Telltale Games' Game of Thrones
Episode 3: The Sword In The Dark.
Well, this is a surprising turn-out. With a release schedule of roughly every two months, we could have expected to see the third episode in Telltale Games' perhaps most highly anticipated series in the first week of April. Instead, it was released yesterday, much to my surprise (although probably not the surprise of people paying attention to the release dates of these episodes).
The third episode of Telltale Games' Game of Thrones sees Rodrik and his council at Ironrath come under the thumb of Gryff Whitehill, the angry and domineering son of the Forresters' greatest enemy. Meanwhile, at King's Landing, Mira attempts to cover up her murder of the guard Damien, while balancing her loyalties to Tyrion, who has promised her a contract with the crown, and Margaery, who is preparing for her nuptuals to Joffrey. In Essos, Asher encounters a dragon, and arrives at the camp of Daenerys Targaryen to seek a mercenary army. Meanwhile, at the Wall, Gared comes face to face with his family's murderer, as he prepares to join Jon Snow on a mission beyond the wall.
|"LOOK DO YOU REMEMBER THIS FROM CANON," - Telltale Games.|
This is the episode that really hammers in that this is, essentially, fanfiction. Definitely better fanfiction - despite my reservations after the first episode, I have started to warm a little towards this game - but fanfiction nonetheless, with Telltale Games' original characters increasingly shoehorned into deep and meaningful relationships with canonical characters. And it's hilarious. I'd love to be offended by it, being offended always makes for an interesting review, but it's totally harmless and actually quite fun to watch - there's something that just tickles me about Gared staring longingly into Jon Snow's eyes and whispering 'I know I can trust you, Jon'; or Mira becoming the ragdoll that Tyrion and Margaery are tugging on. It's good fun, and clearly not meant to be taken too seriously, and I like that.
That having been said, this episode, while better than the first episode, can't match up to the second. It feels shorter and, much more importantly, it feels like less happens: Asher gets almost no movement on his plot (in a manner almost reminiscent of how plot arcs in the television series sometimes end up slowing to a crawl for an episode or three), with his short sections mostly being devoted to getting from Point A to Point B; meanwhile, Rodrik, Mira and Gared all have plot developments, but they feel slow, sluggish, like you could have packed in twice as many plot turns into the time allotted.
Mira's sections of the story probably stand out as the best in this episode, with her choices more than anyone else's feeling like they have some real weight to them. Perhaps not coincidentally, she's also the one with the strongest link to canon: The events of the Purple Wedding happen (off screen) in this episode, impacting Mira heavily, and while that could have felt clumsily set up (the game series has been telegraphing that the Purple Wedding is coming, after all, while painstakingly tangling Mira up in the schemes of all the major power players involved), it actually all feels rather smooth and natural.
|Asher's sections, meanwhile, have a Daenerys cameo.|
Gared's sections of the story, meanwhile, stand out as the worst, and that's due to a few things: Jon's presence seems forced; the plot of 'oh no my family's murderer is at the Wall too now' is contrived; the entire storyline seems weirdly like it's retreading ground already covered even though I'm fairly sure it isn't; and Gared as a character is dull, dull, unspeakably dull.
I don't enjoy Gared's sections. I don't feel like they're going anywhere, and the story's attempts to have dramatic moments where Gared has to decide between killing or sparing someone fall flat.
Part of that is that I had no emotional stock placed in the deaths of Gared's family (being that they were characters I'd never met before), and given that Gared seems perfectly cheery about the whole thing until this episode, neither did he. A lot of that, though, is that I know what Telltale Games are like, and I can tell a meaningless choice that won't actually affect the plot when I see one.
|Also, the snow is dreary and I do not like it.|
Finally, the prize for 'didn't even make an impression, good or bad' goes to Asher's sections of the story, which are barely there and could barely be called story, so much as functional connective tissue. That's fine, a story needs connective tissue, I suppose, just don't expect it me to particularly care no matter how many dragons you throw into it.
Episode four's release date hasn't been announced yet, but on balance we can probably expect it at the start of June, or if we're lucky, the end of May. I profess, I am looking forward to it: Despite its hideous graphics and its utter impenetrability to anyone not familiar with either the books or the television series, it is at least clearly being made with enthusiasm, and I can appreciate that enough that the game is starting to grow on me. A little. Maybe.
On another interesting note, Game of Thrones series five will be airing come April, and will be forming my second ongoing (the first being Kamen Rider Drive) for the time that it airs, so I'm looking forward to that.