Game of Thrones, Episode Two: The Lost Lords Review (Xbox One)
Westeros looks like a wonderous place to visit. It's got amazing landscapes and architecture, and the people of the world are just as colorful. Well, some anyway. Most are just covered in blood. For some reason though, we just can't pull ourselves away from the carnage, betrayal, and bad decisions. In Telltale's little pocket of the universe, that's especially true. The weight of our choices is felt with every breath and each step we take, and while it's terribly stressful to be in charge of so many lives, it's also incredibly exciting.
Where the first episode of Telltale's latest episodic adventure spent a lot of time introducing us to the Forresters and the intricacies of the troubles the house found itself in following the Red Wedding, episode two puts us knee deep in the thick of it, with nothing but words to dig ourselves out. Sometimes those words carry an immeasurable amount of power, and we're able to create alliances with most unlikely partners. Of course, the wrong tone at the wrong time can also lead to some dire consequences, with which we'll have to live the rest of our days... long or short as they are.
That's not to say all episode two has to offer is good conversation. Outcast Asher Forrester has plenty of swordslinging to do in the brief time we spend with him in Yunkai. He and his fellow sellsword Beskha get into plenty of trouble, which more than makes up for the quieter moments of panic induced by putting the fate of a family in one's expository skills. In fact, it's almost a relief to face down the opposition in a sword fight rather than a mental one. At least you can always ascertain the intentions of the person on the other end of the blade.
Though the story allows a few of the Forresters to continue to grow, some of the other storylines don't gain much traction. As such, the pacing of this episode feels a little off. Advances you previously thought you made are wiped away by certain events, and many things that transpire at Ironrath (home of the Forresters) have a slight tint of deja vu. It helps that the writing is so strong you don't mind very much, but one-third of the way through Telltale's jaunt through George R.R. Martin's world, it is a bit disappointing that we're already encountering a bit of repetition.
As strong as the dialogue and character moments are, the visuals are just as impressive--for the most part. This episode in particular had some odd issues with depth of field. Often we found characters or parts of the environment blurry and out of focus despite clearly being where our eyes were supposed to be drawn. The painterly style normally works well, in particular at locations like the Wall, but in King's Landing, the issues really take you out of the moment. A small hiccup here and there doesn't ruin the overall package, but if the issues persist, it could drag down the presentation tremendously.
With this second episode, Telltale has shown it has quite a grasp on the minutia of Westeros. You really do grip the controller tighter after every twist and turn, and you never know whether or not the next words you say will be the last you ever speak. It's not quite as tightly wrought as as the intro, but "Lost Lords" does set up some interesting possibilities for the future.
This review was completed with a download of Game of Thrones, Episode Two: The Lost Lords provided by the publisher for Xbox One.