When I last wrote about Telltale’s newest episodic series, Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice, I set the stage for future episodes and my overall impression of the impact that Episode 1 had in the wildly popular universe of GRRM’s A Song of Fire and Ice and the hit HBO show Game of Thrones.
To briefly recap, Iron from Ice follows the trials and tribulations of House Forrester, a northern House who swore fealty to Robb Stark as King of the North, and who now find themselves in an extremely dangerous situation after Robb was murdered at The Twins. House Forrester harvests Ironwood, an hard wood that is difficult to cut, break, or burn, and is in high demand throughout the Seven Kingdoms with numerous wars springing up all over the place.
Episode 1 was dynamic and intriguing – albeit slow-paced – introducing us to House Forrester, an original House not seen in the books or tv show. The art was like an oil painting come to life and produced some really lovely digitally painted scenes, though at times the cannon characters (most notably Tyrion Lannister), looked more like an animatronic wax sculpture with a plastic expression. Still, Telltale gave its classic treatment to an established universe and did so in their typical, enjoyable fashion. So, does Episode 2 successfully continue what was already started?
You see, one of the biggest problems with these point-and-click storytelling genres is when the game developers feel the need to require the player to WASD their way through a scenario, which often breaks immersion as you struggle to fumble your way through the screen trying to locate things to click on. Unfortunately, Episode 2 forces this interaction on you immediately after the opening cinematic, and it soured the tone from the get go. Like the first, Episode 2 is littered with these moments. Though they are extremely short, and I may only have to walk around for 30 seconds at most, it makes me wonder: what’s the point? I’d much rather sit back and watch a character walk a few paces than have to do it myself – it’s not integral to gameplay and it drives me bonkers every time.
As is typical for Game of Thrones a lot of people died in Episode 1, which was set almost immediately after the infamous Red Wedding. We get exactly the same experience in Episode 2, as the story opens in Yunkai following the exiled Forrester brother Asher. We got hints about Asher in the last episode, but this is the first time we actually get to see him in the (polygonal) flesh. He doesn’t waste his time before getting his hands dirty, either – promptly killing a lot of Lost Legion soldiers with the help of his friend and fellow sell-sword Beshka (Yes, a woman sell-sword, how quaint!), before being found by his uncle Malcolm. We don’t really get much else on Asher, though we get a few hints that he will be the brave muscle of House Forrester – a general in a family hitherto run by budding diplomats.
Rodrik Forrester, thought to have been killed at the Red Wedding, is brought back to Ironrath on a corpse cart where he is discovered to be alive but horribly maimed. As the oldest surviving member of his House (who has now lost 3 of its nobles, 2 dead and 1 captured), he must pick up the pieces of House after his younger brother’s murder by Ramsay Snow, and secure his marriage to Lady Elena, his prior betrothed and Lady of a very powerful House. This was my only regret here in Episode 2, as I, along with about 50% of other players (according to Telltale’s own statistics), failed to secure my betrothal and lost Lady Elena’s support. Clearly, as based on these figures, I wasn’t the only person to find the choice difficult – I wish I had been able to keep her as my ally.
I had better luck with Mira, back in King’s Landing, who after being unable to convince Margery Tyrell to force Lady Elena’s hand, teamed up with Tyrion and potentially convinced him to buy Ironwood only from House Forrester. This would effectively cripple Lord Whitehill, the Forrester’s direct competition for ironwood and the man responsible for overrunning House Forrester with Whitehill soldiers. While this ploy was successful, it may likely bring all out war among the two Houses. In the process, Mira also angered some very dangerous people, as a Lannister guardsman tried to kill her but ends up dead himself at her hands.
Lastly, Gared Tuttle, squire to the late Lord Forrester sent to the Wall for killing the soldiers who murdered his family but secretly on a mission to discover the secrets of the North Grove, finally arrives at the Wall and takes the black. His entrance into the brotherhood of crows is an extremely condensed version of what Jon Snow went through himself, though the young Lord Commander seems to have taken an interest in the once-squire. Like Tyrion, though, the waxen likeness of Kit Harrington feels bland and lifeless, almost emotionless. Sorry, fangirls, it’s just not the same. Added to that, Snow is distinctly lacking the presence of his Direwolf, Ghost – what gives, Telltale?!?
Telltale establishes all of these things pretty quickly, so the previous few paragraphs aren’t as spoilerific as they might appear. There’s little of the ponderous pacing which plagued the first episode, though it still feels at times as though Telltale is taking its time lining up its pieces on the board rather than getting on with playing. Game of Thrones might be Telltale’s most mature offering yet – a far cry from the easy-going slapstick which typified their early work – but there’s a sense that the short episodic format favored by the studio doesn’t quite sit comfortably with the vast cast of characters and multiple plot threads required by the source material.
Overall, Episode 2 feels like a truncated couple of GRRM chapters, or a mid-season preview on HBO. There’s a little bit of intrigue, a little bit of drama, but not a lot of substance and what is there isn’t particularly interesting. When Asher was introduced, I had expected a lot more about him and less about the Forrester’s back in Westeros, but Asher’s plot was only a tease and instead he comes across as something of an underveloped cipher. Episode 2 feels more formulaic and less engaging that its predecessor as a result, and I hope that Episodes 3 and 4 don’t fall into the same trap, leaving the final installment to fall over itself in a rush to tie up all the loose ends.
Game of Thrones: The Lost Lords is “okay”, Not great, not terrible – and nowhere near as bad as Jurassic Park: The Game, but just another episode. Fans of the books and show will almost certainly love it for what it is – another fix while they wait for the next book (confirmed to have been delayed again) or Season 5 of the show. But if you aren’t already invested in Martin’s world, Telltale’s latest series isn’t going to convert you anytime soon.
And Telltale, for the love of God, stop requiring me to move the character 2 feet forward to trigger another scene – just animate it and call it a day!