Telltale’s episodic releasing schedule can often be frustrating. It’s been a good two months since I last played Telltale’s Game of Thrones, which is quite a long time considering the big cliffhanger at the end of the previous episode. Last night, I had the opportunity to play Nest of Vipers, and I’d like to take the time to share with you a couple of thoughts about it.
WARNING: This analysis contains spoilers for episode five of Telltale’s Game of Thrones. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a brief summation.
Player agency is a big thing for me. I like having the knowledge that I can truly make my character how I want them to be. This helps connect me personally to a game’s story. Choose-your-own-adventure style games suffer a little bit in this area. Sure, you can make choices here and there, but sometimes it seems that you are powerless to change anything and are trapped on rails no mater what you do.
The cliffhanger with Ramsay last episode was essentially meaningless. He essentially takes you to the woods to threaten you. He also kills Arthur, but I didn’t feel the heavy emotional impact since it had been so long since I played the game. I honestly couldn’t even remember who he was until his sister Elaena freaked out about his death. This is one of Telltale’s major pitfalls they need to overcome. They would be much better off announcing a game after it’s already been completed, that way they could release the episodes in a more consistent and manageable schedule.
As far as lack of player agency goes, Daenerys denies Asher and Beskha the soldiers she promised for helping her claim Meereen. What’s worse is that I think she does this regardless of what you did or what you say. I felt like I had wasted my time, and that the writers were essentially putting us on an errand hunt just to extend the length of the episode, when they could’ve spent more time elsewhere. Even stranger, Dany enlists the help of Malcolm, and abandons you and the other Forresters to whatever fate befalls them.
Losing his army, Asher is forced to seek followers elsewhere. Beskha leads him to what used to be a former slaver’s fighting pits, where we meet Amaya, The Beast, and a lot of other unsavory former slaves. Asher is forced to prove himself against one of their greatest champions to win over the pit fighters to his cause. This felt like just a convenient excuse to avoid propelling the story in lieu of another action sequence. Fortunately, the pit fighters are pretty cool characters, and they add more character to the mostly bland variety of the typical cast.
Immediately after this action sequence, we are thrust into another as Gared and his friends north of the wall are assaulted by White Walkers. This fight was pretty stupid and came out of nowhere. Initially, Sylvi was adamant about not looking to find The North Grove, instead favoring the idea of meeting up with Mance Rayder and the army of Free Folk. Somehow, the ensuing battle with the White Walkers prompts Sylvi to agree to help seek it out, though. It seemed like a cheap ploy, and it was irritating to see Finn go out in that fashion. I would have much rather seen Cotter go, but maybe that’s just me.
Mira’s story feels tacked on, as it has since the first episode. While I first found myself intrigued by trying to unravel schemes and machinations in King’s Landing, her plot has sort of reached a standstill. Pretty much nobody trusts my Mira, and she is just going back and forth without making any progress. It feels as if her sole purpose in the game is to have an excuse for some of the big name actors from the show to get some hefty scenes in each episode. This tells me Telltale may not be confident enough in their character writing to rely on the lore they’re adding to this universe, and is simply adding popular characters from the show because it is most convenient. I hope that if they make a second season of this, that they will do their best to avoid that. i’d just as soon not have any of the characters from the show make an appearance.
Rodrik finally discovers who the traitor is, and it is kind of a letdown. I haven’t been able to play through the game a second time, but it appears that the traitor will ultimately be the person you don’t choose as your sentinel. For me, that was Royland. I guess if I’m wrong (and the traitor is always Royland), let me know. I’d be disappointed if that were the case. It’d be much more interesting if the traitor was the same person no matter what, and if you had chosen him as sentinel, then he’d have even MORE information to pass over to the Whitehills. It’s a little too convenient that Talia just stumbles upon who the traitor happens to be, and that the traitor had really no good reason other than spite to turn his back on his house. I chose to provide Royland with his due justice right there in the family room, in spite of his ominous warnings that the trade off for Ryon was nothing more than a trap. Rodrik throws his cane into the fireplace and promises that the Forresters are preparing for war.
….AAAAAAnnnnnd, then he dies. Ha! Just as Asher and his merry band of mayhem arrives on shore, the Whitehills launch a strike upon the Forresters right at their front gate. Inexplicably, Gryff is not only alive and well, but also completely unscathed from all of the abuse I put him through in the last episode. No bruises or anything. Just super healthy and leading his men to attack. Asher and Rodrik become the only two people left inside the gate, and you have to choose which one to stay behind to hold open the portcullis. I was surprised to see how many players actually left Asher behind, but to me it clearly seemed like it would be the loyal and protective Rodrik. For him to die felt much more like Game of Thrones than killing off Asher. It felt more tragic, since he was just starting to enjoy starting a life with his future wife, and because all of his pride in the way he dealt with Gryff was quickly torn asunder as he was clubbed and stabbed into a heaping mess. At least he took a lot of Whitehills down with him.
It may have been cheap, but at least it felt right. It was clear they were building up for you to shape these two brothers for leadership. Now Asher has even more fire in him he can use to bring the fight straight to the lousy Whitehills, and I won’t feel nearly as bad for fighting dirty to get there. Asher has in my opinion been the most interesting Forrester in the game, and I’ll be rooting for him in the final episode to come.
Nest of Vipers stumbles a little bit this time around as it tries to maneuver all of it’s pawns into place. The ending sequences pack an emotional punch, but it gets bogged down a little bit by lack of choice and a little too convenient writing. Technical issues like texture pop ins, and loading failures are still prevalent — which only helps solidify that Telltale is desperately in need of a new engine for making their games. This episode has me excited to see the conclusion, but a great deal of the episode felt unnecessary or tacked on.
What’s Good: The action sequences were surprisingly engaging, ending sequence was pretty epic
What’s Not-so-good: Lack of ultimate control, it would be much more interesting if we as the player could be responsible for some of the backstabbing and machinations, instead of being forced to be the fall guy every time
Have you played episode five of Telltale’s Game of Thrones, yet? What choices did you make? How do you think it will end? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!