Episode 4 of Telltale’s Game of Thrones series is here, and things are hotting up, or I suppose cooling down, in the land of Westeros. In Sons of Winter the Forresters are still battling for survival in Ironrath against the Whitehills who’ve managed to usurp their lands and fortunes; the Night’s Watch are on the verge of war with the people beyond the Wall; political maneuvering and posturing is rife in King’s Landing; and there are reports of dragons and danger out in the exotic city of Meereen. So, pretty much par for the course in the Game of Thrones universe.
Keeping this free from spoilers, you’re continuing the adventure with each of the protagonists from the previous encounters, and each has a pretty specific playstyle. Roderik, as lord of Ironrath, is the hero of the Forrester family and struggles to maintain a balance between keeping his people safe and providing resistance against the interlopers. Mira is running the gauntlet in the capitol, attending banquets and swanning around with her handmaiden friend, all the while trying to find ways of helping out her family back at home. Both these characters are dialogue driven and heavy on the selection of response to make headway (or not) with whoever you’re engaged with. It’s good to see Mira getting the opportunity to stroll around the gardens of the Red Keep and interact with several key players, and it contrasts well with Roderik’s prisoner-like existence at the homestead.
Gared is still at the Wall dealing with the aftermath of the end of the last episode, and figuring out where the North Grove is hidden; and Asher is working with Daenerys to free the slaves of Meereen. These are the combat-centric characters and where the game gives you the action you crave from the storyline. The delineation between talking and fighting works nicely to give pace and structure, and evens things out over the two hour or so runtime to give a decent amount of variety to the experience. Telltale’s engine is once again present to play its part in distracting you from the activities on screen with glitching, popping textures and disappearing characters. We’re used to it now, and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing this reduced or fixed completely whenever we get a new game from the studio.
Sons of Winter is all about slowly building up characters motivations and desires, and setting up the payoff of (what we hope) will be the action packed and suspense filled finale episodes. As a standalone episode it feels a too drawn out, with not as much going on as in previous instalments. I feel this is where the episodic nature of the game is starting to let it down, there’s too long between each part, and I’m losing connection with both the avatars I control, and with the choices I’ve made. What you decide to do in one part, and how you decide you’re going to act as each individual is lost by the time you’re ready to pick up the story again.
This discontinuous style is having a negative affect on my view of the whole series unfortunately, and the long wait between episodes is causing my interest to wane. Sons of Winter isn’t bad, but it doesn’t set itself apart from the last three episodes – though you can’t expect to have a stunning experience all the time. Let’s see what happens with the next parts, there’s time to turn things around yet with A Nest of Vipers due fairly soon, then being followed up with The Ice Dragon.