With two episodes behind us, Telltale's venture into the land of Westeros continues its mad climb to its eventual fall to tragedy with Episode 3 - “The Sword in the Darkness.” It's a gentler ascent, with this episode displaying less of the jutting, blood soaked plot points then the previous ones, but by its conclusion, you are left dreading the view of it's highest peak.
Starting again with exiled Forrester heart throb Asher, and his mission to gather an army from the sellswords of Meereen to bring back home, Episode 3 shows Telltale's growing comfort with the jumping narratives employed by the HBO series. I spoke in my review of Episode 2, about the meta narrative in place for the player between the different points, and how I found myself trying to play the roles as though they were connected by more then just plot. While I still considered choices that were being made from other viewpoints, in the rare instances where I was given the time to, I found that the writing in Ep.3 brought a nice separation between the characters, and allowed me to more easily slip into the individual roles.
Whether faced with Mira's continued tribulations at King's Landing, ranging from Cersei's verbal barbs and the following talks showcasing Margaery's disaaproval, all the way to the death of that deserving little shit of a king, or the quiet desperation of Gared's Night Watch oath, I was able to finally find enough of each character to hold on to between jumps that the episode didn't feel like one big lump of foreboding unpleasantness. It also cemented the fact that playing Game of Thrones is far more stressful then watching Game of Thrones. Unlike the show, which in some respects is akin to watching a slow motion train wreck (in regards to the utter tragic end of absolutely everything), the smaller moments almost allow me to feel hope for the Forresters. I know it's going to end badly, I mean, this is Westeros, how else could it end, but because they're mine, I can place them in that great “Protagonist Safety Bubble” where my choices will lead to some grand ending where everything works out for the best.
And then, when the Episode is finished and I sit back to consider what just happened, I am left with the horrible knowledge that there is no bubble, that Roderick forced to consider bending the knee to the Whitehills as part of some long con will only end in misery. Am I being pessimistic? Probably, but you tell me the last time someone's long held scheme worked out just as it was supposed to.
Dour thoughts aside, Episode 3 also introduced some minor plot issues with Telltale's system. It was nothing major, but each time, especially the one at the end of Mira's episode arc, felt forced, like it was trying to lead my choice instead of my choice leading it. In an effort to avoid specifics but add some context, Mira finds herself in possession of a document that she was in desperate need of. Only, she is now holding it over a fire, and the options are toss it or keep it. There was no context for the scene given the last actions that I had taken with her, and I felt the choices I had made previously would have, without a doubt, left her wanting to hold on to said document. Given the exemplary writing so far, I don't feel silly nitpicking this point, as the few times it happened felt exceptionally out of place.
Game of Thrones Episode 3 continued to build on the tension of the previous entries. It's a slow, roiling tension, the kind that breaks the surface every so often just to prove that its there, the kind that will eventually turn Ironrath into the same broken caldera that Yellowstone National Park will be once the Supervolcano beneath it explodes, the kind that... well, you get the point. Winter is coming, and at the half way point, we're almost within its icy grasp.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!