Note: I’ll try to be as spoiler free as possible in this review, but I will be covering the opening scenes and so you may want to avoid this altogether if you’d rather go in blind.
Telltale’s Game of Thrones is essentially an additional, concurrently running season of HBO’s phenomenal TV show. The first three episodes brought us back into the world of Westeros and familiarized us with House Ironwood and their struggles. Episode 4 picks up right where the last episode left off and puts you back into the shoes of the four main characters as their stories intertwine.
If you’ve played any of the previous episodes of Game of Thrones, or any other Telltale game for that matter, you’ll be very familiar with how everything works. The gameplay mostly consists of selecting dialogue options and inciting a bit of character movement, but Game of Thrones adds a little more action on top of the usual Telltale formula. Most of the plotlines contain violence that calls for quick reaction times, and it is possible to die in several scenes. However, as is usual for Telltale games, death doesn’t set you very far back, which allows you to quickly get back to the main attraction. Of particular note in this episode is Mira’s plotline; it involves political intrigue, and has the player eavesdrop on conversations and play characters against one another. It’s an interesting gameplay mechanic that isn’t seen often and is different from the usual Telltale fare.
Despite the increased focus on action, the main attraction is once again the story. Each of the four characters continues their plotline and throws in some interesting twists; Gared has been sentenced to death for his fight with Britt atop the wall, Rodrick plots to regain control of Ironrath, Mira learns how to survive in King’s Landing, and Asher gets involved in Daenerys’ plot to liberate Meereen. Speaking of, it’s always exciting to see a character from the show interact with characters from the game. It’s also interesting to see another side to these characters we know so well. For example, in the game, Daenerys appears to be much more harsh and aggressive than she normally is in the show.
That being said, Game of Thrones takes much inspiration from its source material. It follows four plotlines at once, jumping between them at key moments. Just like in the show, this works well to keep you engaged; you never stick with a character long enough to get bored, and the jumps are timed well enough to string you along and help you get back to their story soon. It also takes inspiration from Telltale’s previous games and attempts to play on your emotions – mostly with success. Each character has at least one scene filled with tension so thick that choices become torturous to make, and any interaction with House Whitehill is likely to leave you much angrier than you started. While there’s very little downtime and few boring moments, the story does move at a slower pace than the show, covering less ground in two hours than the show does in one.
If there is any complaint to be had, it’s that past choices feel as if they’ve been completely discarded. One of the big choices made in the last episode was deciding how Gared would deal with Britt. The fight was inevitable but his death was not. You could choose to kill Britt or leave him wounded on the battlements. However, regardless of the choices you make or how Britt dies, Episode 4 begins the same way – with Britt’s lifeless body atop a pyre. In a series that is supposedly driven by player choice, it’s disheartening to see this control immediately taken away.
In short, Sons of Winter is just as you’d expect; it doesn’t exactly do anything new but it’s not like it does anything wrong either. At this point, you’re either invested in the story or you’re not and, if you are, then now is certainly not the time to stop playing.
Telltale Games provided Controller Crusade with a copy of the game for review. The Steam version was reviewed.