Review: Game of Thrones Episode 4 – Sons of Winter
Telltale’s Game of Thrones series is now beyond the half way point, which was evident in this episode as storylines began to progress towards what are likely to be their respective conclusions. As a result, Sons of Winter had a clear sense of direction and a greater feeling of urgency than was found in previous episodes, which meant that I enjoyed it a lot more as I felt as though the decisions I made had a modicum of weight.
This episode begins at The Wall, as we experience the immediate repercussions of Gared’s actions in The Sword in the Darkness. I was pleased that my choices came back to haunt me here, as the negative relationship I’d built up with Finn caused him to lie to Frostfinger about Gared’s intentions immediately before Britt’s death. I’m not entirely sure if Finn’s condemnation of Gared’s actions made a significant difference to his overall fate, but it was still refreshing to see that my decisions were taken into account within the set narrative. By the end of this episode Gared’s tale is interesting and different enough to events elsewhere to make it feel worthy of its place, although his arc is slightly disconnected from the rest of the story.
Mira’s exploits in Sons of Winter were enjoyable at times, as the dynamic that I’d established with Sera felt as though it had some sort of purpose, and new characters such as Lyman Lannister were intriguing to a degree. However, I wasn’t completely enamoured with the dialogue options that I had to choose between whilst playing as Mira, because they didn’t really challenge me in the sense that there was only ever one genuine choice. This detracted significantly from Mira’s scenes in the episode, and meant that playing as her felt more like a chore than a pleasant escape from reality.
My least favourite moments in this episode were those spent with Asher. My issue with his scenes is that his choices are extremely one-sided; everything the player does as Asher relates to an overarching choice between his best friend, Beskha, and his family, who desperately need his help if they are to survive. Personally, I don’t find this to be a difficult choice because I’m significantly invested in the Forresters, given the fact that I play as a number of them, and therefore I’m always going to do what I perceive to be in their best interests. This makes Asher’s story less compelling and my actions less meaningful, because although Beskha is a likeable character, there’s nothing she can say or do that would make me choose her over my fictional in-game family.
Events at Ironrath are substantially more exciting, as Rodrik is presented with the opportunity to take back control of his castle and get a small slice of revenge on Gryff Whitehill in the process. Playing as Rodrik in Sons of Winter showcases the brilliance that Telltale are capable of, as every choice you make feels as though it could be your last, particularly as you attempt to broker peace at Highpoint.
Overall, I felt that Sons of Winter was a considerable improvement on its predecessors, as the stakes were raised and it appeared as though my decisions had more weight. Nevertheless, the episode was still far from perfect, because although the conflict between the Forresters and the Whitehills back in Ironrath elevated proceedings, the other subplots were forgettable, as Mira, Asher, and to an extent Gared, ambled around in the background detached from the main story.