Game of Thrones title

Platforms:PC/Mac, Steam, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, Xbox One, Android, iOS | Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games | ESRB: M | Controls: Keyboard, Gamepad

[alert style=”grey”]Game of Thrones book and television spoilers may be contained herein. You have been warned![/alert]

Telltale’s spin on the Game of Thrones universe, focusing on the Forrester family, continues in their fourth episode out of six, Sons of Winter. The much-maligned family’s struggle against the Whitehill family, backed by Roose Bolton and his sadistic son Ramsey, actually takes place throughout Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. As it is in the Song of Ice and Fire, every brief moment of triumph seems to be followed by some sort ob backstabbing betrayal or surprise turn, and that’s certainly the case for the Forresters.

Previously on Game of Thrones

The situation simply got worse for the family in episode three. Gryff, son of Lord Whitehill came to occupy the Ironwrath lands and torment its people. Mira in King’s Landing has somehow removed herself from the accidental killing defending herself from a guard, but also lost favor with soon-to-be queen Tyrell after making a deal with Tyrion Lannister. This deal of course fell through when The Imp was accused of murdering his nephew, King Joffrey. Asher, his uncle, and his female mercenary companion escape their brush with a dragon only to be summonsed to the Kaleesi. Meanwhile, at The Wall, Garred Tuttle has put himself in a dangerous position after killing would-be attacker, who was also murderer of his family, and fellow brother in the Night’s Watch. It’s getting to be a soap-opera up in here!

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Episode 4 – Sons of Winter

Visually speaking the latest episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones has some excellent sets. I enjoyed the harpy temple in Mereen quite a bit. However, Mira continues her same trudges through the same gardens and hallways, and we’re treated to the same shots of Ironwrath. There’s another nice departure when we visit the Whitehill estate.

Sets aren’t the only place where repetition is felt. The music tracks remain sparse, and I could be mistaken, but I’m not hearing anything new. The visual “watercolor” and blurred edge style has remained consistent, and to my eyes, been cleaned up from the first outings. I continue to have issues with dialogue, occasional drops in volume and strange changes in character tone, almost like bad dubbing. Telltale seems stubborn when it comes to some the bugs and quirks of their engine, but as always their narrative abilities are what draw people to their games.

Telltale’s strength has always been their stories, fronted by their created characters. Like them or hate them, they are mostly consistent — aside from the twists, you generally know how they will act . When it was announced that their interpretation of Game of Thrones would follow the show and include established characters, I assumed this quality would continue. Though the voice performances are much more subdued than the television versions, by and large the characters have been believable within their existing framework.

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Sons of Winter broke this consistency, somewhat drastically, within its first few segments. Two key show characters, Jon Snow and Danaerys  Targaryen both acted strangely, given what we know them. Their portions of the stories in these sequences feel very rushed, and maybe that contributes to the misrepresentation of the characters. It feels like our time with these bigger names is forced, to try and lend credence to our story. Regardless of why it is presented this way, it just seems off.

Jon Snow is nothing if he is not loyal. Though he holds fast to the Night’s Watch and refuses to join Stannis Baratheon’s march to reclaim the old Stark home of Winterfell, we know from both the books and the show that he is willing to break some of the traditions of the Night’s Watch should it serve the greater goal of protecting against the Whitewalkers. So when Gared Tuttle finds himself in trouble during Sons of Winter, due to the circumstances which closed the last episode, we expect Jon to intercede.

It’s explained that this right before The Night Watch makes it’s fateful journey to Craster’s so they are in a hurry. But Jon would have stuck up for Tuttle and advocated on his behalf, that’s just his nature. Similarly Danaerys acts quite strangely when meeting Asher.

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She uses her dragon as a prop, which is not too far from source, but acts as if she does not know how dangerous they are. The point of timeline isn’t exact here, so we don’t know if she has seen the bones of the farmer’s daughter, killed by the largest of her dragon children, so that lends a little bit of credence to her attitude. She has always been more trusting of soldiers and sellswords than men of high standing, simple because of the way things work in that part of the world and the past actions of her own brother.

Yet she treats Asher poorly without even hearing him out. He’s granted an audience only to be ignored? She threatens harm, when this is the point in time when she is still supposed to be the benevolent and welcoming ruler, before being set upon by the masters and the harpies after her conquest of Mereen? It just didn’t make any real sense.

The writing for this episode felt forced and weak, most of it in the beginning sequences mentioned above. The stories away from from the show’s characters were by far more interesting, but they too had issues. In a show where everything goes wrong and you expect twists at every turn, it somehow can still become cliche with they all happen with such a short period of time. We are used to good things happening, only to follow with a dramatic drop that sees our heroes in trouble again.

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The real truth is that they are never out of it. However, these episodes are starting to take it to an extreme, and we’ve already seen them use Ramsey as a surprise plot point previously. Two-thirds of the way through a six episode series, and they have begun to repeat themselves. Still, the closing sequences of Sons of Winter were strong, aside from the Ramsey appearance. There’s an infiltration and fight sequence that is particularly good, and it gives the episode a much needed dose of both action and player control.

I am still interested in seeing how everything works out for the Forrester family in their fight to save their homeland from multiple locations throughout the world, even if I am disappointed with some of the writing and pacing of this latest episode. It’s rare for any episodic work to not have a bad entry or two, I just hope that the series can finish strong, and they can do so by sticking to their original characters and moving further from the ones featured on television.

While a bit down in the story department, this episode kicks up the replayability factor, with late in the game decisions that could drastically alter your final two episodes.

Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Episode 4 –  Sons of Winter was played and reviewed on the PC from a personal copy of the game.

[taq_review]

James Schumacher
Freelance writer and used-to-be artist based out of the Pacific Northwest. I studied Game Art & Design in college. I have been writing web content for the last 6 years, including for my own website dedicated to entertainment, gaming & photography. I have been playing games dating back to the NES era. My other interests are film, books and music. I sometimes pretend to be great at photography. You can find me on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, 500px, DeviantArt and elsewhere under my nick: JamesInDigital.

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