So it begins. With Game of Thrones Episode 4 – Sons of Winter, Telltale officially sets us on the path. The quintessential Game of Thrones episode, it provides some of the best character growth to date, offers a solid look at the looming war with the Whitehills, and allows our protagonists to feel like they are finally two steps ahead before knocking them four steps back with a final minute reveal.
*Warning – small Game of Thrones spoilers ahead*
Sons of Winter takes place between Tommen's coronation, which was not long after Joffery's death, and Daenerys Targaryen's taking of Mereen. Rodrik is still dealing with Gryff Whitehill's rule over Ironrath, while Asher is forced to explain his actions when facing down Drogo to the Mother of Dragons herself. Mia, on the other hand, faces her own dangers amidst the great game that is King's Landing, having to dodge not only an angry Margaery Tyrell, but also Lord Whitehill's continued attempts to try and secure her own family's ironwood contracts. The last of the Forrester crew outside of Ironrath's walls is Gared, whose fate took a dire turn when we last checked in on him at the wall.
Like before, all these separate events work in concert towards a singular goal of saving Ironrath, and with it the Forresters themselves, but this is the first episode where it begins to feel like the family is taking control of their own destiny. In trying not to give too much away, I'll keep the details of said destiny to myself, but their stories, especially those of Rodrik and Mia, are growing increasingly tense as the spider web of intrigue and house fighting comes to a head.
Mia's portion was by far my favorite part of this episode, as King's Landing's machinations work their way into her blood. Where the other characters more or less remain themselves, Mia has been forced to grow and scheme to not only defend her family, but her life as well. Having been removed from Tommen's coronation by previous events, her ability to see her way back into the party, as well as deftly maneuver the field while staying out of the ever watchful eye of Margaery is extrodinary, and she delivers what could be the best one liner of the game in her part's closing moments.
Sadly, the visuals continue to be the series's low point. While the style continues to be adequate, it was this episode's use of repeated character models that stuck out and ultimately drew me out of its happenings. When the Unsullied march through Daenerys's camp outside of Mereen, it is the same model multiple times marching in a straight line. When the Glenmores make an appearance in the grove outside of Ironrath, it is the same models that bear their armor, bows, and coat of arms. Even more specific characters, like Elaena Glenmore and Gwyn Whitehill, bare such a striking resemblance, that I was confused when presented with Gywn's brevity and tone when I had just helped Elaena with an important matter. In fact, I even looked through the game's codex to see where I had made a mistake, only to find that tool to be completely useless in its explanation of anything but who the members of House Forrester are.
Apart from that, the action scenes continue to be a bit stodgy, with a few managing to slip their way into conversations when I was simply not prepared to have to react. I imagine it would be a bit easier with a controller, but the need to constantly keep one hand steady on the WASD keys just in case someone decides to throw a punch my way, or I suddenly have to duck behind, under, or around a horse cart to keep out of view. Whether or not it's planned, the relative ease with which the scenes are completed also feels like it's tied to the particular character, i.e. the timing on Asher's physical activities seem far more lenient then those of Rodrik's, which given the latter's physical condition makes sense, but nonetheless, makes for some guesswork when it comes to the actual scenes and the amount time one has to react.
Gripes aside, this is easily the best episode Telltale has released since the first, and with the quality gradually increasing, I am becoming immeasurably impatient for the final episodes. Especially with where Sons of Winter lets off, I think the next episode is going to prove crucial to whether or not all, or even any, of the actions taken so far will pay off. With that, we have nothing left other then to wait and see. Winter is coming, and things are about to get very, very real.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!