The First Episode in Telltale’s episodic Game of Thrones adventure, “Iron From Ice,” ended on such a cliffhanger that not only was I VERY keen to get straight into its follow up, I also found it quite difficult to review without spoilers… I’m sure I can manage things, but suffice it to say that each episode of this new Telltale series fits perfectly within the extended Game of Thrones family.
Without going too much into specific details on gameplay (our review of Episode 1 should provide the detail you may need), “The Lost Lords” doesn’t buck the trend – like “Iron From Ice” (and all of Telltale’s other episodic games), gameplay takes a back seat to progressing the story. In some ways, it plays out in a similar manner to an old Choose Your Own Adventure book, if you remember those. Action is sporadic (but I found this second episode more exciting than the first), and tends to follow a series of Quick Time Events that need to be learned by rote. Conversations provide the meat of both story and gameplay, with the tension laying in the choices available to the player. Here, some of the decisions made in the first episode start to play out, and I continually found myself second guessing my choices, although I wasn’t certain of the impact they had (more on that later).
Of course, being a very story-driven game, it’s safe to say that you can’t approach an episodic title such as this without playing them in order. That said, Game of Thrones includes not only a really great “Previously on…” introduction to bring players back up to speed before following up with a brief, but tense prologue. The TV fan in me was pretty excited to learn that the opening to the A Game of Thrones TV show then introduces every new episode (I had a fear that it might have only introduced the first). It’s a small thing, but a little fan service goes a long way. I was also impressed to note that the intro was remade entirely in-game, as opposed to using FMV from the show. Of course, having locations not (yet?) covered in the TV show might have driven this requirement.
“The Lost Lords” starts off fairly slowly – it introduces some new playable characters, and continues the story of Mira Forrester and Gared Tuttle. The developments in these particular instalments are both exciting in their own way – Mira’s relatively slow story takes a dramatic turn in King’s Landing, while Gared ends up at Castle Black with the Night’s Watch. Not surprisingly (and not really a spoiler, as it’s indicated in the first episode), one of the new characters is Asher Forrester, whose story plays out in Essos. While his story starts out action-packed (as much as a Telltale game can be), he is quickly pulled into the troubles his family is experiencing, and I’m sure we’ll see him make his way to Ironrath (the seat of the Forrester family) in the next Episode. To mention any more would be to enter into spoiler territory — and there is much to be had in “The Lost Lords.”
Overall, the story continues to be a rollercoaster ride, with moments of thrilling tension, and plenty more that are slow and languishing. While this fits well into the expanded world of A Song of Ice and Fire, it doesn’t necessarily make for a really wonderful gameplay experience, especially considering the length (I finished this episode in one sit-down, likely around the 1.5 – 2-hour mark). This is further complicated by the fact that choices don’t feel to have any weight to them – I tried several vastly different options on subsequent playthroughs, and received the same result. I’m hoping the effects make a difference in later episodes.
Further, and to address the elephant in the room, there’s just not much to actively participate in. Sure, this shouldn’t have any impact on the actual experience (the focus is the story, after all), but it should be made clear to potential new players – Telltale adventures aren’t Uncharted games with TV licences, they are a very different beast indeed. Note, though, that this is far from a bad thing.
In summary, “The Lost Lords” is an entertaining follow-up to “Iron From Ice,” but the story seems to be taking its time to get anywhere. With another four episodes to be released, I’m very much hoping it’s warming up to a really huge climax, but that remains to be seen. Still, while it is slow-going at times, each instalment has me enthralled for its brief existence.