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Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: Dec. 2, 2014

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Game of Thrones: Episode 3 - The Sword in the Darkness'

by Brian Dumlao on March 25, 2015 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series is an episodic story where political and sexual intrigue abound as seven noble families fight for control of the Iron Throne and the Seven Kingdoms.

In the second episode of Telltale Games' Game of Thrones, the Forrester House was in dire straits. Gared Tuttle had arrived at The Wall and was getting used to the way of life. Asher and his uncle tried to find a way home without causing too much trouble. Rodrik was recovering but dealing with his occupied kingdom, and Mira, in the name of self-defense, has killed a guard. With the game coming close to the fifth season premiere of the TV show, the question is whether the third episode, The Sword in the Darkness, can keep fans glued to the game when the TV show returns.

Like the second episode, The Sword in the Darkness starts with Asher. On the way to finding an army and a way home, he's almost trapped by the mercenaries who were after him. In an apparent dead end, he finds a cave that leads him to the one thing he didn't expect: a dragon. To be more precise, it's Daenerys' missing dragon, Drogon.

There's a good mix of action in Asher's episode, with action against a creature whose exploits are only mentioned in the show but never seen. Along with the swordplay comes a big decision moment that gives his story some depth — and will hopefully be resolved later. There's also some nice dialogue later in his tale that adds tense humor to the proceedings, but mostly, things are pretty straightforward without very difficult choices. By the end, you'll reach a point where you know that the next episode will have him doing something pretty epic.

Gared's section comes in next, and it starts with him being sworn in as a Ranger. As soon as the ceremony ends, he gets a visit from his uncle, who may have answers about what the lord was referring to before he passed.  This provides some closure to a mystery that the game introduced in the first episode. It also puts you in a tough place since you have to decide between breaking your newly sworn oath for the benefit of the family or dedicating yourself to your brothers-in-arms.

Compared to the previous episode, Gared has a much more interesting tale. Everyone seems to trust you with secrets, and you have one of your own. The decision to run or stay permeates his sections and gives his pieces more purpose. He also has a problem that gets quickly resolved in the episode through combat, but the repercussions will continue into the next episode. A good but unexpected thing is that you have to recite the oath by clicking on each line on-screen; it's a nice touch that underscores how important the oath is for everyone at The Wall.

The jump to King's Landing with Mira leads to the days before the wedding. The guards are still looking for the murderer of one of their own while preparations are being made for the upcoming ceremony. Depending on your earlier actions, your level of trust with Margaery also comes into play, and it could lead to you staying or leaving her employ. On top of all that is a matter with Tyrion concerning Ironwood that needs to be resolved.

Mira's segments have always been tense, and the trend continues here in earnest. Though you remain in plain sight, you're always left with the feeling that you need to be crafty and hide everything lest you get caught. Everything feels like it's about to crumble, a situation that's not helped by Tyrion's events on the day of the wedding. It feels like a real struggle to choose who to trust and stay in everyone's good graces. At this point, even if you aren't invested in everyone else's tale, Mira's is the one that brings you back for the next episode.

Then there's Rodrik. He remains crippled in this episode, but now he must deal with the arrival of the Lord Whitehill's son, Griff. As before, there's a balancing act between establishing your authority and staying in the good graces of your invaders. Several situations arise where you'll be humiliated, and several times, it seems that the correct way to react is to be weak. A bit of intrigue is established in a revelation about a traitor in the midst, though who that might be remains a mystery for now.

The problem with Rodrik's sections is that it feels like the writers need his family to be repeatedly humiliated, almost at the expense of everyone else. We've seen this happen in every episode thus far, and while it establishes the plight, it's also boring to watch. Each member of the family and council also stays stagnant as far as their character traits go. There is hope toward the end when you have the chance to fight back, but the hope is that all of this indignation will result in a huge comeuppance soon.

Of all of the episodes released thus far, The Sword in the Darkness seems to adopt some of the conventions of standard adventure games. Gared must do a little puzzle-solving, and although the puzzle isn't difficult, it's nice to see it. The same goes for Mira's portion, though that's a much simpler affair than it leads you to believe. Combat is more prevalent this time around, with some satisfying fights; it's cathartic after the tension of making decisions and witnessing events.

Game of Thrones: Episode 3 -The Sword in the Darkness puts the series in a good spot. Asher has a decent amount of action, and his straightforward story is a nice contrast to everyone else's tales. Mira's situation is as tense as ever, and it doesn't look like the game will let up anytime soon. Gared's tale has gotten traction and gone from boring to exciting in one fell swoop. Rodrik's part in the episode still feels like it's spinning its wheels, but if you played things out a certain way, the events at the end signal the beginning of a spark . As long as the pacing of episode releases is right, there's enough here to keep players invested while the TV show rolls on.

Score: 7.5/10

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