Game Review: Game of Thrones – Episode 4: Sons of Winter (PC, 2015)

With only a few days notice before release, Telltale Games have launched the fourth episode of their ongoing Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series onto Steam with other platforms to follow in the coming days. The story of the permanently embattled children of House Forrester continues as small victories have larger consequences, the past comes back to haunt good friends and King’s Landing continues to be the sort of place where simply breathing in and out near the wrong person will get you into hot water.

This review does contain some spoilers. If you’d prefer to remain unspoiled, go and play the episode before reading any further.

Episode Four: Sons of Winter picks up where Episode Three left off, with Asher Forrester on the outskirts of Meereen, attempting to parley with Daenerys Targaryen ahead of her attack on the city. Daenerys, being the shrewd woman she is, isn’t willing to give Asher the troops he desires and so they strike a bargain.

At Castle Black, Gared Tuttle must face the consequences of his bloody confrontation with Britt Warrick. Faced with his own execution, he must decide when to make a bid for freedom and begin his search for the North Grove.

Back at Ironrath, Rodrik Forrester is getting ready to put his plan to move against Gryff Whitehill and his men in motion. He knows that he needs to be careful about how he proceeds but when Elaena Glenmore asks of Rodrik an especially crucial favour, it throws a significant spanner in the works.

Mira Forrester’s wheeling and dealing in King’s Landing continues. With Margaery Tyrell still furious with her, Mira has been barred from going to Margaery’s coronation following her wedding to Tommen Baratheon. This, of course, will not stop her from putting an appearance. With the evidence of Tyrion’s contract now destroyed, Mira must come up with another way to ensure her family’s political safety.

Aside from one or two moments of genuine surprise in this episode, there is a sense of wheels in motion. Characters are still interesting but it feels as though they’re being arranged and moved into position for future episodes. That’s fine – longer-form stories often run into this sort of thing in their narratives – the Song of Ice and Fire novels on which Game of Thrones is based have devoted entire books to exactly this practice – but in a video game it feels a bit unsatisfying.

The thing that saves the episode is that the characters are all still so well drawn and well written that getting to spend any amount of time with them is enjoyable on its own. Though the peril the Forrester’s face hasn’t changed much since the last episode, we do get to spend some long overdue time with Asher and we learn quite a bit about his travelling companion Beskha.

Mira’s story continues to be the one where I feel the weight of my decisions the most keenly. She’s still got so many balls in the air at once and trying to remember what I’ve had her say to who at this point is becoming quite stressful indeed. I should really start keeping notes on each conversation I have as Mira. Her time is cut down from the last few episodes – indeed she really only gets to appear in one rather significant scene that sees her meeting Lyman Lannister – but what you’re doing with her in that time is going to have big ramifications in the final two episodes.

The story that fell a bit flat for me this time around was Gared’s. After fleeing the Night’s Watch with Cotter and Erik (if you choose to take him), he encounters a pack of Wildlings out hunting, gets his food stolen and finally runs into Cotter’s sister. That’s really all he gets to do this time around, which was a bit disappointing – obviously Gared’s time got eaten into in order to expand Asher’s segments.

Rodrik’s story also continues to be the most emotionally charged of the four – faced with a litany of tough decisions, very opinionated family members and advisers, and more than a few political opponents of unpredictable disposition, I most often feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants when I play as Rodrik and his story in Episode 4 is no exception. After finally making his move against Gryff Whitehill and knocking him soundly on his boorish ass, Rodrik finds himself in a very tight spot politically after a truce offering from Whitehill HQ arrives. Rodrik has two options – a show of force or force a smile? Whatever he does, he still has to try to get his brother Ryon back.

This series continues to show real flair in its storytelling, even in a more or less tread-water episode like this one. It’s characters are rich, its visuals are still lovely and painterly and its music is strikes the perfect mood in every scene. I’m hoping for more from the last two episodes, but I still had fun with Sons of Winter.

Now, when’s the next episode of Tales from the Borderlands out?

Review Score: 6.5 out of 10
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: May 26, 2015
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS, Android

Reviewed on PC

David Smith

Games and technology editor, Dungeons and Dragons fanboy and your new best friend. You can reach me at david.smith@theaureview.com with news tips, pitches, press releases, invites, review content and more.