Telltale really does deserve some kind of award for being one of the few companies that doesn’t butcher an intellectual property when they turn it into a videogame. In fact, they’re one of the few companies that “get” what makes an IP special and manage to carry that over into the adventure games they make. We’ve seen it in The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, and now, perhaps more importantly for mainstream fans that don’t play adventure games, they’re continuing to nail it for Game of Thrones.
Technical-wise, the game continues to look great, though the framerate stutters occasionally on the PS4 and the filter they’re using to achieve their oil painterly effect continues to work erratically around the edges of objects, especially if they’re in motion, such as swords. This, however, is just about the only bad thing that can be said about the game, and it’s nitpicking at best.
With the stage set, and an audience familiar with the twists, turns, betrayals and politicking that make up the Game of Thrones TV series, things really get underway in episode two. A couple of new characters are introduced, and they both have a stake in the survival of House Forrester. And stakes, actually, are what motivate episode two as a natural consequence of its place in the narrative structure. Episode one was all about getting us familiar and creating a central conflict, now episode two makes us care about the people involved and ratchet up the risk a few notches.
Telltale’s writers do themselves proud in this second episode. While it doesn’t end on an explosive cliff hanger the way episode one did, it impressively drives home just how endangered House Forrester is. Thanks to the interactive nature of games, players don’t just empathize with the plight of the Forresters, they are engaged because this is a family under their “control.” They are guiding the actions of the Forresters, and choosing what they say, and do, and living with the consequences, unless they’re so upset about those results that they reload a chapter to try again.
But that’s one of the amazing things about The Lost Lords; the things that do happen can upset people enough to try again. There is a real sense of loss, risk, victory and defeat to the struggles of the family, an emotional investment that can only come from a sense of participation. If one character is now at the mercy rival houses abusing their power, it’s because we said or did something to precipitate the response. Even choices that took place in the previous episode are already paying out as certain opportunities are now open or closed depending on what you did. It’s this interactivity that is now showing itself to be the real strength of games. After all, it’s one thing to passively watch the struggles of others. It’s another thing to take part in those struggles, and be responsible for both the good and bad things that result. It creates far more emotional investment, but only if the story has the momentum.
Fortunately, this is Telltale we’re talking about, and The Lost Lords does a fantastic job of grounding the characters—both old and new—and creating strong bonds. The plot moves at a brisk pace, and while it’s not necessarily all balls-to-the-wall violence, there’s always something happening, whether its developments at court, conflict at the Forrester home, or intrigue at the Wall. In short, Telltale has created well-written instalment of the Game of Thrones game that will please fans of the show, and stands on its own as a tense, dramatic tale of intrigue, politics and what families do to survive. It’s always iffy to buy a season pass based on the first episode of a game series, but with episode two, Game of Thrones is quickly justifying the expense.