… possible spoiler coming here… show off a fluid, serpentine grace, which I appreciated. The watercolor effect has either been refined/toned down, or I have become used to it. The effect is still noticeable regardless.
I noticed an increase in load times for this episode and some really strange issues with the audio — ones I have not seen, or should say heard, since the first episode of The Walking Dead Season 1. Certain lines of dialogue feel like they were mastered improperly. This makes their volume or quality out of place in the middle of conversations — at times sounding as if they were even possibly dubbed by other people and recorded in completely different settings. These instances momentarily take you out of the experience.
Game of Thrones – Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness has placed us half way through Telltale’s first season (or series as they would say across the pond). Situations have become increasingly desperate for the Forrester family and its friends, but this episode has given us glimmers of hope. If this is following the three-act play formula (in pairs of episodes) then episode four should be quite a good.
What we know from the Game of Thrones world as opposed to say… Shawshank, is that hope is usually a setup for an enormous letdown. Where Andy Dufresne says that it is, “a good thing”, and that “no good thing ever dies,” George R.R. Martin and Telltale Games feel the opposite. Hope is the build-up before crushing your dreams, and the good guys often die here.
So, here’s to wishing for redemption for the Forrester family. They’re on a rough journey, one “whose conclusion is uncertain.” I hope they can make it. I hope they are reunited. I hope. But…
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
No review copy was provided.