Whilst certainly on a roll from the past two episodes, it’s now the time of the tricky third album. Can Telltale pull it out the bag and expand on the ever intriguing storyline?
Of course they can, once again; as soon as the infallible intro music has run its course, you’re in for another couple of hours’ worth of relentlessly capturing gameplay. Whilst of course the mechanics haven’t been altered, it still feels like fresh new content, mostly in part due to the addictive narrative styling of the writers. As is evident from the teasers, and the previous episodes ‘next time on…’ section, one of the first few sequences pits you up against a fabled dragon in another of Asher’s well-choreographed action scenes. Not only are there choices aplenty, but several have meaningful consequences that you might well not have the foresight to see.
As per usual, each of the Forrester’s storylines are intertwined with excellent pacing and depth. No sooner have you reached yet another inevitable stumbling block for the poor House Forrester, when the arch twists and turns before presenting another character embroiled in their own plight. The focus on this episode seems geared much more towards the potential of intertwined goals from each member than before. Characters will reference one another’s tasks whilst not so subtly implying that the outcome of which will have meaningful consequences on one another.
Whilst there are still the infamous QTE fight scenes, they’re handled with much more respect to the action this time around. It admittedly helps that the fights you engage in are often with characters that are much more meaningful than generic guards. Emotions will be high as you stick up for friends and attempt to follow vows, even they do contradict what you might be feeling at the time. The developers have also done an excellent job of making the QTE’s less arduous and seemingly more related to what’s happening on screen. A lunge for a blade feels a lot more natural this time around for example.
It’s not only the conversations that embed problematic decisions anymore either. Several times during one of the excellently composed fight scenes, you are presented with an opportunity to decide where on your opponent to strike, do you show them mercy, or are the atrocities they’ve committed too large to ignore?
Opportunities to explore your surroundings appear to be less and less available as the season progresses, but whereas before this might’ve been a problem, now it simply help the game flow and lets it dictate its own pace. There’ll be the odd section where you can have yourself a little wander and muse about the surroundings, but for the most part, it’s all about the brutal conversations and their dreaded repercussions.
Without trying to give too much away, things are still dire for House Forrester. The injured Rodrick steals the scenes most often with his dwindling grasp of Ironwrath due to the invasion of the Whitehills; humility and self-preservation being the forefront of his set of decisions. Asher and his companions still struggle with regards of finding an army who’ll answer the call and Mira gets progressively fleshed out as she interacts with members of the Lannister family; inevitably becoming torn between the obvious two powerhouses. Gared continues his goal of searching for the mythical North Grove at the bequest of the fallen, and of course has numerous interactions with a certain Mr. Snow. You get the feeling that this is certainly the midpoint of the season due to all the trails being fully explored and realised; whilst this does come at the cost of potential newer narrative arch’s, it does bring aboout the plight of each characters struggles sinking in.
Despite the ever enjoyable writing and story-lines, the technical side of things isn’t nearly as polished. The brushed art style looks discernibly great at times, whereas in others, it’s starting to show its age. Some character animations are a little stiff and aside from the fight scenes, it can look a tad awkward. The frame rate can suffer at times too, as can the lip synching, it’s not a huge problem, but it’s certainly noticeable.
The amounts of difficult and thought-provoking choices are definitely a forte of the writers and there’s no sign of them slowing down anytime soon. Episode three continues the trend of the series and shows once again that great writing alone, can make a great game.