As the world continues to go crazy over the latest season of HBO’s televised Game of Thrones adaptation, Telltale Games is furthering the action for those of us with gaming-capable devices. In fact, up until this week, the adventure-loving developer had released three of the six planned episodes in its similarly titled series, and has now released the fourth. As such, we’re now able to continue the story of House Forrester and its fight against oppression at the hands of evil and greedy men.
Referred to as Game of Thrones: Episode 4 – Sons of Winter, this new chapter is full of anger, deception, intrigue and violence. You’d expect that, though, given what A Song of Ice and Fire is all about, as well as how Episode 3 ended. After all, it’s not as if Gared Tuttle was going to escape judgement from the Night’s Watch for his fight along the top of the wall. Given that I kicked the asshole who killed his family off of storied structure, I expected to be beheaded as soon as possible.
Things do begin at the Wall, as the Night’s Watch prepares to make an example out of our troubled bastard, and it’s up to us, as the gods who control these characters, to save him. When you consider how important a role he seems to be playing in this arc, then you know how crucial his escape really is.
The rest of Game of Thrones‘ fourth episode is a lot like its beginning, tasking gamers with helping the underdogs not only survive but plan for the future. This means battling baddies as Asher, whose trip home has been halted by an encounter with the angry Daenerys and her fire-breathing dragons, trying to play the role of the smart lord as his injured brother Rodrik, and dealing with the backstabbing ways of King’s Landing as sister Myra. They all have important parts to play, and the tension is ratcheted up in this latest outing. Not just because of the dragons, either. Myra is risking her life, job and general safety by snooping on those who plan to wrong her family, Rodrik is facing constant danger at the hands of those who’ve invaded his house, and Gared Tuttle aims to find a lost grove that lays past the wall’s net of safety.
As before, things really boil down to a large game of chess. Will you choose to play things safe? Are you more tactical-minded? Or are you afraid of nothing and willing to risk everything to prove that? Such is the Game of Thrones.
The problem with reviewing Telltale games is that it’s impossible to go into much detail about their storylines without spoiling anything, and that’s particularly true here. New characters are introduced — including a couple that look to be of importance as things move forward — but talking about them, or even introducing them, would risk ruining things for you, which is something I don’t plan to do. Just know that you’re in for another two-hour long battle against evil. You can do what’s necessary, what feels right, or what looks to be the quickest way out of trouble, but you’ll want to make sure that you’re absolutely committed about the decisions you make. If you thought those you made in prior episodes were important, these ones trump them.
With all that having been said, this isn’t a tumultuous masterpiece, nor is it a classic. Like some of the game’s more recent episodes, Sons of Winter struggles with pacing issues and is sometimes too slow for its own good. Sure, it presents a solid amount of action, but those who aren’t into strategical wordplay may well find themselves bored. I appreciate both kinds of gameplay, and respect all of the work that went into each of the four released episodes, but I’d be lying if I said that I’d never felt a tad fatigued by their slowness.
Going further, while this is a more polished and less glitchy affair than some of Telltale’s previous releases, it’s not without its problems. The “Previously On” introduction is by far the most problematic, though, because it’s full of stutters and delayed dialogue – so much so that it’s partially unwatchable. Although the gameplay isn’t bogged down by such faults, it does contain one glitched achievement (which will bother those who care), and also fails to save one’s choices at its conclusion.
Following the credits sequence, I made sure to double-check my choices in order to ensure they’d registered, but the Chapter 4 tab was greyed out and inaccessible. My hope is that this will be patched and that my decisions have not been lost to the wind, because I’m quite happy with how things went and don’t want to have to continue with simulated results.
By this point, it’s likely that you’ve already made up your decision as to whether to invest into Telltale’s Game of Thrones series or not. After all, we are talking about the fourth episode of a game that began its story months ago. However, if that’s not the case, I would recommend checking its four released episodes out if you have interest in Westeros and its lore. There’s some impressive storytelling to be found here, and the painted visuals are breathtaking to behold. Just know though that these games are not without their faults.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Game of Thrones' fourth episode is a solid Telltale affair, but it's just that. While the developer continues to churn out quality content using George R. R. Martin's famed license, it does so while struggling to maintain great pacing.