Like the previous episodes, Episode Three: The Sword in the Darkness of the Game of Thrones series suffers from an aging engine and a severe lack of compelling gameplay… and that’s by design. Rather than investing the time and resources it would take to compete with AAA titles on those fronts, Telltale focuses its effort on creating engrossing worlds with deep characters that you help develop through a slew of dialogue-driven decisions. More often than not, that strategy pays off as Telltale has told some of the most emotionally rewarding stories in video game history. However, when an episode of a Telltale game fails to present decisions with far-reaching effects on the main conflict of the story, you are in for a rather boring experience. Such is the case with Episode Three of Game of Thrones, an episode that never quite reaches the standards set by Episodes One and Two.
The game begins with Asher Forrester in Mereen on a journey with Beshka, his female outlaw companion, and Malcolm Forrester, his uncle, to secure an army of Sellswords to aid his family in their fight with the Whitehills. However, that mission takes a back seat as the three of them find themselves in a battle for their lives with the Lost Legion. Spoiler Alert: a dragon rescues them. That should be awesome! Except you already know that Asher won’t die because he hasn’t had a lot to do yet, and promotion for the game has spoiled the fact that he meets an important figure down the road. With no gameplay to speak of, this game cannot deliver any sort of satisfying, action-packed experience. The only real work you have to do throughout this whole ordeal is to decide whether to aid Beshka or Malcolm, both of whom survive the fight either way. You never truly feel like you are making decisions that will affect the wellbeing of House Forrester. And in that way, it’s easy for you to not fully invest emotionally in this portion of Episode Three.
Your time with Mira Forrester in King’s Landing feels even less relevant to the overarching narrative of saving House Forrester. Spoiler Alert: In Episode Two, she killed a guy and made a deal with Tyrion Lannister that could possibly save her family. In Episode Three, she hides secrets from Margaery Tyrell while hoping to get an invite to Margaery’s Wedding to Joffrey Baratheon. It all just feels much less important this time around. You won’t care whether or not Mira gets an invite because the game never successfully communicates that an invite to the wedding could aid in the saving of your House. Mira’s Episode Three is underwhelming, especially considering it culminates in an event that happens off-screen that anyone who is familiar with the Game of Thrones already knew was happening.
Unlike Asher and Mira, the time spent with Rodrik does feel important; however, it’s just too brief. As the newly appointed Lord of House Forrester, Rodrik is struggling with the Gryff, Ludd Whitehill’s son who has been put in charge of the Whitehill occupation of Ironrath. To show his dominance, Gryff beats down the all-but-crippled Rodrik in front of both Whitehill and Forrester Bannermen. As Rodrik, you must decide whether to show strength or weakness in the face of Gryff. Stay down, and you risk the Forrester Bannermen losing faith in their cause. Get up, and you risk a level of aggression from the Whitehills that House Forrester just can’t fend off. Will you swallow your pride to secure your people, or let it get the best of you? These are the kinds of decisions that make Telltale games great. Thankfully, you get a few more important decisions to make with Gared Tuttle.
After seemingly only existing as an excuse to shoehorn Jon Snow into Episode Two, Gared Tuttle proves to be the most important playable character in Episode Three as he’s faced with two interesting developments: Britt, the man who killed his sister and father, has joined the Night’s Watch, and Gared’s uncle Duncan Tuttle has come to Castle Black to ask him to break his vow to the Night’s Watch in order to help save House Forrester. Should Gared kill Britt? Should Gared break his vow? Ultimately, you are forced to make decisions that could simultaneously save House Forrester and lead to Gared’s death. Though both decisions feel a bit contrived, they’re still a welcomed change of pace in an otherwise trivial episode.
Episode Three is the weakest episode so far thanks in large part to a relative lack of focus on the through line for the series so far. Whereas Episodes One and Two repeatedly forced you to make tough decisions with every character in hopes of saving House Forrester, Episode Three lost sight of that with at least two of its four playable characters. In mirroring the way the TV Series delivers its narrative from the perspective of multiple main characters, Telltale might have bitten off more than it can chew, as Mira and Asher are both boring characters at this point. Still, Telltale did just enough with Rodrik and Gared to justify giving Episode Four a shot, but there’s no real reason for you to go out of your way to experience anything this episode had to offer.