Marking the half-way point through the six-chapter series, A Sword in the Darkness doesn’t dawdle, pause, or relax on moral conflict. Plot points left open at the end of Episode Two’s The Lost Lords are brought to the center of attention, and every major decision made from the beginning catch up to you. As some might have expected given the brevity of the previous iteration, episode three is a singing achievement both in terms of Game of Thrones storytelling and Telltale’s design mastery.
Prepare yourself: you’re going to let a lot people down in this episode. Every choice leaves someone you love out in the cold. The choices are stark (no pun intended): you must choose between family and best friends; mothers and sisters; the lady you’ve sworn to serve and the lord you’ve made a dubious pact with. Friendships and alliances are made at the expense of breaking others.
The episodes’ focus on loyalty manages to overshadow all the fantasy chatter about dragons and whitewalkers. In the north, poor Gared Tuttle finds reason to questions his Night’s Watch vows mere moments after he speaks them. In King’s Landing, Mira finds herself stretch between multiple loyalties, those of her friends and two of the bigger family names. Even Rodrik must choose carefully between family, particularly after the arrival of Gryff, whose behavioral traits are as annoying as your high school’s douchiest classmate.
Combat takes a backseat in the sword in the darkness, as most of the episode is focused on verbally navigating situations and choosing among the heinous lies you have to tell. There is also not much time given to exploring environments, and in each you’re looking for something within a time limit. It’s a bit disappointing, as it takes away from the world feeling like it moves at a regular pace and discourages you from taking in every detail.
The good news is that all of this seldom gets in the way of enjoying The Sword in the Darkness. It’s easily the series’ most balanced episode to date, with actions sequences requiring carefully timed mouse swipes and keyboard presses (or finger swipes). People die and friendships arise from seeming enemies, but through it all there’s a glimmer of hope amid the chaos. This being George R. R. Martin’s world, however, there’s always a chance that some ill-fated sellsword will crush that hope just as quickly.