When you’re knocked to the ground, who, if anyone, will be there to help you back up? That’s the question Telltale’s “Game of Thrones: Episode Three” asks players, as the Forrester’s search for allies becomes the focal point of this enjoyable episode.
The third episode, titled “A Sword in the Darkness,” starts with a fight against a dragon, but what’s more important than the fire-breathing lizard is what’s going on behind the scenes. There’s a choice towards the end of the fight that requires the player to choose which of two characters to help. After Telltale’s “Walking Dead,” I expected the person I didn’t help to die, probably pretty horribly, but regardless of who you choose everyone makes it out, more or less, intact. Unfortunately, this foreshadows the many meaningless choices the player must make throughout the game.
Thankfully, the four main characters are no longer wandering around aimlessly. A solid plan is put into action to reclaim control of the Forrester’s homestead of Ironrath, and all the various pieces start coming together to put it into action. One character must secure an army of mercenaries, another the money to pay them and a third must maintain what little remains until help can be brought. This gives the player a sense of agency as well, and it’s good to feel like one is accomplishing something at last.
Each of the main characters are faced with challenges, as they must not only find allies, but find the right ones. The episode asks, what is more valuable: a spy in the enemy camp or the support of your people at home? Your family or your empire? These moments are the most engaging of the episode, and each one stands as a monument to Telltale’s storytelling skill.
Each character is also growing in small but meaningful ways. Gared is still stuck at the wall, chasing a mystical McGuffin, but he’s faced with personal conflict between his new brothers in the Night’s Watch and the family that sent him to the wall in the first place but now need his help. Mira continues to do her best to balance several spinning plates in King’s Landing, but one may be surprised at their choice of allies once they are needed most.
Asher continues to bumble about in the desert, but by the end of the episode his path will be far more interesting than when it began. Finally, Rodrik, the lord of Ironrath, is faced with an excellent new enemy, Gryff, who is both easily hateable and could wipe out the fortress at any time. The best choice of the entire episode is whether to feign submission to Gryff in order to prevent all-out annihilation or fight back with what little you have.
The same glitches that plagued previous episodes persist here. A few audio glitches make characters repeat entire lines like an amnesiac with a lisp, and there are numerous “heat wave” glitches that make the oil painting background look like it’s melting. The persistence of these issues is worrying, but aren’t game-breaking, so most players will be able to forgive them.
Overall, this episode shows substantial improvement over episode two, but has yet to reach the levels of previous Telltale games, nor will it earn the acclaim of the television show of the same name. Still, Telltale’s “Game of Thrones” is moving in the right direction, and I find myself already looking forward to the next installment in this series.