Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers for Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode One – Iron From Ice and Episode Two: The Lost Lords.
Valar morghulis — High Valyrian for “all men must die” — seemed to be the name of the game in Game of Thrones Episode One – Iron From Ice, as doom and gloom befell the poor, hapless members of House Forrester. Their patriarch, Lord Gregor, murdered at the hands of the traitorous Freys at the Red Wedding; Rodrik the prodigal son cut down outside his barracks; Asher, the second-born, living in exile across the Narrow Sea; the eldest daughter Mira trapped in a game of political cat-and-mouse between Tyrion and Cersei Lannister in King’s Landing; the squire Gared Tuttle exiled to the Wall for avenging the murder of his family by Whitehill soldiers; and Ethan…poor, sweet Ethan. He valiantly stood his ground, trying to salvage the honor of House Forrester by standing up to Lord Whitehill and the mad bastard himself, Ramsay Bolton. One short, sharp shock from a dagger later and Ethan is no more, a spectre now looming over the family. Yet the dead have risen before and they shall again in Episode Two – The Lost Lords.
No, I’m not saying Ethan comes back as a White Walker, although I would respect the brazen nature of that decision. Rather, the game introduces us to two new playable characters who were all but dead to the members of House Forrester. The episode opens by putting us in the shoes of Asher, who is working as a sellsword on the violent streets of a newly freed Yunkai. Alongside his comrade-in-arms, the scarred warrior Beskha, a mercenary who would give Brienne of Tarth a run for her money, Asher must avoid bounty hunters, unscrupulous soldiers, and death lurking around every corner. Especially since he may well be the only hope for his ailing House.
The other playable character is…well, I actually don’t want to spoil it here because it was a pleasant surprise. If it’s already been spoiled elsewhere and I should be talking about it, I apologize; follow up with me on Twitter and we’ll hash it out there. What I will say is this character is the linchpin on which this entire episode hinges. Moreso than the other characters, this one’s decisions will have a lasting, critical impact on the surviving members of House Forrester and the people of Ironrath. And with everyone and their mother scheming to put the once-proud House out of its misery while pillaging its valuable ironwood stores, you will need to be on point as you navigate the frothing whitewater rapids that are this game’s conversations.
Moreso than the previous episode, The Lost Lords puts you in the middle of some visceral combat sequences, particularly while playing as Asher. In The Walking Dead, combat sequences had an element of discomfiting horror to them; they were repulsive but necessary to survival. In Game of Thrones, however, there is a perverse thrill in the brutal bursts of violence. The quick-time event mechanic can so often be a wearying way to force set pieces and moments of trompe l’oeil masquerading as action on the player. However, in The Lost Lords, the combat sequences are well choreographed, well executed, and lend a boncrunching exhilaration to the proceedings.
Not everything is as consistently satisfying though. If you were expecting a change of pace from the first episode, which was largely setting the table for what’s to come by introducing us to our sprawling new cast of characters across multiple locales, then you may be disappointed. Although The Lost Lords plays out like an episode of the HBO series, taking us from King’s Landing to The Wall to Essos, and switching from character to character after reaching a miniature (or in some cases major) narrative cliffhanger, it still feels a bit plodding in its execution. Looking back at the episode, quite a bit happened — backroom dealings, political posturing, a murder most foul, broken necks, a funeral, and the rekindling of true love, to name a few. Even so, it didn’t feel like as much had happened as in Iron From Ice. It is a minor gripe in an otherwise excellent overall experience, but somehow doesn’t quite feel like it’s in lockstep with Telltale’s previous offerings.
But maybe that’s the point. Telltale’s Game of Thrones series is six episodes, after all, so they are clearly taking their time with letting the story unfold, giving each character a chance to blossom and find themselves in singularly stressful situations. In spite of whatever minor misgivings I had, I still found myself thinking about the game all day long after playing it. I wondered what might have happened if I’d only said this, or only stuck to my guns on that, or what if I hadn’t curbstomped that soldier? These are the kinds of unique questions and quandaries that only a studio like Telltale is able to elicit from its players. Provocative, pulse-pounding, and lovingly crafted, Game of Thrones Episode Two: The Lost Lords may not be sitting atop the Iron Throne, but it will never bend the knee. And that tenacity is something to be admired and replayed again and again.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
What do you think of Game of Thrones Episode Two – The Lost Lords? Let us know in the comments below or tell me on Twitter (@Osteoferocious). And don’t forget, tomorrow’s the last day to enter to rule the seven Kingdoms and WIN a Factory Entertainment screen-accurate prop replica of Joffrey’s crown! More details on Nerdist News.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One using an advance review code provided by Telltale Games.