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Game of Thrones: Episode 2 "The Lost Lords" Review - Xbox One
By: Alan M. Wasserman
Ahhh…Westeros, a land rife with politicking, neck stabbing, thieving and scheming, and plotting why do I love thee so? In this second chapter of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice “The Lost Lords” brings you back to the broken House Forrester and continues their struggle against the Whitehall’s, Bolton’s and Lannister’s. The game starts with a recap of the decisions you made in the last chapter so you can cringe and swear to yourself all over again when you see the results of your poor choices. As the credits roll you are pulled to Yunkai following the liberation of the city by Daenerys Targaryen to find Asher Forrester, the exiled son of House Forrester who was largely absent from the first chapter, attempting to collect a bounty on a slaver in one of the city’s taverns. Things, per usual in Westeros, take a turn for the worse when Asher and his mercenary companion Beskha are assaulted by the Lost Legion. The game then launches into a chaotic fight scene that brings evolved mechanics from the first game. The fights require timed thumb stick swipes to dodge attacks, quick time events to attack or avoid attacks, and the Telltale Games’ standard mechanic of moving the target over the highlighted portion of enemies’ bodies and pushing the right button. I was surprised at the speed of the battle, and the timer moves much quicker. I got Asher run through with swords several times before I got it right. Sorry Bro.
The game is high on narrative and again bounces around to the children of House Forrester. You visit Mira again at King’s Landing where she continues to serve Margaery Tyrell and is divided between her loyalty to her family and the family she serves, you take part in Gared Tuttle’s first days on The Wall as a Night’s Watch initiate, and in a small plot twist you find out, once thought dead, that Rodrick Forrester survived his ordeal at The Twins and is brought back to Ironrath and though crippled takes his place as Lord.
The narrative unfolds as Rodrick tries to rekindle the love of his betrothed Lady Elaena Glenmore whose father commands an army that the Forresters can use to secure their holdings, if only she would still want to marry. Gared gets a short and curt lesson from Westeros’ favorite bastard Jon Snow, who I feel needed a lot more screen time, as they prepare for Mance Raynar’s attack on the wall from The North.
The episode ends at the funeral of the Lord Gregor, killed at The Twins, as Talia Forrester sings a song while the funeral pyre burns; while cut scenes of the estranged family members are interjected over the assembly standing vigil. Before the credits role the camera focuses on Rodrick where an intense look of pain, anger, and focus plays across this scarred face. End episode and you get the recap on how your decisions stacked up against the rest of the community who have played the game and then instantly regret some of those decisions.
I am an unabashed Game of Thrones fan and this game continues that love affair. The decisions you are required to make are tough and painful and makes the decisions you make in games by Bioware or Bethesda seem easy. The best answer is often the most difficult choice as you start to care about these characters and that choice often will not make them happy or even safe. The cameos of the TV shows’ main cast continues to tie this story into the carefully crafted world that HBO and George R.R .Martin have created.
Gameplay wise I only had a few small issues with this chapter. In several of the scenes the backdrops or settings appeared grainy and wavy in appearance. The image would settle and stabilize after a few seconds in frame, but it was still noticeable. There were also some lags in the more action packed scenes where the frame would freeze for second before catching up. In a game that is narrative and choice driven these are not huge deals. Where I did have a larger issue, and it’s more of an annoyance really, is several times dialogue was repeated twice in a row. It would usually occur when a character interjected his/her thoughts into a scene. That line of dialogue would repeat its self and the scene would continue. This chapter seemed shorter than the first one, but still extremely enjoyable. I give it 9.5 out of 10 stars. To all who play this game I say Valar Morghulis!
Game of Thrones: Episode 3 "Sword in the Darkness" Review - Xbox One
By: Alan M. Wasserman - 03/26/15
“Words are wind. Choices define who you are.” These words as spoken to Asher Forrester by his estranged uncle about halfway through Telltale Game’s latest installment of their Game of Thrones series. The quote sums up just about every game in Telltale’s library of games but resonates even more true in the GoT series. The game picks up right after Episode 2 leaves off as Asher, Beshka, and Malcolm are traversing the dessert outside of Meereen as they continue their flight from the Lost Legion. They find themselves cornered in a cave with nowhere to run as the Lost Legion finally catches up with them. The duck into a cave to hide and what they find in the cave is more dangerous and amazing than the Lost Legion and quickly you must choose between your friend, Beshka, and your family, Malcolm, as they engage in battle and both appear to be on the verge of being defeated. I try not to spoil plot points in these reviews, but let’s just say what you find in the cave is something Daenerys Targaryen has lost.
The game continues the story of the royally screwed House Forrester and their plight against the forces that move against them. Rodrik and his family must deal with Gryff Whitehill and his men moving into Ironrath and disrespecting everyone in the family including mimicking the death Ethan from Chapter One. Rodrick and his council must decide to move against House Whitehill or rescue the youngest Forrester, Ryon, from Highpoint, seat of the House Whitehill. The choices you make could save or destroy the family.
Mira Forrester continues on as the handmaiden of Margaery Tyrell, though her actions seem to constantly disappoint the Queen to be. You find out from your friend Sera, also one of the Handmaidens of Lady Margaery, that Margaery is looking to replace you and because you did not stand up for Sera previously she did not come to your defense. Will the Queen send you packing? Only the choices you make will decide your fate. More importantly, Mira’s relationship with Tyrion Lannister and the deal they struck for Ironwood may destroy the Forrester family after the death of Joffrey at the royal wedding.
And then there is Gared Tuttle, the squire sent to the wall for killing a Bannerman of Roose Bolton. He has become a full fledged member of the Night’s Watch. One of the best parts of this chapter is the trip to the Weirwood Tree north of the wall, the same place Jon Snow took his vows in the books and on the TV show. There you say the vows of the Night’s Watch along with your other brothers, just as Jon Snow did before you. After it’s over Jon welcomes you to the order and to Rangers. Just as you are returning from the Weirwood, your Uncle who sent you to The Wall to begin with, shows up with a quest for you. You must desert your new Brothers in the Night’s Watch and search for the North Grove, a “forest in a forest” as it’s the key to save House Forrester. What choice will you make? Honor your vows or desert and go North of the Wall in search of riddle.
No game that I play has me sitting on pins and needles with every decision I make. Did I just doom someone else to die? Will this choice screw me over 3 chapters from now? Just like life, the choices we make define who we are. It’s one of the things Telltale continues to refine more and more as they evolve in their version of storytelling. Their other games like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us had choices to make, but I never felt anxiety at making them. The worst part is most of the choices in this chapter of Game of Thrones had that dreaded countdown, so you couldn’t agonize over it or think about what you were going do. There was some really good combat in this chapter as well as you had more choices over what to pick up, where to hit, and whether or not to deliver a killing blow. They clearly are taking some cues from the Borderlands series there. I say this after every chapter, but this was my favorite installment so far. Spending more time in Meereen and on the Wall was nice change from Ironrath and King’s Landing where a good portion of the other chapters took place. And finally at the end you get introduced to none other than Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen as Asher tells her where to find what it was she lost. She warns Asher to “choose his words carefully.” I would warn Asher to choose his actions even more carefully. Of course if he chooses poorly, I have only myself to blame. 10 out of 10! A review code was provided for this report.
Until the next chapter....Valar Morghulis!
Xavier S H reviews Xbox One version of Tales from the Borderlands: Episode One "Zer0 Sum". A review code was provided for this report.
Game of Thrones: Episode One "Iron from Ice" Review - Xbox One
by: Alan M. Wasserman - 12/11/14
Ever want to be on the receiving end of the ice cold gaze of Queen Regent Cersei Lannister? How about going toe to toe with bastard born psychopath Ramsey Snow? How about trading quips with the cerebral and troublemaking Tyrion Lannister? Telltale Games latest installment into narrative driven games allows you to do just that.
Iron from Ice starts during the now infamous Red Wedding. During the festivities House Forrester is attacked by the double crossing (that’s a pun for the ages for Game of Thrones fans) Freys at the Twins, where most of the participants at the party are holistically slaughtered while drunk and unaware. You start the game as Gared Tuttle a squire to Lord Ironwood who fights as a Bannerman to the King in the North Rob Stark. True to a chapter in J. R. R. Martin’s books or an episode of HBO show; things go from good to bad to horrible in the matter of a few minutes. You are immediately thrust into action where the first choice you have to make is to warn Lord Forrester of the impending attack or help his first born son and heir to safety.
The game presses on just like the books or show by integrating several key characters into the narrative. After starting as Gared, you play as Lord Forrester’s third son and fourth child Ethan who at a tender young age is now the ruler of the Forrester family. The game then shifts to his older sister Mira who is working as handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell in Kings Landing. The first episode of the game alternates the narrative of these three characters and the events surrounding House Forrester after the Red Wedding.
Like all Telltale Games the choices you make determines the story you experience. Choose to defy Cersei and you can find yourself in serious trouble with House Lannister. Stand up to Ramsey Snow and end up a flayed man next to a campfire in the middle of the Iron Wood. The game distills down the agonizing options into two or three equally valid choices. Sometimes they are timed and your answer or lack of answer can influence how other characters respond to you. Other choices are given to you with no time limit. Making the choice that much harder.
The voice acting, character facial capture, and feel of the game make it feel like you are in control of an episode of the show. It’s amazing that Telltale was able to get the actual actors and actresses that play these deep, easily recognizable characters into the game. Telltale’s The Walking Dead game had shout outs to the TV cast; Game of Thrones has the actual characters in the game!! The jibs and jabs between Cersei and Tyrion feel a little stiff and not as natural as they do on TV, but the experience of being in front of the Iron Throne listening to them go back and forth is almost mind blowing.
The graphics and animation are slightly better than the last gen titles The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. But TellTale Games focus on the story and the choices you make and how they impact your story over the course of multiple episodes and I hope seasons, and I can tell you these choices, as small as they seem at the outset, are going to make for huge plot swings in the later chapters. The animation and art almost takes a back seat.
I cannot wait until the next chapter comes out! This game gets 10 out 10 and I may play it again to see if I change the choices I make how different the game feels at the end. Excellent narrative, good mix of some action sequence and Peter Freaking Dinklage!!! Valar Morghulis! A review code was provided for this story.