TellTale’s Game of Thrones: Episode 4 – Sons of Winter marks the beginning of the second half of the adventure game series. The game does borrow heavily from the HBO television series, running about a season behind. Though the fifth season of the show is over, this episodic adventure actually began last year, and at its current pace won’t wrap until the fall. I’ve criticized Telltale’s release calendar before and I can’t help but feel that it works against the commercial success of the video game.
To be fair, both this season of the television show and the game have had issues, but releasing the game during the television hiatus makes more sense to me. Following a minor house, the Forresters, TellTale’s Game of Thrones adventure game series takes place primarily during the show’s fourth season, and is a welcome addition to the canon. Of course, the game’s episodes have had some problems. Like the show’s fifth season, there have been some pacing issues; there were also some early technical issues; and the impressionist oil paint filter the game uses takes some getting used to.
Episode 4: Sons of Winter picks up with Gared Tuttle facing the consequences of his scuffle in Episode 3. Once the intro rolls, the player is put into another tense conversation, but this time it’s across the sea where Asher, his uncle, and Beshka must answer to the Mother of Dragons. Typically dialogue-heavy, TellTale’s Game of Thrones takes a serious detour in Sons of Winter. While Gared and Rodrik’s scenes mostly follow the existing dialogue choice formula, both Mira’s and Asher’s sequences seem to jump the rails. Mira’s primary role is to hop around King’s Landing conspicuously eavesdropping, and Asher and Beshka try to perform an arcade-y sequence that is pretty awkward with the TellTale game engine.
TellTale’s strong point is typically its storytelling, but Sons of Winter excels in this aspect only on the Rodrik story arc. There is actually a small puzzle sequence for Gared, but his tale is fairly short this time around. While Asher has always had the more action-oriented segments, this episode seems to try to take it too far, and Mira’s sequences lack the weight and strategy they’ve enjoyed before. Of course, the game is easier to criticize when contrasted with the fifth season of the HBO show’s climaxing episodes, where even the storytelling is open to comparison.
The first three episodes of TellTale’s Game of Thrones were obviously building towards something, but Sons of Winter feels terribly unfocused. Hopefully, it’s like the top of a roller coaster, where the car is about to drop, and the last two episodes are to be whirlwind rides.
With such a high-profile franchise, the pressure is on TellTale, particularly after the mixed success of its second season of The Walking Dead. Though Clementine’s tale was doomed almost by premise alone, George R. R. Martin’s world offers nearly endless potential. As a standalone, Sons of Winter is a fairly weak offering, but luckily, TellTale has another two episodes to get it all right.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series – Episode 4: Sons of Winter is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Intense Violence, Blood, and Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows PC[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00Q7IO4FQ][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00KHWSD1O][amazon template=iframe image&asin=0345535529]