Game of Thrones, Episode 4: Sons of Winter Review (Xbox One)
Telltale has had it in for the Forresters since its Game of Thrones episodic adventure began. The first three chapters of this sprawling fantasy epic were rife with all manner of injustices against House Forrester and its leadership. It seemed that no matter what one did, it was impossible to get these beleaguered people out from behind the eight ball. Then came "Sons of Winter," and changing of the tides.
With this fourth episode, the family members of House Forrester finally have a chance to seize momentum for their favor. The Forresters have been under the heel of the Lannisters and their endless army of goon Houses for too long. Though there's still a bit of danger lurking around every corner, as is expected in Westeros, "Sons of Winter" makes you feel almost as if the Forresters might find a way out of the darkness. Which has us incredibly worried about their future.
All over the world, the Forresters are fighting for the right to protect their house. In Ironwrath, Rodrik and Talia are scheming to seize control of their home back from Whitehill occupation. In Mereen, Asher is attempting to forge an alliance with Daenerys in an effort to secure sellswords to take back Ironwrath. Down in King's Landing, Mira continues her efforts to uncover the treachery of the Whitehills so that she may restore Ironwrath and the Forrester name. And at the Wall, Gared Tuttle tries his best to find the secret grove that could give the Forresters all the advantage they need in saving Ironwrath.
If it sounds like a lot of people have a lot of different ideas on how to save Ironwrath, but nobody seems to know what the other parties are up to, you're right. There are so many machinations in motion, it's a wonder the whole idea of saving Ironwrath hasn't already gone up in smoke. There's potentially too many cooks in the kitchen, and someone's recipe is bound to end up in disaster. Actually, knowing Game of Thrones, everyone's plans are likely to fail miserably, but with so many possible outcomes, there's a glimmer of hope for the Forresters.
Asher's and Gared's chapters are fine and good, and provide some interesting action in exotic locales, but it's Rodrik's and Mira's storylines that provide most of the real controller-clinching moments. Working hard to ensure that the people of Ironwrath are safe from the clutches of Gryff, while treading delicately so as not to put Ryon's life in danger over at the Whitehill's really puts the squeeze on your brain. Telltale's time limit for decisions still makes you act irrationally sometimes, and some choices Rodrick makes should offer more time for consideration. Not every plan of such scope is decided with split-second thought, and the pressures of the outcomes are often stressful enough without that cursed timer shrinking below the options.
For Mira, however, the planning and plotting is a bit more conversational, so the timer isn't as big a factor. What is a factor is the "IDGAF" attitude we've grafted onto her for the remainder of Telltale's story. As we had been playing, Mira had been doing her best to make everyone happy for the first three episodes, but during the lead-up to Joffrey's wedding, we aggressively started putting family first to make more progress. As a result, some bridges were burned, but new opportunities opened. This is how you play the Game of Thrones. Mira may live; Mira may die; but she's going down swinging for the fences.
At Tommen's coronation, we had Mira hit the party like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin hit the ring in the 1997. Nobody was off limits, and everyone's buttons were there for the pushing. There was little we did that didn't ruffle feathers, but since Mira has very few alliances left in King's Landing, we made sure to keep them, too. Still, the girl has so much at stake, being everybody's friend just can't work anymore. There's something extremely satisfying about walking out of a party (metaphorically) giving the finger to everyone on the way out.
"Sons of Winter" moves the plot of Telltale's Game of Thrones a steady clip, and there were some memorable moments throughout. It's hard to believe that all the things working in the Forrester's favor will continue to do so, as this is still Game of Thrones, but we haven't been this invested in the safety and sanctity of a family this much since we were first introduced to the Starks. There's a troublesome cliffhanger, as always, but we've got faith we'll be able to persevere. We have to; the Forrester's fate is in our hands, and losing it all would be incredibly crushing.
This review is based on a download code for Game of Thrones, Episode 4: Sons of Winter provided by the publisher for Xbox One.