Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, iOS and Android
I try to avoid spoilers where direct analysis of the story is concerned but, be warned, some names and events mentioned could be considered mildly spoilerish. Tough to not talk about plot points in a story-driven game, folks! A review copy of this episode was provided for the purposes of this article.
The Sadness of House Forrester
The decidedly George R.R. Martin twist at the end of Episode 1 showed that TellTale wanted to bring the thunder in regards to emulating the feel of the immensely popular HBO adaptation. The players have been established for this stage production, the pawns are in motion and the larger personalities present at King’s Landing and abroad are represented well here.
Ironrath is in the throes of grief in the wake of Ramsay Snow’s visit prior and things are looking decidedly grim for the keepers of Ironwood. It is in this grief that the resurrection of a character we were assured was lost is a surprising revelation. This is where the storytelling chops of Telltale shines as the sequences in Ironrath, which could have easily been overshadowed by the developments in King’s Landing and Mira Forrester. The player is made to suffer right along with the already downtrodden Forresters, true blue sadness permeating every bit of the manor and its surrounding lands. Their resolve is truly being tested as Ramsay Snow’s actions have had massive consequences. The only complaint that could be found, really, in regards to fallout from the prior episode has to be who was chosen to the “Sentinel” to the residing Lord of House Forrester. It seemed that no matter the choice it, ultimately, didn’t alter things too much. The morose tone, sadly, does not hide the fact that compared to the first episode? Not much happens throughout. We meet a few new characters, which is well and good, but comparatively it feels like a lot of exposition for the Forresters. It’s well-written exposition that further establishes the tone and does justice to the source material, but it’s still a lot of exposition.
Asher Forrester, the once exiled son of the Ironwood folk, appears for the first time here as well. He’s off in the distant desert stronghold of Yunkai (located across the ocean in Essos). His forced exodus across the Sea into hiding has left him with little choice but to use his proficiency for violence in the only way he can. We’re introduced to the sellsword and his partner-in-crime, Beshka as they’re in the middle of trying to make a dangerous deal with the local guard, The Lost Legion. He is shrewd, prone to swinging his sword first and asking questions later but also fiercely loyal to his companion. The arrival of his Uncle Malcolm, at the behest of his Mother, means it’s time to leave Essos and head back home with a pending pardon and a potential mercenary army at their backs. The trio, on the run from the Lost Legion, end up caught in a canyon and, well, all sorts of things happen from there. A big decision is forced into the mix that will have great ramifications though the payoff is a bit murky at this point.
The continued exploits of Gared Tuttle and his shift into a man of the Night’s Watch have some interesting moments as well. Maybe the most interesting among them, though, have to be his interactions with Jon Snow. The character spoke of the Red Wedding some during the course of the show but here we’re provided with further insight into what the son of Stark thinks about it. Aside from that there isn’t much to write home about here.
Careful, girl, King’s Landing is a dangerous place
Mira Forrester, caught in the den of vipers that is King’s Landing, has provided some of the best moments so far. Her family is under siege, deteriorating more with every passing day, and she is forced to make decisions, engage in alliances and weave her way through the fatal politics of Westeros. One would think she was ill-equipped to handle herself, but her position as a handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell does allow for close access to some of the dynamic forces at work. There is, however, a sense of dread that hangs over everything going on in King’s Landing involving her attempts to bring aid to House Forrester.
The backdoor dealings with Lannisters and choices made here are crucial, some of which don’t even have the usual timer attached to them as Telltale is prone to doing. It lead to sheer agony over some choices and, honestly, made the time spent with Mira far better for it. Every opportunity to help guide Mira through the danger and intrigue of King’s Landing is very welcome. It is here that the most important moving parts of the story seem to be, decisions made in prior episodes starting to work their way into the narrative and clearly being reflected here.
There is something about the engine that Telltale uses for their games that always produces some sort of issue, no matter the platform, regarding quick-time events. It was especially present in the prior episode but here, played on Xbox One, certain events required multiple tries simply due to some frame rate drop or outright stuttering of the action. It is easy to understand why the engine is still the same as, well, it has served them well through prior titles like the award-winning Walking Dead and Tales from the Borderlands. It seems like it’s showing its age though. Graphical tearing occasionally, the loss of that gorgeous watercolor filter that is used liberally throughout in certain scenes and animation that sometimes appears very wooden are all typical. Mileage will vary platform to platform, but I know experience these things numerous times throughout the episode’s run-time. PC players will, probably, have less of an issue with this compared to console or mobile players. It seems the hope of the next-generation consoles being “jank-free” will have to wait.
A Truly Captivating Story
The technical problems aside it doesn’t detract from the overall impact of this episode’s effect on the overall narrative. Things are happening. Big things. The machinations of the new Lord of House Forrester, how to deal with the encroaching threat to their livelihood and their very lives by Lord Whitehill along with the ever-developing danger of Mira stuck in King’s Landing makes a compelling case that Telltale is still at the top of their game. One could judge these releases on their gameplay but, really, that almost seems unfair as the goal of them is to tell a story. Episode 2, The Lost Lords, is no exception to that as the fate of House Forrester proves to be a story worth hearing so far. The brisk pace belies the deficit of actual things to do in the episode but, ultimately, it still works as a follow-up to an immensely strong debut episode. One of the highlights outside of King’s Landing has to be Talia’s song. That’s all I can say without spoiling things further.
Telltale’s second episode in the Game of Thrones series, The Lost Lords, suffers a bit from a lack of things to do but is full of tremendous moments. The title continues to prove it has the storytelling chops to stand alongside the source material and is a must play for those who are truly knee-deep in the lore of Westeros. The stakes are high in King’s Landing and back home in Ironrath things are dire indeed. The exploits of the Forresters, with their backs to the wall, are fascinating to watch unfold. A good follow-up to a stellar beginning.