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It’s time for the dark, penultimate chapter of Telltale’s Game of Thrones, and if you’re a fan of the books or HBO show, you know that this won’t end well.

Episode 5 of Game of Thrones, called A Nest of Vipers, is out now on consoles, PC, and mobile (I played on Xbox One), and the developer picked an apt name for this month’s adventure. Each of your characters, all of whom you’ve guided for many hours at this point, face danger everywhere. And it’s your choices and the always present gravitational pull of death that have put them in these situations.

Now, this is the episode where you must really pay the price — in blood, gold, or words — if you want to give House Forrester any chance to survive.

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What you’ll like

These characters have come so far

We’re now five episodes into the story of House Forrester, a small clan that resides in the northern parts of Westeros, and you’ve likely built a deep connection with the characters all struggling to do what is best for that family. I’ve said it before, and it holds true in A Nest of Vipers: I care more about Asher and Rodrick and the rest of the cast in this game than I do about many of the people in the television adaptation of Game of Thrones or many other stories (televised or otherwise).

Each of the people you play have grown and changed. Just take Mira Forrester. She’s still stuck working as a handmaiden for Queen Consort Margaery Tyrell in the capital, King’s Landing. But as Mira has worked tirelessly over the course of this series to aid her family — almost completely fruitlessly — she has changed. And as she changes, so do you. Or maybe I’ve just changed, and she reflects this?

As Mira’s efforts continually fail to generate anything beneficial for Rodrick or the rest of the Forresters to use, I’ve started to play her more recklessly — more bold. The others around her have started to notice.

Now, maybe that’s just due to the choices I’ve made with her, or maybe that’s how Telltale has written her. But that doesn’t matter because it is affecting me the same either way. I’m a participant in her growth in a way that I never am with a prescripted character in a book or show.

This is the essence of the magic that Telltale wields, and it hasn’t diminished yet.

You still have new reasons to care

But this is still an episodic storytelling experience, and that truly means one thing: I’m ‘shipping characters, which is TV speak for wishing two characters would get together.

Game of Thrones is all blood and death, so you can forgive me for wanting two characters to maybe find a tiny bit of joy and respite in one another despite the waking hell of their daily lives.

A Nest of Vipers is, of course, one of the darkest and toughest episodes yet. And Telltale’s writing team deftly dulls some of the pain it is about to put you through by introducing a few small moments between Gared Tuttle and the wildling, albino girl who he discovered was the sister of one of his companions in the previous last episode.

I’m sure that Telltale and the cruel world of Game of Thrones will rip this beautiful pairing away from me just like it does with everything else that I love, but it’s a glimpse of a better, possible world. And it makes me — and my characters — want to press on.

What you won’t like

Audio glitches and lip sync are still bothersome

On the Xbox One, I had a ton of bugs that didn’t crash the game but were annoying.

Early in the story, it seemed like the audio was out of sync with lip movement. It was unsightly, but I could live with it. But I did have a much harder time putting up with an audio bug that started about half way through my playtime and lasted for around 15 minutes, where the sounds would oscillate continuously in volume. It was like someone was quickly plugging and unplugging my speakers.

Conclusion

Despite the bugs and painful moments, I love the story that Telltale and I are weaving together. I’m always a sucker for characters, and I’ll forgive even the weakest and dumbest plots if a storyteller delivers believable, likable (or understandably dislikable) people who I want to get to know better.

But the reason that I so unreservedly love this take on Game of Thrones is because it also has a great story that acts as a canvas for you to express these characters upon.

And like any great story, I’m looking forward to the final chapter with mixed emotions because I don’t want this to end.

Score: 90/100

Developer Telltale Games provided GamesBeat with an Xbox One download code for the purposes of this review. Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode 5: A Nest of Vipers is out this week on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and mobile.

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