Game of Thrones, Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness Review (Xbox One)
When reading Game of Thrones, or watching the version adapted for TV, we get pretty stressed out. We don't have any control over what's happening, but our stomachs get knotted up, our knuckles turn white, and heart rates? Through the roof. Still, for some reason we though it would be a good idea to try our hand at attempting to survive in the tragedy-filled world of Westeros with Telltale's Game of Thrones. The third episode, "The Sword in the Darkness," was the most panic-inducing yet. We wouldn't have it any other way.
As the "The Sword in the Darkness" is the halfway point for this episodic adventure, there are a lot of payoffs to some storylines introduced in the first two parts. That's not to say that all of the narratives have met their end, but plots involving Mira Forrester, Garrett Tuttle and some tertiary role players get some rather big beats that drastically alter the landscape. Though there were some action sequences both in Yunkai and at the Wall, the third episode was much more focused on delivering punishing blows to the Forrester family through political means. Part of what makes the world and stories of Game of Thrones so gripping is the machinations behind the scenes, and seeing those play out based on decisions we made (or didn't make in some cases) was absolutely fascinating.
Where last episode did have some repetitiveness with the first installment, "The Sword in the Darkenss" pushed the pace a bit. Rodrik Forrester's story in particular got a lot more interesting, which was great because last time around navigating his narrative felt a bit like treading water. Looking back, it now seems like some of the elements of the first episode may have been included more for shock value than to make strong advancements in the overall story. However, Westeros is a dangerous place, and bad things happen to seemingly good people all the time. Regardless, it was nice to see some real character development for Rodrik this time around, as well others like Garrett, Asher and Mira.
No matter what you think of the plotting, there's no denying that Telltale's put a lot into crafting intricate characters for its corner of the world. Part of that development comes from our own involvement in crafting just who we want these people to be, but all those choices are carefully constructed around Telltale's own divine plan. By now, we're used to managing the lives and decisions of others in various Telltale games, but Game of Thrones' stakes feel so much higher because it's not just a handful of characters--it's an entire family, and the people they serve and protect. Just looking at someone wrong can alter the fate of dozens or even hundreds of people. Each decision weighs heavily, as it should, but it's seeing the weight of those decisions brought to life in the faces and actions of those on screen that really sells the desperation.
Again, this episode falls prey to some of Telltale's long-running issues with its engine. There are some stops and stutters of dialogue to deal with, as well as the occasional graphical hitch. At this point, it's fairly unlikely minor problems like this will be addressed before the story is over, but none of them ruin the overall experience. For what it's worth, the Xbox One version did save all the choices properly, and carried over all our choices correctly as well. There have been some issues with that in the past, but at least for now, that problem area seems to have been eliminated.
We're now officially halfway through Telltale's trip through Westeros, and the twists and turns show no signs of stopping. Though "The Sword in the Darkness" was a bit of a slower-paced episode, it still managed to keep us captivated with Game of Thrones signature political intrigue and secrets. There hasn't been a dull moment yet in this story, and "The Sword in the Darkness" does well to set up a strong second half. We can only imagine what troubles lie ahead for the family Forrester.
This review is based on a download code for Game of Thrones, Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness provided by the publisher for Xbox One.