Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Telltale's "Game of Thrones", episode 2 (The Lost Lords) review

Spoilers for the first and second episodes of Game of Thrones following. 

Telltale finally released the second episode to their "Game of Thrones"-adventure game. After the first episode provided a good introduction to the characters with a shocking twist in the end, the second episode takes the pace back a step and provides a slower buildup. After the death of Ethan in the first episode, we're in desperate need of a main character who makes some tough choices, and he is presented via a little "Deus Ex Machina"-device: Rodrik Forrester is in fact not dead, but delivered literally to the Forrester's door step. From there on, he has to try to cope with the new political status quo, which, to quote Dr. Horrible, is not quo. 
"Damn", thought Jon, "I sure look good."


From there on, the episode follows through four point-of-view-characters: Gared Tuttle, who arrives at the Wall and now plays out everyone's favored game, "I'd like to be Jon Snow", Asher Forrester, who has to brawl his way through Yunkai and Meereen in his quest for a mercenary army, Mira Forrester, who still tries to hold her own in King's Landing, and Rodrik himself, who has to recover and not trip over the new realities. While the sheer amount of action scenes has been ramped up from one very short one in episode one to two larger and one shorter ones, the pace itself is considerably slower than in the first episode, as this one needs a while to get some focus into the stuff that's happening and still falls short half of the time. 
You know I'm pretty sure someone else said this, too.
The two new characters exemplify this pretty well. While Rodrik is instantly relatable as the injured and a little bit broken lord (imagine Bran as an adult) and has to deal with the fallout from last episode's decisions, which at least in my case included an ill-fated attempt at starving out Whitehill's soldiers, the air of urgency from the last episode is notably lacking. Even as Whitehill shows up, I never have the feeling that the political machinations are actually influenced by my decisions. What worked much better is the relationship between Rodrik and his mother and little sister, who struggle to provide a decent funeral for the fallen lord - a theme that resonates on an emotional level and provide the highpoint of the episode when Talia sings her haunting funeral song she spent the episode composing. 
A little bit of Bran, a little bit of Robb.
Asher Forrester, the exiled brother in Yunkai, doesn't work quite as well. His story is written more like an adventure story, like if Gerris Drinkwater had a say in how Quentyn's arc played out. This also means that if feels more like "The Prince's Bride" than "Game of Thrones". It's a cool guy with cool  weapons cracking one-liners with his badass sidekick while slaying his enemies. Asher has some catching up to do in episode 3 to keep me interested.
Stop whining. He has an axe. What more could you want?
Of the known characters, we keep with Gared Tuttle, who arrives at the Wall and starts his training as a brother of the Night's Watch. This isn't the most interesting plot development, as you have to protect a weakling from a bully, just like Jon Snow, and even get the Jon-Snow-approval-stamp(tm). Your trainer, a guy named Coldfingers, is passably interesting but also more stockcard than real, a mix between Alliser Thorne and Yoren, with the voice actor even taking up some of Yoren's quirks. Gared needs to really up his game when he goes ranging or fighting the wildlings or whatever and please, please stop wanting to be Jon Snow so bad. Also, the lack of urgency at the impending wildling invasion is even more lackluster than in the show.
Do I look like Jon now?
The other known character is the heart of the first episode and continues to impress: Mira Forrester, Rodrik's sister, a handmaiden in service of Margaery Tyrell in King's Landing. Her story is the most original and interesting, and her character the one that presents me with the real choices. Do I use the opportunity to betray Margaery's trust and forge a letter in order to help my family? Me and over 90% of the players elect not to, but still, you have a sense of loss about the other choice. Tyrion and Cersei are also still hovering over the narrative, and the writing does an excellent job of showing just how much more powerful than petty lords they are. Especially Tyrion's line about "If this goes well, it's good for both of us. If it doesn't, it's very bad for you" has a brutal ring to it. I love Tyrion in this. Friendly, but also selfish and with a jarring lack of earnesty. For the first time I understand truly why Tywin was so enraged with his jester attitude and why so many people despise him. I do too. 
The pen is mightier than the sword.
With that, a pretty uneven episode of Game of Thrones ends. Two story arcs are good to great, two others are uninteresting and flat. It's enough to sustain interest, but not enough to be great. I sincerely hope that the writers will finally emancipate themselves more from the source material. It's really warranted.

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