Disclaimer(s): As I said in my reviews of the last episodes I don’t hold the TV show in very high regard due to some of the very questionable differences from the book series, so when covering show direct aspects of the game I may be more critical than most. Also I will attempt to keep spoilers for the entire series untouched throughout these reviews, given the nature of the game however I will be referencing events vaguely so if you want to experience the game with no prior knowledge then you’d be best off just buying it, no review can properly cover a TellTale game without at least alluding to story events. Now that’s out the way……
The third instalment of TellTale’s series set in the world of Game Of Thrones differs in no major way from the previous episodes in terms of gameplay, it remains the mix of quick time events, dialogue trees and timed narrative choices, to avoid repetition refer to Game of Thrones – Episode 1: Iron From Ice Review for an assessment of how Game of Thrones feels to play, as well as other aspects that have carried over such as aesthetic.
A Sword in the Darkness is in stark contrast with its predecessor in that it gives the player far more major choices, choices which genuinely feel like they matter, across all the protagonists. Where episode two felt a little too much like it was just introducing more set up for the series, episode three makes use of your knowledge of the characters and your investment in their journey in order to truly immerse the player in the story, you’ll find yourself making decisions based on emotion rather than cold calculation of what will give the best outcome.
Unfortunately this episode did not come without some issues, there are certain decisions which NPCs make that are at best odd and at worst they were decisions that were shoe horned in to further the plot. Fortunately they were few and far between but it was jarring to encounter these moments among an otherwise very well written narrative.
The episode opens with Asher en route to Meereen where he encounters Daenerys Targaryen’s largest dragon Drogon. The encounter initially feels out of place, something out of regular fantasy than the grounded world of Game Of Thrones, but by the end of the episode the encounter fits into the story well enough to excuse the convenient inclusion of this world’s most fantastical creature. The encounter with a dragon unfortunately also highlighted the flaws with the oil painting aesthetic, dragon breath and animation simply doesn’t look very good in motion when the edges of everything blur as much as they do.
One thing this episode gets absolutely perfect is the use of music, familiar tracks from the show’s soundtrack with slight alterations mimic the ebb and flow of the action unfolding, especially during the QTE events. It adds a weight to the otherwise simplistic gameplay and brings forth a raw emotion that would otherwise be lacking.
The voice acting is as always outstanding, the only character who doesn’t seem as convincing is Jon Snow, whilst Kit Harrington’s voice acting works wonderfully something about the animation of his face doesn’t gel with the dialogue all the time. One especially different character in the game as opposed to the show or book series is Margaery Tyrell, who we see in a completely different light due to the perspective of Mira Forrester (a handmaiden). Whilst some might criticise this as an inconsistency to allow them to include an established fan favourite character in the game, it by no means extends beyond the realm of belief that Margaery would act this way to her inferiors, and it adds a complex dynamic that penetrates all of the Kings Landing scenes with a nerve-racking tension.
The story itself has upped the pace dramatically, the twist and turns this episode throws at the player continually catches them off guard, the only downside to this is that one of the mysteries the game presents is resolved very quickly and its potential was squandered.
Despite these small negatives, episode three of TellTale’s series is the best episode yet, capitalising on the developer’s greatest strengths, crafting a 2 hour experience that is utterly compelling and if you have played the first few instalments there is no reason to turn away from a fourth outing into Westeros.
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