Published on March 18th, 2015 | by Chris Scott0
Game of Thrones – Episode Two: The Lost Lords Review
Summary: Really feels like an episode of Game of Thrones that we were in charge of.
With both Telltale Games and Game of Thrones being known for their shocking story beats, it makes sense the two make sweet music together. The first episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones series was familiar territory for the adventure game maker but it also felt so right. At the time I really liked it, the ending was appropriately shocking and delivered exactly what we wanted. But, looking back on it now, episode one felt extremely safe. It was exactly what we wanted, but there was nothing new to it.
As someone who is very experienced with Telltale’s episodic adventure work, specifically under this new formula, I don’t expect things to change much from one episode to another. After all, there is only so much they can do without breaking that approach. However, something funny happened with the second episode of Game of Thrones, they refined their formula a bit to better fit the TV style presentation they were attempting and it totally worked.
Picking up shortly after the events of Episode One, Episode Two sees a pair of Forrester lords return to the family fold. Rodrik Forrester, presumed dead after the events of the Red Wedding, comes home in a sorry state. Crippled and frail, he is tasked with leading the House through its most troubled time. Across the sea, sellsword Asher Forrester is delivered news of his family and prompted to return home. Meanwhile Mira still plays handmaiden to the Queen-to-be and Gared has made his way north to The Wall. Rodrik and his sister Mira are the political ends of this episode, while Asher and Gared are the more action-oriented ends.
While Telltale has certainly improved its action sequences over the last few adventure series, those moments are not the draw here. Much like Episode One, the political maneuvering in the game are the most engaging of any of the sequences. Choosing your words in Game of Thrones is far more nerve racking than seeing if you can properly complete a quick time event to dodge a sword thrust. As a fan of the series, there is nothing quite on par with matching wits with The Imp, or navigating around the volcano that is Ramsay Snow. More than anything else in the game, it is these moments that make Game of Thrones such a special gaming experience.
Episode Two quickly flips back and forth between the different characters and locales, and this ultimately gives the episode a more focused experience than its predecessor. The game weaves a tighter narrative while giving players even more control over the outcomes. The decisions that are left up to the player are probably as defining as any other Telltale decision point, but with Episode Two, they seemingly feel more important. That feeling of significance is the key to making these games work. If the decisions don’t feel like they carry any weight, then the illusion of you defining the story on your own is lost, and the experience becomes diminished. Here, Telltale seems to have finally mastered the illusion.
Like The Walking Dead, none of the choices here are going to make you feel good, but, unlike The Walking Dead, there is more nuance to each of the choices. Maybe this is because with Game of Thrones we are controlling more than one character; therefore, the choices can be designed to be more personally motivated. For instance when playing as Mira there are different considerations to be made because of where she is and who she is interacting with than if I am playing as Rodrik at his family house, or Gared at the Wall. While all are working towards the same goal, the pressures on each character are unique and, as such, result in the delivery a more varied play experience than in past Telltale games.
The focus on these unique and varied experiences is pulled off wonderfully with this episode. In many ways, when I look back at Episode One, it feels like Telltale was getting its feet wet. It was attempting to reconcile its adventure game formula against a TV formula everyone coming in to this game was familiar with. And because of the shocking ending it came off as just what we wanted. Episode Two though couldn’t pull that same trick. We knew what to expect coming in this time and Episode Two gets it all right. The narrative is fast paced, the scenes never linger too long, and aside from a couple instances of it reminding us that it is very much a game, this episode truly felt like an episode of Game of Thrones that we were in charge of. And personally, that is all I can ask for out of this series. If Telltale continues on this route for the next four episodes, I’ll be a very happy camper.