Last time out Telltale’s Game of Thrones series got back on track after stumbling hard in the second episode. Escalating matters in the story and building up its set of protagonists’ back story and sense of character far better than we saw earlier on. We were in danger of not caring about the fate of the Forrester family the way things had gone up until episode three’s middle section dragged the story back up to the recent high standards of Telltale’s output. The hope is—now that Game of Thrones has recovered—the season pushes on in an upward direction for the remaining three installments. Episode four: Sons of Winter is a promising sign that this could well be the case.
We last left the Forrester family firmly backed into a corner and in some cases, ready to strike out at those who are doing the pushing. Sons of Winter is all about seeing the start of the consequences of that. The sense of impending disaster for the Forresters is closer than ever, with this episode featuring drastic decisions that you can be sure will carry a heavy penalty in the the last third of the series.
Rodrik remains the focal point of the Forrester plight. Being at loggerheads with Gryff Whitehill and juggling the demands of his family members is taking its toll, making him more authoritative, but causing him to make riskier plays. The balance of using what power he has and still having a sensation of creeping dread over the consequences is purified Game of Thrones storytelling and it could yet be his downfall. He’s still the most interesting protagonist the series has because of this, so it isn’t all that surprising that the game has started to focus more on him as the series has progressed. It’s a huge tick in the plus column for Telltale’s often frustrating execution of the episodic model. You get the feeling that the time between episodes is used to tweak the story to suit the majority of player choices and that has surely been a contributing factor in the improvement of the series over time.
Gared of course, finds himself in a bit of a pickle after the events of episode three and his tale feels slightly disconnected to the rest of the game, despite his mission possibly being of benefit to the rest of the Forresters. Gared’s main problem is that what started out as the most interesting new character has now quickly devolved into a homage to Jon Snow. There are differences in the smaller details, but Gared follows the same beats. Going to The Wall, befriending a Wildling, not being liked by other members of the Night’s Watch and venturing beyond The Wall to places no man south of it has ever seen. It’s safe to say that after this episode he won’t be joining Jon Snow in becoming a divisive leader though so perhaps he will get room to be his own man once again next time out and have a much larger impact on events as a whole.
Mira’s misadventures in King’s Landing are scaled back a bit in Sons of Winter, a decision that makes sense considering her location and the events there keeping her under the radar far more than the other three. This doesn’t stunt her character development however; in fact, she comes on leaps and bounds in her limited screen time. Mira has finally realised what it takes to survive in King’s Landing and starts playing the game rather effectively to find the information she needs and try to turn things her family’s way. As I noted in the last episode’s review, she has been the one in the most danger of death up to this point, but there seems to be more hope for her than the rest now. Though this being Game of Thrones, we know that hope is often deadly.
So far, whenever I’ve come to Asher’s part of the story, I’ve had to state how plain a character he is and how unengaging his adventure across the sea feels. Yet here, there is a marked improvement. Asher remains one-dimensional, but the cast around him elevate his story now. A sizeable cameo by Daenerys manages to bring some empathy for Asher and throws up a rather interesting take on the Mother of Dragons. Whereas you normally see her dealing with inherently despicable people and rooting for her to succeed, being the one making requests of her brought a different opinion of her. Here, I found her rude, ignorant and a little arrogant. That all came about as a result of me being the one negotiating with her, not some slaver or deluded, well-heeled citizen of a rich city.
This is what Telltale’s Game of Thrones should be doing more often: showing us a different point of view of the main cast. The other major takeaway from this episode’s Asher shenanigans is Beshka’s tale. Beshka is head and shoulders above any of the other players in Meeren thanks to the reveal of her backstory and her no-nonsense brawling, drinking and cursing. She pretty much envelopes Asher’s story with her own and it isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. If anything it brings the weakest segment of the series up to par with the rest of it.
Sons of Winter is probably the strongest episode yet. There’s plenty of action, lots of good story progression and an elevation of characters who needed it. The only drawbacks are the decline of Gared and the usual Telltale problems (punctuated by an amusing glitch that swapped character models around during a fight scene, making it difficult to tell who was attacking who). Otherwise, this series is on the up.