The Best So Far, But Not Yet Great – Game of Thrones Ep4: Sons of Winter Review

The Best So Far, But Not Yet Great – Game of Thrones Ep4: Sons of Winter Review

TellTale’s Game of Thrones series has been their weakest work since Jurassic Park, but there’s always been a since of hidden potential just waiting to burst through. The firs three episodes have plodded around, often looking for a real direction, with the intention of setting the pieces into places. Episode four, Sons of Winter, marks a turning point for the series, welcoming back TellTale’s ability to tell a story while engrossing the player, but it’s not without it’s faults.

By the time Sons of Winter rolls around, the core cast of characters all have their defined goals, traits and ideals. Each story arc has a distinct tone in keeping with themes often covered in both the books and the TV show. Family values, honour, responsibility, tradition all continue to play key parts in each respective character’s story. The theme of revenge remains prevalent throughout Sons of Winter, only this time it comes into conflict with the concept of a ‘the greater good’.

gameSons of Winter is much more direct episode in the series, with the action coming at a steady pace. The constant small talk of the previous episodes is replaced with action scenes and plot progressing interactions. This new found flow allows the episode to feel much more compact, never allowing the player to settle into a lulled sense disenchantment. The storyline around the Forrester/Whitehall stand off benefits most of the change of pace, becoming a much more engrossing tale.

The conversations between key characters carries much more weight than initial episodes. The lack of small talk frees characters, allowing them to command a presence in their respective scenes. Both Mira and Rodrik Forrester’s once staggered stories are now a interesting mix of political intrigue and intense tension. Rodrik in particular shines thanks to a number of intense stand offs and decisions. Mira’s section is a much more subtle affair, akin to her character. Her weapons are not physical, but verbal, as she adopts to the game of lies played across Kings Landing.

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Asher plays a pivotal part in Sons of Winter, presenting some genuinely interesting back-story and filler during events shown in the TV series. His continued tale of avenging his family leads him to running into Daenerys Targaryen on the even of her conquest of Meereen. While the TV series featured the outcome of her conquest, Sons of Winter shows the beginning with Asher and Beskha on the front line. The simmering tension between the two friends continues to boil, with Beskha growing increasingly frustrated with Asher’s willingness to obey others. The relationship between the two characters becomes to focal point for the episode, with one of them revealing some genuinely interesting back story.

As ever, one story is sacrificed in terms of how much spot light they receive. Gared’s exploits at The Wall are significantly cut down, leaving his story to be left in the dust. His section mostly consists of quick time combat events, with one or two minor interactions in between. In truth, the Gared storyline was starting to lose it’s momentum during episode three, that momentum is essential dead by the close of Sons of Winter. Telltale have almost written themselves into failure with Gared’s quest to reach the grove. His story feels slightly hoakey when compared to the deadly game of wits and brawn present in the other Forester family tales.

gaaaameThe main issues Sons of Winter suffers can be found in the shape of the inclusion of the Queen of Dragons. Her demeanor is jarringly hostile, nothing like her appearances in the TV series. Her inclusion in the episode feels slightly like fan service more than a means to drive the plot. Emilia Clarke’s wooden acting does not help things, but does suit the robotic nature of the character models. TellTale’s engine is seriously showing it’s age now, muddy textures, robotic animation and some utterly bizarre facial movements are the main issues to be found.

Sons of Winter is easily the best of the bunch so far, suggesting the series is finally ready to hit it’s hot streak. Compact story telling, interesting revelations and some top notch pacing results in a hugely enjoyable experience. While the games are starting to look aged, the core elements all work together neatly. All of the pieces are in place, with three of the four stories at boiling point, episode five is already looking promising. Engaging, intense and utterly enjoyable, Sons of Winter is everything the last three episodes failed to be.

Sean Halliday


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