Thursday, July 30, 2015

Game Of Thrones: Episode Five: A Nest of Vipers review

    The penultimate episode of Telltale's adaptation of the Game of Thrones series is the shortest one released by Telltale, clocking in at about an hour and a half rather than the usual two hours. I don't really mind this as I'm more than willing to pay five dollars for that amount of gaming experience.

    Telltale's version of George R.R. Martin's setting is a good deal toned down from the original source material, which is saying something given the number of bodies dropped left and right in this game. Still, I'm actually pleased to say they've managed to insert a (possible) sex scene into the game as well as kill enough of the cast that it can officially qualify as part of the GRIMDARK subgenre.

    The good kind.

    This retroactively applies to all previous episodes as well. Which means that it is going to be listed under the Grimdark section of my Labels from now on. Congratulations, Telltale! Either way, this is a fairly dark episode and one which left me feeling pretty kicked in the guts after the relatively upbeat and triumphant Episode Four: Sons of Winter.

What they're looking at is horrible.
     The premise of this episode is the Foresters have all of their triumphs from the previous episode reversed in a fairly staggering short-order. Ramsay Bolton slaughters a likable character from a previous episode, Gryff is freed by the traitor, you may have to murder someone for a crowd's entertainment, one of your supporters is revealed to be a monster, there's another potential supporting cast death which you can't prevent, and there's a moment which rivals The Walking Dead for sheer sadism.

    But you can sleep with Lady Glenmore.

    So there is that.

    Oh and you can hunt some rabbits with your friend's kid-sister, who may be flirting with you but I hope not because while Westeros girls are considered adults early on, I don't roll that way and hope Gared doesn't either.

    Then zombies attack.

I hope she's not meant to be Gared's Ygritte because she looks about fourteen to me.
     Honestly, this episode is probably going to be very controversial with fans and for good reason. The traitor has been teased and hinted at since Episode One but the revelation is bound to be unsatisfying and feel more than a little arbitrary (because it is arbitrary). Given the way I bonded the revealed character, I found his betrayal unbelievable.

    The fact I know it purely depends on a decision made in Episode One rather than more coherent well-reasoned motivations. The weird thing is the traitor continues spouting he's doing it all for House Forester to the bitter end, despite the fact the consequences of their action are catastrophic. I really would have been happier if the traitor had revealed they were doing it for money or position because, at least, that would have made sense.

    Cold-blooded? Yes. Despicable? Yes.

    Understandable? In Westeros? Yes.

    You win or you die.

    I buy a man deciding to cash after being on the losing side. I don't buy a man who, because of a relatively minor decision, throws the family under the bus and tells me to my face it was for their own good.

    That takes Ramsay Bolton levels of self-delusion.

    The episode also relies heavily on action, more so than any previous episode. Indeed, you could summarize A Nest of Vipers as, mostly, "Gared fights some dudes, Asher fights some dudes, Rodrik tries to fight Ramsay but fails, Rodrik and Asher fights some dudes, and Mira does some talking." While I'm usually very forgiving of Telltale's quick-time events, I can't help but think there were too many this time around and they existed for stretching out a story which could have been only five episodes long.

    In a weird way, I think the game glosses over a lot of stuff it should be covering while also feeling padded. A good section of this episode introduces Asher to a bunch of murderous pit fighters and gladiators which are now, due to Daenerys taking over, out of work. They have an interesting leader, a former friend of Beskha (possibly lover), and a lot of complicated history which gets completely shoved aside so Asher can jump in the pit to get some Russel Crowe's Gladiator going on.

    The illusion of free-will thing also shows up again in the game. Telltale is not very good at making one's decisions matter but there's some exceptions this time around. They may simply be whether or not certain characters die but, at least, that's consequences. Besides, the final choice will, hopefully, not be suddenly rendered moot in the finale of the game.

    But I'm not counting on it.

Peter Dinklage doesn't phone it in like in Destiny, so I'm grateful for that.
    There are some frustrating moments in this episode, despite its many pluses. For example, during one scene, you are trying to talk to someone without alerting a guard who is listening. When the individual asks you an incriminating question, you have to either lie to them or answer truthfully, which will endanger you. There's no option to, I dunno, NOD YOUR HEAD which seems like a rather glaring omission.

    I will say A Nest of Vipers has successfully gotten me pumped for the finale of the game. I don't know how they're going to resolve all of the outstanding plot issues but the writing has been good enough that I'd like to see them try. Unfortunately, this episode substitutes action for characterization and a few of the characters behave in a wholly unbelievable manner. That hurts a game which relies so heavily on its supporting cast.


1 comment:

  1. Frustrating is the word I would use to describe this episode overall. It was just too short and felt like it skipped an episode of development to get to it's twists.

    I feel tell-tale fell into the pitfall I was worried they would at the end of episode 4. Ramsey once again does a bad act and get's to walk away without any payback despite the stupidity of his move.

    The show and this game so overuses Ramsey to the point where any scene he is in now is sucked of any tension or interest to me since you know he can't be harmed in the game in any way.

    It's also lazy of telltale to use Ramsey to make more misery for the Forresters, along with wasting a character who had potential in so many ways along with his sister.

    Same with killing the beast, there was potential there was well to make what I imagine to be a battle in the next episode between the Forresters and the whitehalls. But I imagine that will be very anti climatic overall.

    That is the massive problem I have with series like GOT sometimes is how anti climatic it is with it's plots and characters, it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of it and makes it harder to keep patient with the slow moving storyline as well.

    I don't mind a slow moving plot the wire is an excellent example of how it can be done well, but GOT has got to the point where I just feel 'Get on with it' everytime I watch it.

    The Gared arc overall I keep wondering if this is one of those arcs that will be continued in season 2 if they do one. Since regardless of what's at the north gove. Gared is still stuck beyond the wall and considering season five events, his fate looks dim.

    Yes they do seem to be hinting of a Ygritte type thing going on here between Gared and Sylvi. she does look too young, but then again episode one seem to hint a thing with gared and Talia, so gared might just have a type, which I hope he doesn't.

    I wonder if Sylvi is supposed to be a targaryan or something of dragon line, just instead of blood and fire, it's ice pun or something along those lines. Considering what has been hinted at the north grove.

    At this point Asher is keeping me playing the game, you could do an entire game around him and beska stuff, their bits tends to be the deepest, most well written in my view and full of potential.

    I imagine most gamers choose Rodrick at the end to meet his fate. Since Asher overall is the more charming of the two. Not to mention I imagine the different dynamic Asher would have with ludd in tense scenes.

    Hopefully if bloodsong is spared there will be something cool to see in episode six, but considering Arthurs and beast's fate I doubt it.

    Mira is fucked overall whether she chooses cersi or Margery, considering season five events, unless tom's employer turns out to be who I think it is and this ties into Tyrion and his destination in season five.

    Especially with Malcolm staying with Dary, they are definitely setting something up there. It has potential and I am just imaging overall how it could all play out if I think what's going to happen to Mira happens.

    I just can't picture tell tale not wanting to use canon characters like Tyrion in future series.

    You hit the nail on the head with the traitor, it was one of those moments I just thought really, it came down to a choice in the first episode, their reason being so against any reasonable logic was a dethroning moment for tell tales writing cred.

    Not good at all.

    I feel telltale are trying to tell to big of a story with far too little time and episodes to flesh it out right and develop it properly.

    Will play episode six but tell tale have really left me feeling pessimistic in their writing and where they will take things in the future.

    They are a company that has lots of passion and energy in their games, but it's time for them to start evolving their formula and writing.