Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS and Android
Release Date: March 25th
Played On: Xbox One
The publisher provided a copy of this episode for the purposes of this review.
There Are No Winners Here
We continue to roll on in the developing saga of House Forrester. The past two episodes saw us dealing with deaths in the family, a once proud house made to suffer the indignity of occupation and the politicking in King’s Landing taking near fatal turns. The multi-character perspective that the plot takes on has worked well up to this point as it has, as well as Telltale can, mirrored the show it so diligently emulates.
The formula that the studio has continued to refine since the early days of The Walking Dead fits the Game of Thrones universe like a glove. Choices will be forced upon the player and, frankly, they will be ones where right choices are in short supply. What’s worse? Those choices aren’t exactly great. Players will be forced to weigh their decisions far more than most games (even within the same genre). No course of action is really beneficial to everyone. There are, ultimately, no winners in this world that George R.R. Martin forged and, now, Telltale continues to iterate on. Maybe if you’re a Lannister you have a fighting chance at least.
The point that this episode hammered home, above all, is that appeasing people isn’t really a good strategy moving forward. Always assume that the other person is looking out for themselves above all. That means the player must work in the same vein. Mira Forrester’s backdoor dealings with Tyrion have consequences not only for the young girl in King’s Landing but possibly in what may happen to her family due to her choices. Telltale continues to excel at capturing the essence of this series, weave a tapestry full of complex characters and Martin-esque plot points.
Episode 2 feels, by comparison, like its coated in molasses when it comes to the pacing of Sword in the Darkness. There is still a lot of work being done to establish the foundation further but, unlike what happened in the prior episode, the wheels are truly moving now.
It is through the trials and tribulations of House Forrester that a greater truth about this series shines through. Well, a second truth. The first being that there are no real winners (of course) but, moreover, that even ordinary people are involved in the “Game of Thrones” whether they wish to be or not. The fall of a House that tends to Ironwood, honestly, would be a periphery tale in the show and, instead, Telltale has managed to shake the “this is only a side story” feeling. The Red Wedding got us started and the aftershocks are still shaking the foundations of the Forrester manor.
The plan that the remaining Forresters hatch to bring about their own salvation is, well, hare-brained at best. It relies on a lot of variables and people doing things that, frankly, will test one’s will and pride. The occupation of House Forrester has lent itself to numerous situations which will inspire anger and shame, but that well only gets deeper in Episode 3.
We have three more episodes to go (as opposed to the usual five with most series) and there are still numerous issues to work through. Gared Tuttle’s exploits at the Wall have taken an interesting turn with more info finally about the North Grove finally working its way into the tale. Mira Forrester’s choices are resulting in all sorts of chaos for herself and others in King’s Landing while Asher’s attempts at bringing home a mercenary army are met with, well, obstacles along the way. Rodrik’s troubles on the home front have strained what is left of the family core of House Forrester to the breaking point.
One thing is for certain here. We are at a boiling point here and things are primed to explode.
Sword in the Darkness, the third episode of the series, is the best yet. The stakes are so high for House Forrester, the choices are not easy and the tension is mounting. This time around each of the characters we visit has an interesting part to play. We’re moving past simply moving all the pawns into place and finally getting to see the endgame. Telltale’s pacing here is far better than in The Lost Lords and the gut-punch feeling of certain choices will stick with players long after the episode’s run-time is over. This is a prime example of why the company is well-suited to telling this story far better than, perhaps, any other studio out there.