Telltale is back in the Game of Thrones Universe with Episode Two: The Lost Lords roughly two months after its release of Episode One: Iron From Ice. While Iron From Ice had to live up to the lofty expectations set by HBO’s hit show, The Lost Lords has the added burden of living up to Telltale’s initial entry to the series. Unfortunately, though it does a few things better than before, Episode Two’s story fails to consistently hit the emotional highs and lows of its predecessor.
Like Episode One before it, The Lost Lords begins in a locale familiar only to those who have seen the show. We meet Asher Forrester, the second-born son of Gregor Forrester, with his associate Beshka in Yunkai three days after Daenerys Targaryen had liberated the slaves. We learn that Asher and Beshka have put themselves in imminent danger by capturing a former slave owner and holding him for ransom. While Beshka wants riches, Asher merely wants the reward as a means to return home to Ironrath to protect his brothers and sisters. With this intro, the player is reminded why he is playing in the first place: to save House Forrester.
And to save House Forrester, the player must control the returning characters Mira Forrester and Gared Tuttle along with two new characters, Asher and Rodrik Forrester. In my review of Episode One I said that each character’s story is weaved together to create one coherent narrative revolving around doing what he or she could to save the House. For the most part, that still holds true here. Asher is fighting his way through Yunkai to return to Ironrath as the Lost Legion is in pursuit. Mira continues to negotiate dangerous alliances in King’s Landing in hopes of securing the help of Tyrion Lannister or Margaery Tyrell. As the new Lord of House Forrester, a returning Rodrik must secure new alliances with the Glenmores while dealing with feuds with the Whitehills and Boltons. It was very clear to me how all of these characters’ stories and the decisions therein fit into the overarching narrative. The same can’t be said for Gared Tuttle’s story.
When the player meets back up with Gared Tuttle, he is riding into Castle Black to fulfill his promise to his uncle and become a Man of the Night’s Watch. The player is tasked with training to become a ranger while managing his relationships with his fellow men. While I understand Telltale’s desire to visit Castle Black, I fear that its inclusion does nothing but detract from the overall narrative. It almost feels like an excuse to shoehorn fan-favorite Jon Snow into the series rather than a meaningful diversion from the main plot. As the player, it’s tough to remember the gravity of the situation with House Forrester when you have to decide whether to move out of the way so Finn can have his desired spot on which to stand. Gared feels out of place with the rest of the game and I wonder if Telltale should have ended his arc when he made the decision to go to The Wall in order to save his House from repercussions from House Bolton.
Because of Gared’s inconsequential story, only decisions made with Asher, Rodrik and Mira have any sort of emotional impact. In particular, I was exhilarated as I (as Rodrik Forrester) tried to convince Elaena Glenmore to maintain her betrothal to me. I knew if I could just convince her to marry me I could gain a valuable ally in her father and help secure my family’s future. I hung on her every word as I tried to respond in a way that would win her over. I struggled with whether to appeal to her emotional side and tell her I love her or whether to appeal to her logical side and promise Ironwood to her family. I was anxious as I read through all my response options, knowing that a wrong decision could not only cost me a wife, but could also cost my family their lives. I was ecstatic when I won her over. I audibly yelled in approval and gave my wife a high-five. It was blissful. In fact, it matched the emotional impact of my interactions with Cersei Lannister and Ramsay Bolton in Episode One. This time, however, it wasn’t based on my previous experience with the show. In that way, it might be the most impressive moment in the series to date. In fact, Episode Two’s biggest strength compared to Episode One was it’s lack of reliance on the Game of Thrones source material. Every tug at my heartstrings felt earned. However, Episode Two does not improve on every aspect of Episode One.
Like in Episode One, some decisions made within conversations in Episode Two felt trivial. When I (as Mira Forrester) talked to Margaery about possibly aiding my family in securing the betrothal of Elaena to Rodrik, Margaery agreed. It was clear that Margaery agreed to do this because of previous decisions I made in our conversation. However, once Margaery left the room I was given the option to forge a letter in her name to Elaena’s father. Margaery had already agreed to help so forging the letter did nothing but put House Forrester in danger. That decision would never have been presented to me had the previous decisions I made impacted the plot in any way.
While trivial decisions were present in both episodes, Episode Two was unique in that it frustrated me with the decisions I wasn’t allowed to make. When Mira received a note from an anonymous stranger asking her to meet him in the garden late at night, I knew it would be bad news! I wanted nothing more but to rip up the note and go to bed. Instead, I was forced to go to the garden. I had played Mira conservatively up until that point and it felt so out of character. In a game that’s all about shaping your characters’ futures by making thoughtful decisions, this was jarring.
Most importantly, Episode One had more decisions that felt vital. In Episode Two, there just seemed to be less at stake. Whereas in Episode One I always felt that a slip of the tongue could mean a slit throat, in Episode Two my characters never seemed to be risking quite as much. My biggest decisions were about marriage and whether to use a cane or my sister to aid me in walking. Though my decisions still could have consequences down the road, I knew nothing was going to happen in this episode. Because of that, my attention span was tested far more than it had been previously.
While the story took a step back in Episode Two, the gameplay had some minimal improvements. The moments in which the player controls the character in order to explore his surroundings are used more sparingly. The quick time events are more varied and are a bit more rewarding. In fact, I actually enjoyed the quick time event in which Asher fought his way through the Lost Legion. That’s more than I can claim about any quick time event in Episode One.
The same complaints I had with the aging engine in my Episode One review (LINK) are still present here. This episode, however, experienced a few more technical issues. Most notably, in his opening sequence, Rodrik should be surrounded by a pile of dead bodies. However, the dead bodies were replaced by complete blackness contained within an outline of where the body should be. TAKE A LOOK. These are the types of issues that players should be prepared to stomach when taking on any Telltale game. They don’t make the game unplayable, but they sure don’t aid in immersion. But like I’ve said before, the engine is capable enough to give you an enjoyable experience.
Game of Thrones Episode Two: The Lost Lords builds upon Episode One in a lot of ways, but ultimately fails to live up to its predecessor. It succeeds in introducing two new characters while continuing to develop two others. It does not rely heavily on a player’s previous knowledge of the television source material. It even improves on the gameplay by incorporating some fun quick time events. However, it’s plagued by the same issues that plagued Episode One and what’s worse, it fails to keep the goal of saving House Forrester at the forefront of each character’s story. Because of that, decisions never seemed as dire. If you enjoyed Episode One, you’ll most likely enjoy Episode Two. Just prepare to be left wanting more.
3 out of 5 Chicks