Do you really want to hurt me?
Things are looking worse than ever for the beleaguered House Forrester in the latest chapter of Telltale’s Game of Thrones saga. With young patriarch Ethan Forrester dead and buried and the Whitehills occupying Ironrath, the Forrester’s seat of power, and Mira caught in the middle of a shadowy assassination attempt that leaves her exceedingly vulnerable as she works to support her family from Kings Landing, the stakes are higher than ever. Unfortunately, while this chapter does a great deal to flesh out motives behind the story’s key players while setting the stage for greater things to come, its repetitious efforts to highlight the futility of Rodrick’s feud with the Whitehills become tiresome, wearing out their welcome long before his chapter’s climax.
“The Sword in the Darkness” begins much like the previous chapter, with Asher, Malcolm and Beshka as they attempt to shake off the murderous forces of the Lost Legion across the Narrow Sea in an effort to secure an army of sellswords to overthrow the Whitehills in Ironrath. Kicking off with a suitably chaotic melee that’s interrupted by none other than one of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons, the episode starts out strong as it forces players to choose between their allegiance friends or family as they rush to the aide of either Malcolm or Beshka in a seemingly life or death situation.
While Gared Tuttle’s chapter was easily the least entertaining of the bunch in “The Lost Lords”, the events at The Wall are significantly more engaging this go round. Lord Forrester’s hapless squire is host to many of this episodes standout moments as he’s given a new sense of purpose when reunited with Duncan as the two devise a plan to unravel the mysteries behind the North Grove, which could be the last bastion of hope for the decimated Forrester clan.
It’s during this chapter that “The Sword in the Darkness” finds its stride. Gared’s decisions whether to side with “The Lost Lords‘” musclebound antagonist Finn, the wily kleptomaniac, or to keep the peace and unite the new Nights’ Watch recruits feel meaningful, and his surprise chance to settle the score against an old adversary offers serious consequences as players are forced to choose between vengeance and the greater good as the Ravens prepare to descend on Craster’s Keep.
All of the performances and writing in this chapter are excellent, with the exception of Kit Harington’s reprised role of Jon Snow, which disappointingly comes across as just as flat and phoned-in as the previous episode.
When we last saw Lady Mira in King’s Landing she was in in the precarious situation of murdering a member of the King’s Guard (of course, it was kill or be killed, but when isn’t it in the Game of Thrones universe?). The atmosphere is thick with tension as Mira works to foster her alliance with Tyrion Lannister against the wishes of a vengeful Margaery Tyrell. Being pulled into the feud between these two series heavyweights while attempting to cover your tracks for murder creates for some incredibly heavy moments set against the backdrop of one of the most momentous moments in the series’ story: the ill-fated wedding of Margaery and Joffrey. Unfortunately, this would-be explosive moment falls flat on its face as the fateful festivities are presented in an entirely peripheral perspective, offering little but an obscured glance at what could have been an excellent setting for the events to unfold.
While the other chapters all deliver a satisfying sense of forward momentum, Lord of House Forrester Rodrik’s segment wallows painfully long on displaying just how futile things have become for the battered house under the unyielding iron grip of the Whitehills. One hamfisted display of abuse after another makes up the bulk of your playtime as Gryph Whitehill and his forces pummel those who remain at the Forrester’s seat of power. That’s not to say there aren’t a few satisfying moments in this segment, but far too long is spent leaving players at the mercy of the belligerent occupiers, often with little meaningful recourse but to simply push the buttons of Gryph, or remain defiant and risk further damning your house.
Despite its uneven pacing, The Sword in the Darkness does an admirable job of piling on the intrigue in preparation of what’s sure to be an explosive fourth chapter. Gared’s quest to find the secretive North Grove is bound to be full of mystery, and offers grand opportunities for the story to expand far beyond The Wall and into more exotic territory. Also, Asher’s surprising alliance with an unexpected face promises good things to come. If Telltale manages to give Rodrik’s character greater meaning than a decrepit punching bag in the future then you can count on an exceptional second half to this six part saga.
Final Verdict: 3.5 / 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: March 25, 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.