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……
Sons of Winter carries on the story of the Forresters in TellTale’s spinoff of the Game of Thrones, it differs in no major way from the previous episodes in terms of gameplay and aesthetic, therefore this review will be covering story content only.
Tonally, Game of Thrones – Episode 4: Sons of Winter is very much in keeping with Episode 3: A Sword In The Darkness, the Forrester House is finally beginning to dig its heels into the ground and push back. Each character is progressing into their own, shedding the faux-Stark persona they wore when the series started. Rodrick has become Robb Stark with a brain, Mira a cunning player in the hive of intrigue that is Kings Landing, Gared is doing whatever is necessary his vows be damned, and Asher is engaging in vital stealth missions for the most powerful woman in Essos.
The beauty of what TellTale are bringing to fruition is that each character’s journey feels natural and personal to the player, it is by your actions that this character is who they are now, and that feeling is incredibly satisfying. Whilst the episode lacks a moment as powerful as the “Stay down” scene from Episode 3, the pace has accelerated rapidly, many moments that felt like they were set up for a future episodes were in fact set ups for the next scene.
This improved confidence in their storytelling capacity is felt through the way they blend some of the more point and click type moments with the actual story. For example a scene with Mira has her roaming a party trying to gather information through eavesdropping and chatting to the right people, this scene felt like a scene from the show and the feeling that you’re able to compete in this world is enthralling.
There are problems with this episode, though they are few and far between. The big, obvious binary choices are for the most part gone, however when one in particular pops up you will ask yourself “well why can’t we just do this other far more sensible thing?”. If there were more of these moments the game would feel cheap and artificial, however most of the major choices in the episode are masked within conversations that feel very natural.
Another thing you’ll do more of in Sons of Winter is combat, for the most part it’s effective, however some of it does feel like it’s from an action film rather than the grounded realism of Game of Thrones, nevertheless it’s enjoyable if you can suspend your disbelief.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of this episode is Beshka, a character who always felt a little out-of-place in this world due to her being a very traditional fantasy archetype. In this episode we see her far more human side and her backstory, these not only make her character far more interesting and gives the player an explanation for her ability to slay a dozen enemies single-handedly, but it also highlights her friendship with Asher, a relationship that’s quickly becoming one of the most interesting relationships in the series.
This humanisation of a character who in most other fantasy would be left as an unstoppable badass is a hallmark of George RR Martin’s work and seeing TellTale’s take on that subversion is one of the most interesting parts of the episode. In conclusion Game of Thrones – Episode 4: Sons of Winter is the best episode yet, the riproaring pace and character development make this a genuinely brilliant 2-3 hour experience for fans of story.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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