We’re halfway done with the first season of Telltale’s Game of Thrones series, and the story is grimmer, the action is bloodier, and the choices are tougher.
What you’ll like
The writing is still great
After two episodes, we find ourselves following four characters on their individual and intermingling adventures. Gared Tuttle, who is making friends and enemies at the Wall. Mira Forrester, who must try to help her family by getting political and financial help in King’s Landing. Asher Forrester, who must survive the journey home from the other side of the Narrow Sea while simultaneously raising an army. And Rodrik Forrester, the lord of House Forrester, who must deal with an occupying force from the rival Whitehill family.
Each of these people face individual challenges, but each is also working toward a common goal: Do what it takes to get the crumbling House Forrester out from under the boot of the Whitehills and Boltons.
Having this overarching force weighing down on each character while giving them their own interesting things to do is basic writing. But Telltale continues to nail the execution. I’m invested in each story precisely because of the push and pull each character is feeling toward their immediate friends and surroundings as opposed to their greater loyalty to their family.
Sure, I can do what’s best for Mira’s relationship with Margaery Tyrell, who is marrying the king and whom Mira serves as handmaiden. But if I do that, it could damage my chances of helping Rodrik and Asher get the troops they need.
Figuring out ways of constantly putting me in the middle of that tug-of-war is the heart of Telltale’s Game of Thrones because it’s also something that pulls at many of the best characters in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Old choices pay off as new pieces move into place
Telltale games are all about choices and putting you in situations where you feel like you can’t win. But they are also about making those decisions ripple through the rest of your experience. For many people, that means the game will be really different because you chose one path and not the other — but I don’t really care about that. I just want to remember these major moments, and I want them to come back and haunt me no matter what.
In Episode Three, my former choices won’t leave me in peace.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but a character from the first episode shows up to ruin things for one of your characters. It’s a reminder that while each choice feels immediate, the consequences of your actions may not fully unfold for quite some time.
Simultaneously, Telltale gives players much bigger, bolder choices this time around. I feel like I’ve set House Forrester on a collision course. And every time I try to guide the people I care about away from trouble, I’m conscious of other threats that could do even more damage.
And that is still the magic of Telltale. They have me weighing everything in my head. Every desire of every character is flipping around inside my skull. The game definitely doesn’t support every possible outcome that I’m considering, but that doesn’t matter because my brain is doing most of the work. And I love that.
What you won’t like
Some of the directing feels off
This episode got off to a shaky start. It was slow. The scenes were too long, and they lingered on the same characters. Also, some of the character interactions were sloppy, and the framing of the shots looked amateur.
After about a half-hour into the 120 minutes I spent playing this entry, everything started to pick back up. But I definitely got the sensation that things weren’t quite as well put together before that point.
It’s not a huge issue, and it only caught my eye because of how good these things are in the previous episode.
This is probably the weakest episode yet, but only because of those very minor problems in the first section of the game. Don’t take that as some kind of damning criticism because this is still a very good experience.
I’m still riveted. I still cannot wait to play the next episode. I’m still amazed that you get this much entertainment for just about $5 a month. And I’m still not missing the show nearly as much as I would if Telltale wasn’t taking great care of me.
Telltale Games provided GamesBeat with a downloadable code for the purposes of this review. Game of Thrones: Episode Three is out this week for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, iOS, and Android.