The third episode of the Telltale Game of Thrones series, The Sword in the Darkness, finally moves the story along and provides insight into the history of the playable characters. However, any positive features in this episode are sadly marred by a lack of meaningful choices, and an excessive need to piggyback on the success of the television show.
The Sword in the Darkness begins with the player taking control of Asher Forrester. Along with Malcolm and his battle-hardened best friend Beskha, he sets out to find an army of sellswords capable of saving his family from the Whitehills. Asher is an interesting character, because he has a veiled past which is yet to be fully uncovered, and when you play as him you feel as though you are a hero in the making, a warrior preparing to come home and earn redemption.
However, the promise of Asher’s journey in this episode quickly disappears when the game forces you to make what appears to be a life or death decision, only for that decision to mean very little. Your missteps and conversational blunders just don’t feel important when you play as Asher. Although your experience will be altered if you aid one character in favour of another, this decision doesn’t have the weight that you are deceived into believing it does. What you have in this episode is the illusion of choice, not the real thing.
Gared’s story is finally progressing, but his scenes don’t feel particularly special. We now know what the North Grove is and that we will have to venture beyond The Wall to find it, but the addition of Britt (the man who killed Gared’s family) felt quite pointless. It was an initially interesting turn of events, but I was left flabbergasted at how quickly the problem was resolved, and how my intentions were completely disregarded when it came to the confrontation between the two.
In The Sword in the Darkness the exploits of both Mira and Rodrik feel familiar and dull. Mira’s story suffers greatly due to its integration with scenes from the television show, and the obligatory character appearances which follow, whereas Rodrik’s is almost exactly similar to that of the last episode. When playing as Mira you aren’t making decisions based on her personality traits or goals, instead you’re using your own foreknowledge to carve out the best scenario. This left my choices feeling both hollow and forced.
The fact that you are involved in an already epic tale means that you can’t take your role seriously – you’re playing the Game of Thrones, but you’re only in the reserve team. You can’t defeat the Boltons, you can’t side with Tyrion, and you certainly can’t kill Drogon. Furthermore, Telltale’s reliance on the established characters is beginning to tamper with my memory of the show, because I suddenly have to think of Jon Snow being preoccupied with a murderous squire before assaulting Craster’s Keep, and of Tyrion being involved in an ironwood transaction before the Purple Wedding. These revelations left me feeling confused, and I can’t help thinking that this series would’ve been better served if it were set during the Doom of Valyria or Robert’s Rebellion.
The Sword in the Darkness is a disappointing episode in this Game of Thrones series. Westeros is a diverse and rich setting, one in which there are any number of stories to be told, but these stories have been forsaken for one which is all too familiar and predictable. The direction that the series is taking has become clearer, but that direction, as far as I can tell, leads to mediocrity.
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