Telltale’s interpretation of the Game of Thrones universe now expands into the second episode entitled, Game of Thrones The Lost Lords. Following on from episode one, Iron from Ice, we continue to follow the differing, but interlaced, story arcs of the noble members of house Forrester, a family purely created for Telltale’s episodic saga.
For those who have seen the TV series, the Forrester family have much in common with the Stark family, in fact, according to Telltale, the Forrester’s fought alongside the brave Stark’s during their confrontation with the crown. The game itself centres around the aftermath of such a failed alliance and how the Forrester’s must adapt to some rather strained alliances. The Forrester’s, much like the Stark’s, are likeable, noble and have the love of those around them. They are also fair and just. However, an unfortunate turn of events places them at the centre of a growing feud to which they find themselves in an impossible situation.
As mentioned in my first review of ‘Iron From Ice,’ all of this is in keeping with the cut throat politically driven TV series. Players must make difficult decisions, many of them moral or political. Doing what is right isn’t necessarily what is best. After all standing up for your beliefs is admirable but could soon lead to a knife in your belly, but then again being a push over can have the same results. Are you beginning to see why this is a rather particularly tricky minefield to navigate? The player must make constant decisions between the various playable family members dotted around the seven kingdoms. The actions of one, although not always apparent, may have a huge impact on another later in the episode.
All of this is what makes the game so playable. You truly do immerse your time and emotions in these characters, much like any Telltale game. Well, it is what they do best. And in this episode, The Lost Lords, Telltale are really beginning to step into their own. I was somewhat critical of the first episode, especially against some of the suspect voice acting that detracted from the game. No one likes to be reminded that they are actually playing a game, but often prefer to lose themselves in one. This new episode, in terms of drama, certainly achieves that.
However, my biggest gripe, something that hasn’t been addressed since the first episode, is the lack of actual gameplay. Yes, we have a series of quick time events for the action, which is signature Telltale but we are lacking a key element that other interactive, episodic games from Telltale have. And that is puzzles.
Telltale’s Walking Dead not only features some tough decisions, emotional relationships and quick time action sequences but also manages to include puzzles that are essential to your survival. Granted Game of Thrones is a different kettle of fish, and perhaps puzzles aren’t something that delicately ties into the series, but some other form of gameplay is necessary. Whilst the tension is palpable and spurs you on, the gameplay can sometimes be, well, boring. There is literally two aspects to the gameplay and that is quick time action followed by difficult decision-making. This can often lead to you wanting the more serene parts of the game to speed up or feature some other form of gameplay that the other sequences don’t have. In summary it feels like a missed opportunity.
To test the diversity of the decisions, I decided to play each episode twice, making completely opposing choices. Sadly in the first episode many of my decisions have had little impact on the episode directly, and the outcome, no matter what decision, often turned out to be the same and certain events seemed fixed and were thrust upon me. Much the same can be said about episode two. One time I deliberately decided not to act at all and my character took control of himself to ensure that the story arc would take a certain path. Whilst an indie title may have restrictions, in comparison to the multiple ending of a game like Heavy Rain, Telltale’s Walking Dead forced decisions upon you that decided the fate of those in your group almost immediately. You saw the impact and had little time to deal with it. Granted Walking Dead had unavoidable key moments too, but the illusion was created that the game was in your hands.
Having said that episode two, The Lost Lords, has many unavoidable key events but we are beginning to see, albeit it rather subtly, the impact of some of your previous choices from episode one and how these pathways are beginning to break away from each other. I can still only hope that after two episodes of Game of Thrones, that Telltale are playing the long game and that your decisions have huge ramifications further down the line.
However, despite these flaws, Game of Thrones is still an amazing and engaging title. The story telling excels and like the TV series, more and more characters enter the fray muddying the waters. Those you thought of as main characters in episode one take a back seat to the new startling and headstrong Forrester brothers. Twist and turns await, and cliffhangers are plentiful. Essentially Telltale have captured the essence of George R.R. Martin’s encapsulating world and opened the universe even further, I just wish they could make it a touch more fun to be in.