Telltale’s Game of Thrones: Sons of Winter Impressions

WARNING: Because this episode just released yesterday on all platforms, I’m going to warn you about potential spoilers. While I did try to remain spoiler-free, one or two may have snuck in. If you haven’t played the latest episode, feel free to come back once you do! You’ve been warned!

A lot of Episode 4 in Telltale’s Game of Thrones series is spent doing the things I like in their most recent games: making tough decisions that I feel will impact the rest of the game and conversing with characters and learning more about them. There isn’t a ton of combat in Sons of Winter, which is never really a detriment when it comes to Telltale games. Their control scheme typically falls somewhere between tolerable and clunky at best. That’s not what these games are about, however.

The biggest issue I have had so far playing this series actually has to do with the cameos from the show. In 2012’s The Walking Dead, there was only a couple of characters from the comics that made an appearance. This allowed Telltale to really get their feet wet when it comes to character and story design. A huge part of me feels like having so many of the characters from the show only cheapens the experience. Not only due to the performance of the actors, but also due to the continuity.

If you’ve read my previous post about the show, you’ll know that I’m losing interest in Ramsay Bolton. Well, he makes yet another appearance in Ironrath in this episode, seemingly for no better reason than to troll one of the major characters. Sons of Winter takes place sometime after or during Tommen’s coronation as king. This means Ramsay should be busy in Moat Cailin and the Dreadfort, not pursuing ironwood resources. His appearance in the first episode was good, I’ll give you that. I’d just rather spend more time with these characters that are exclusive to the game.

Daenerys’ first major appearance in the game was…well, weird. Telltale’s writers must consider her to be more of a moody, and unnecessarily difficult tyrant. Emilia Clarke’s lines are read oddly, as well. I don’t think she really gets voice acting for video games, and that it should be taken with just as much care as any other medium.

Asher’s story arc involving the siege of Meereen felt kind of cheap as well. I don’t want to play the game to visit a bunch of big story moments, I want the game to create new ones. It’s the equivalent of superimposing Forrest Gump into important events in modern US history. It was clever at the time, but doing it now just seems kind of cheesy. Both The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us focused on self-contained stories in their respective universes. Game of Thrones seems to be relying too heavily on the show.

Kit Harrington is blank-faced and devoid of any personality as the video game version of Jon Snow, even more so than his disappointing television counterpart. I was a little surprised at this, because he does some fairly decent VO work in How to Train Your Dragon 2. Incorporating some of the major show characters but ignoring the others is even more confusing. We know that Grenn and Pyp are still alive, and Sam is somewhere around the Wall, but they are nowhere to be seen in Sons of Winter. They even add a character named Frostfinger, as a cheap knock-off of Alliser Thorne. How expensive would it have been to hire him for a handful of lines?

I know that it is probably difficult writing about Westeros and not including some of it’s better known locations, but too much of the game seems to be mirroring a lot of the characters from the show/books. You have one major character in Essos, taking way too long trying to get back home. You have your adorably naïve young maiden in over her head in King’s Landing, and the honorable guy trying to do the right thing north of the Wall. Sound familiar? I was thinking the same thing.

The best parts about this game series has been the conflict and intrigue involving the Forrester’s rivals, the Whitehills, and their desire to control your lands for your valuable ironwood trees. Truthfully, the game could just take place at Ironrath, focusing solely on Rodrik’s arc, and deal more with attempting to govern as the lord of the royal family. Give him tough decisions, like it seemed they were going to do in the first episode. How do you punish this particular criminal, who gets what amount of food, how do you best defend your stronghold for long bouts of battles with warring houses? All of this would be more interesting than any of the other Forrester characters combined.

I really like Asher and Beskha, but I don’t see how they’re going to arrive at Ironrath in time for their presence to matter. Unless these last two episodes are exceedingly longer than the previous four, Asher’s plot may be finishing off in a later season, assuming there even is a future season. I was hoping he would arrive in Westeros sooner. I would like to see his dynamic with the other family members.

Gared Tuttle’s character is just pointless. I don’t give a gooey pile of poo about the North Grove. I’m hoping Duncan has been a traitor all along, and he was trying to gain its power for himself. Even better, Gared, Cotter, and Finn could all just die by white walkers before figuring out the grove’s secrets. It’s so weird, because I really love the stuff about the North and beyond the Wall, but only in the books. I’ve pretty much hated how both the show, and now the game have portrayed the North. They just lack the mystery that the book series has.

Mira’s story in King’s Landing is a little more interesting, since she can gather potentially useful information and dabble in playing the “Game”. The problem is, she never really ends up doing much of anything! Margaery never really helps her, and is unnecessarily bitchy. Especially now that she is married to Tommen, who is completely wrapped around her finger. It should be super easy for her to provide support to her handmaiden now, but NOOOO…Instead she’s all pissed off because you care about your family and are trying your best to help them. I was all about exposing people’s secrets this time around. Since I’m not really attached to anyone in King’s Landing, I found myself taking a lot more risks with Mira, and that has made things pretty interesting.

Far and away, the best scenes of this episode were Rodrik’s. I’m trying to play him as pragmatic as possible, but I also couldn’t help but unleash fury upon Gryff when given the opportunity. I won’t spoil it for you, but it was glorious. I don’t care that it was risky, the dude had it coming. Plus, the scene with Ludd Whitehill in Highpoint was very well done, and managed the tension really well. That’s what I want to see more of! All of the side stuff is just unnecessary added fluff.

Final thoughts…
This was so far probably the weakest of Telltale’s Game of Thrones series. There are some great parts, and those scenes definitely make it worth the five dollars. I’d like to see the Forresters not seem like such Stark clones and unite together in one location. Spreading them out is making their arcs feel thinner than they could if they were in closer proximity to each other. I’m interested to see where the rest of the season takes me, but I will continue to remain cautiously optimistic.

Similar to: Life is Strange, Fable 3, Dragon Age
Suggested substitution(s): The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Tales from the Borderlands

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