Telltale is cracking the whip somewhere deep in the bowels of their studio because, unexpectedly, we didn’t get one, but TWO different episodic additions to ongoing adventure games. Following closely on the heels of Tales From The Borderlands comes a new Game of Thrones episode, and it’s strong on the plot, if somewhat weak on the gameplay.
As you might expect from a third episode, things really heat up now. All the players are on the stage, and episode three moves them forward, each into the expected corners that really juicy drama comes from. This fairly lengthy episode manages the impressive juggling act of handling the crises of four separate main characters, each in a very different place, with a very different conflict, all struggling to preserve House Forrester. It actually shows off a lot of skill on the part of the writers, the way they are able to make each character dilemma feel distinct, while still maintain that common thread of trying to keep an old, noble House from crumbling.
As usual, the most tense portions of the game come from almost any interaction at King’s Landing. The Telltale writers have done a good job of capturing that sense of politics and intrigue that lie behind every gesture and action, making each dialog choice and response an excruciating, stressful decision, simply because it’s a given that there will be repercussions throughout the royal court. Once again, players manage to narrowly brush with events that occur in the TV series, which should provide some thrilling moments of fan service for those that are discovering this genre for the first time simply because of this game’s association with the TV series.
Traditional adventure game fans, however, might take issue with how light on interactivity this particular episode is. Telltale has a small batch of QTE action here and there, but the majority of this third episode is devoted to pushing the plot forward. That means that even the normal amount of walking around, examining objects and solving puzzles takes a serious nosedive in The Sword In The Darkness. Fortunately, it’s backed up by an engaging plot, and some likable characters, but if you’re the sort of adventure game fan that thinks puzzles taking a backseat to plot is bad for the genre, then Episode Three of this series is one more piece to add to your arsenal of arguments. Very little happens for the player, although plenty happens to each of the characters.
Ultimately, that works in episode three’s favor. If Telltale didn’t have such strong writers, then the lightness of its interactivity would actively hurt it, similar to the way the poor puzzle implementation has sullied the latest episode of Life Is Strange somewhat. However, where Dontnod scrapes by thanks to the sincerity of their attempt to shake up the genre, Telltale smoothly sails on thanks to the accomplished skill of their writers. The “Telltale formula” is well worn by now in terms of what we can expect for gameplay (or lack thereof, as some might complain). But at this point, they’re so good at dialog, characterization and plotting that the sheer need to know what happens next makes it very easy to forget that you didn’t actually do much while playing out the episode.
Episode Three fulfills all the promises it needs to for fans of the Game of Thrones TV series, even if it doesn’t necessarily give old school adventure game fans much to actually do in terms of interactivity. With so many parts in motion, and so many likable characters placed in various states of peril, it’s hard not to look forward to the next episode, even if it will be light on interactivity.