Marking the beginning of the latter half of Telltale’s foray into George R. R. Martin’s brutal fantasy world, episode four Game of Thrones: Sons of Winter is anything but boring. Definitely the most QTE-heavy episode to date and packed with big moments that have been built up by previous episodes, Sons of Winter forces every character to take a dramatic new turn in their story arc (save one).
More importantly, however, is also how such emphasis on action also accentuates the narrative flaws that show up more than once. While the action that capped off episode 3 was a welcome change from the ample dialogue, I was frustrated to see that Britt ends up dying regardless of whatever choice you made before. Not only that, but the murder pinned on you regardless of the witness and evidence to the contrary. While it serves as a catalyst for the escape plan later on, the aura of feeling confined is very prevalent and not something I have ever felt before in a TellTale game.
Across the narrow sea, Asher trying to win favor with Danaerys was a fun exchange to finally have, but I was a bit flustered with her aggressive negotiations and overall hostility. This might perhaps be more because I am a fan of both the books and TV series, as the Danaerys here exhibits much less of her skeptic diplomacy we have come to know her for, and seems far more sensitive to the idea of one person speaking ill of Drogon (which, to be fair, has yet in this part of the story burned a little girl to death).
The Forrster-first theme is still strong throughout each story arc, but the emotional risks feel just out of sight in that you don’t need to take the time to weigh potential outcomes because there is no threat to be afraid of. Having those threats at every major choice has served the game well in its first half, but Sons of Winter drops the tension almost entirely. In Mira’s case, especially, you gain loads of useful information very quickly and are then able to squeeze and manipulate others, but by making Mira powerful, much of what made her storyline tense disappears.
It is also refreshing to see Rodrik’s struggle against the Whitehills finally move away from the repetitive cycle of event that characterized the series’ first half. As the Whitehills realize they aren’t as strong or as powerful as they thought, unlikely allies come to Rodrik’s aid. These supporting characters bring a refreshing change to the fight we’ve seen so far, revealing personalities that alternately clash and meld with the Forresters and bring out new, personal facets of their struggle. Rodrik’s beloved, Eleana Glenmore, becomes more important in Episode Four than ever before, evolving beyond a love interest and perhaps into something more dangerous as she pushes Rodrik to take action on her behalf.
Throwing a wrench in each character’s plans is a necessary evolution for Telltale’s arc in the Westerosi world, but Game of Thrones: Sons of Winter remains a slow start to the second half of their journey. Nevertheless, in the Game of Thrones, it’s never a sprint to the finish, but a marathon to simply stay alive.