The Whitehills had eyes.
The latest chapter in Telltale Games’ narrative-heavy episodic adaptation of Game of Thrones is here. While the previous episode, The Sword in the Darkness, painfully plodded along as the Whitehills viciously attempted to pound the Forresters into submission, Game of Thrones Episode 4- Sons of Winter is an explosive chapter in the series, where the tides of change are in the air, and House Forrester begins to push the offensive against seemingly insurmountable odds. Many pieces are in play in this go around, with a reinvigorated Rodrik gaining some unexpected leverage against his tormentors while Gared attempts to flee from his crimes on the wall while working his way to the mysterious North Grove. Meanwhile, on King’s Landing, Mira attempts to circumvent an impending assault on Ironrath, and an ocean away in Mereen Asher works to win over the favor of a skeptical Daenerys Targaryen.
Sons of Winter begins shortly after the close of The Sword in the Darkness, with squire-turned-ranger Gared Tuttle ready to face the music having avenged his family’s death at the hands of Britt. This chapter sets the pace for an exceptionally action-focused episode, where Gared, Finn and Cotter attempt to flee the pursuing Ravens as they make their way to the storied North Grove. This chapter features a refreshing mix of stealth (which plays a major focus in several segments of Sons of Winter) and fast-paced action as the group encounters a murderous Wildling patrol. Gared’s segment does a good job of further developing his character, as he is torn between his loyalty to John Snow and the Watch, and doing what must be done to save his family. The chapter also serves to explore the tumultuous relationship between Finn and Cotter, as Finn struggles reconcile with discovering Cotter’s Wildling roots. The only real disappointment in this portion of the story lies in the inability to convince the Lord Commander of Gared’s innocence, even when an unlikely witness comes to his aid, making what could have been a riveting portion of the chapter ring somewhat hollow.
Asher’s chapter begins where we last saw him, with the Forrester’s rugged warrior struggling to convince an uncharacteristically antagonistic Daenerys Targaryen to provide him an army to wrestle control of Ironrath from the Whitehills. Asher’s exchange with the Mother of Dragons proves to be one of the few disappointing moments in the episode, as Danny’s exchange feels incredibly forced and out of character, as she ignores the plight of the brutally oppressed Northern house, coming across more as more of a schoolyard bully than the vengeful matriarch of justice we’d come to expect in the series.
While Telltale’s representation of Danny leaves a bit to be desired, the rest of Asher’s chapter delivers in spades, as he, Malcolm, and Breshka fight alongside Daenerys’ legion in an explosive invasion of Mereen. Asher’s chapter strikes a great balance between action and stealth, as players creep behind cover to stealthily dispatch guards, and take aim with a crossbow to pick off defenders in the distance. All of these elements blend together perfectly to create one of the most engaging moments in the series yet as Asher and Breshka fight to capture the city, and Asher learns the secrets behind his companions troubled history.
Mira Forrester’s perilous stay in the political shark tank of King’s Landing dominated much of the past two episodes, and tensions are higher than ever now with the recent death of King Joffrey and King Tommen’s ascension to the Iron Throne. This time around Mira is left largely on the sidelines, as her story is focused primarily around her sleuthing through the coronation ceremony as she attempts to glean information on the Whitehill’s plans for Ironrath. Depending on what you’ve done in the past few chapters, this episode gives you a particularly potent way to completely scuttle your friendship with Sara. Apart from that, her portion of the episode is easily the weakest link in Sons of Winter’s package.
The last time we saw Rodrik, he was being crushed firmly underneath the boot of a sadistic Griff Whitehill. Our biggest qualm with Episode 3- The Sword in the Darkness was just how long it seemingly voyeuristically dwelled on the brutal punishment the Whitehill’s fourth-born son meted out to the fallen Forrester patriarch. Now, the tables have turned as a stroke of good fortune provides him with the opportunity to return the favor to his tormentors. Armchair sadists get the opportunity to exact vengeance an eye for an eye if they so desire in a rather uncomfortable torture scene. Later in the episode, Rodrik and his council pay a tense visit to Lord Whitehill himself in which they attempt to barter for Ryon’s safe return. While failure is an option here, it merely results in a game over, leaving little room to really shape the story, which is unfortunate. However, the stellar writing and fresh memories of the infamous Red Wedding make this tense negotiation one of the most memorable moments in the series to date.
Despite a few questionable moments, such as Mira’s middling segment to Daenerys’ awkward writing, Sons of Winter serves as a powerful upswing in Telltale Game of Thrones Saga. Episode 4 manages to masterfully weave together an excellent narrative adventure while implementing a wealth of memorable action scenes to spice up the storytelling, resulting in the most captivating chapter in the Forrester’s saga yet. With only two episodes left of the season, Telltale has truly found its stride, building plenty of momentum for an explosive final two episodes. We can’t say for certain where the story will go from here, but we’re sure there’s plenty more blood to be spilled before the Forrester’s story comes to a close.
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: May 29, 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.