Our house is a very, very, very fine house. It’ll blow your house down
With the dramatic cliffhanger ending of December’s Game of Thrones: ‘Iron From Ice’, it’s been quite a long two months spent waiting to see just what the cold and brutal will of Westeros has in store for the reeling House Forrester. While the pacing of Telltale’s adventurous take on the works of George R.R. Martin’s duplicitous fantasy series may have been a bit uneven, the bloody final moments of the opening act in this six part tale were gripping, and by the time I finally managed to pull my jaw up off the floor I was ready to bury a sword in the chest of the Bolton’s bastard Ramsay Snow. While The Lost Lords doesn’t fully remedy the ills of its predecessor, the new characters introduced into the fold, along with a more varied cast of characters and locales from around Westeros and the far reaches of Yunkai do more to keep you engaged in your quest to mend a broken house.
At the outset of “The Lost Lords” we’re introduced to Asher Forrester, the hotheaded but adept son of House Forrester who’s been making his way as a sellsword in the sand-swept streets of Yunkai with his brash and efficient sidekick, Breska. Much like the opening moments of Iron From Ice we see a relatively mundane scene quickly escalate into a wanton bloodbath, in the first of a handful of exceptional action segments that rise above those offered in the series’ debut. Asher and Breska’s sequences are some of the best in this episode, as the pair’s banter comes across as natural, and their brutal effectiveness as a team when they cross swords with the Lost Legion is a joy to behold.
Back in Westeros in the Forrester’s home of Ironrath things are looking grim as ever. Oppressive Whitehill forces under the supervision of the new Warden of the North Roose Bolton, now occupy the Forrester’s homeland, laying claim to a large stake in the region’s prized Ironwood and keeping the citizenry crushed firmly underfoot. Still grieving for the recently murdered Ethan, the Forrester’s work together along with a surprising new leading character to prepare for what looks to be an imminent war. Tense moments arise in these segments, including attempts to bolster the Forrester’s depleted forces through betrothal at the risk of an almost guaranteed massacre (especially bloody deaths do seem to be a requisite for weddings in Westeros), and a face to face with Lord Whitehill that’s sure to have your blood boiling as you choose between fealty and pride, knowing the toll either decision could take on your beleaguered homeland. The stakes are high in “The Lost Lords”, and the stink of death hangs heavy over House Forrester.
Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing, Young Mira Forrester works behind the scenes to curry Lady Margaery Tyrell’s favor to assist her family in their desperate times. Players are presented with a difficult choice whether to betray the future queen’s trust or roll with the punches and hope for the best. This choice is especially harrowing, and one of the standout moments in “The Lost Lords”. Speaking of Mira’s segment, while the icy and conniving Queen Regent Cersei Lannister is absent from this chapter – a shame given her tension-filled introduction in “Iron From Ice”- we do get to spend a bit more time with Tyrion Lannister. Peter Dinklage’s performance is far superior this go round compared to his rather flat delivery in Episode 1 as he attempts to broker a deal that could spell doom or deliverance for the Forrester’s at the expense of their murderous occupiers, the Whitehills.
Lastly, rounding out the cast of playable characters in “The Lost Lords” comes the Forrester’s squire Gared Tuttle, who’s been cast off to don the cloak of the Ravens at Castle Black. Coming face to face with The Wall in the North is breathtaking, and staring out over its precipice to the barren wastes below, where Mance Rayder’s forces will inevitably march promises one hell of an impending quick time event before all is said and done. Unfortunately, Tuttle’s chapter offers little outside promises of better things to come, as his segment offers little more than introductions to the miscreants who occupy Castle Black, and a few uninspired training segments as you clash swords with fellow brothers and fire off a few crossbow bolts at training dummies. Jon Snow does make an appearance, but unfortunately Kit Harington’s performance comes across utterly disinterested and phoned in, making what could have been an emotional ride to the top of the wall comes across as little more than a mumbled monologue.
One of my biggest gripes with Iron From Ice was the game’s questionable performance, with some rather unfortunate graphical pop-in (those freaky phantom arms!) and abundant slowdown in the game’s QTE events. While they’re certainly not as bad this time around, you’ll still see some disorienting jankiness in some of the more excited melees in Yunkai, and I experienced multiple instances of dialog starting and stopping in my playthrough. While it’s not game breaking by any stretch, here’s hoping Telltale is able to iron out some of these issues in further installments of Game of Thrones.
“The Last Lords” proves to be a marked improvement over “Iron From Ice”. Remedying many of the debut entry’s missteps and introducing a handful of exceptional characters, this entry in the series will keep you engaged for the vast majority of its 90 or so minutes of playtime. Exceptionally written throughout, Telltale has found a better balance in terms of storytelling and action this go round, and the emotional resolution to this chapter in the series will keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the next episode. While there’s no great cliffhanger to leave us wondering before the credits roll, the desire for vengeance alone will make these coming months crawl while we await our return to Ironrath.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC, Mac, iOS, Xbox One (reviewed), Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Vita; Publisher: Telltale Games; Developer: Telltale Games; Players: 1 ; Released: February 3, 2015; Genre: Adventure; MSRP: $4.99 ($29.99 Season Pass)
Note: This review was based on Xbox One retail code provided by the game’s publisher, Telltale Games.