*Mild Spoilers Ahead For Those Not Up To Date*
“This couldn’t just be easy could it?” – If there was a line that typified the experience of playing through this series, that’d be it. The struggle doesn’t let up one bit in the latest episode of Telltale’s Westeros experience. However, the struggle feels all too familiar at this stage, and it’s hard to believe it after the last lacklustre episode, but the finale comes next.
As episodes go, you won’t have any bat-out-of-hell starts. Remaining tense and sometimes shocking (Ramsay Snow, what are ya like?), the opening stays at a gentle pace, warming you back after a long two months. But whatever warmth was brought is chilled to ice; from senseless murders to being abandoned by allies, it turns from a typical first act to a trudge as danger closes in and pulls you back to the hell the Forresters fight through. As beginnings go, it’s fairly standard and doesn’t rock the boat too much.
During the middle chapters, things begin to pick up with an ambush north of The Wall, and a duel to the death in the fighting pits (that’s as close to The Mountain fighting Oberyn Martell without either actually being there that we’re going to get). With a much needed break from dialogue and point-and-click heavy sections, neither encounter commands much tension or urgency. Any and all build-up created in these scenes drops steadily, being almost an anomaly in a dialogue and drama-filled episode. A highlight among these is Mira Forrester’s encounter with Cersei Lannister. It’s been sometime since their chat in the throne room, and in that time much has changed (including who is king) and it seems Cersei’s attitude towards Mira has too, if only to burn Tyrion a little more. An icy delivery from Lena Heady while Cersei changes her mind and plays nice makes for a captivating scene and a chance for Mira to get out of King’s Landing with some good graces.
Definitely my favourite by now, and probably yours too, Asher Forrester continues to stay consistently engaging and interesting. He’s got the bonus of working for the Mother of Dragons and seeing said dragons, but that’s all gravy as Asher pushes forward and fights through anything and anyone to make sure he can save his family. From facing down Daenarys Targaeryan herself to a hall full of pit fighters, his arc never fails to remain eye-grabbing and tense, keeping your sword hand ready and wits sharp for whatever you run in to next. It may be down to his consistent progress and growth while other characters remain somewhat more static, but Asher leads a strong, although somewhat typical, arc as the prodigal son.
If there is one thing that players will take away from the latest episode, it’s that final decision before the credits roll. I’m not going to lie and say I was prepared for it. However the final chapter whizzed past far too quickly to set any rhythm. Not even five minutes after a “Hello!” everything has gone to the dogs. In truth, it felt sloppy and rushed to get to the second last big choice of the season. Unfortunately it was underwhelming as climaxes go, despite best efforts – that final charge can certainly jerk a tear or two but lacked the depth it deserved.
At this point in Telltale’s take on Game of Thrones, players are used to being pushed back three steps for every one they take forward and probably getting stabbed too. Although in the latest addition, you’re getting pushed back two steps. Maybe even one and a half. The overbearing intention to knock the Forrester Family back almost consistently is beginning to disjoint the story. The tone of this episode, and indeed the series, bounces back between cautious optimism and despair, sometimes far too quickly. And while this has been wielded well enough throughout, the fact that it is still so present in the lead up to the finale does the game no favours in building momentum or anticipation towards the final battle for the fate of House Forrester.
The pacing of the Forrester’s battle against all odds seems to have slowed somewhat, and while the pieces are certainly coming together and the end is in sight, it’s been presented in such a way that feels altogether disjointed. The story aside, this episode skips between each narrative too frivolously even for series’ own standards. And with only so much of note happening, several of the characters could’ve done with sitting this one out as their chapters felt like filler to up the tension and snap the player back into things.
When compared to the current season of HBO’s TV series, Telltale have undoubtedly crafted a better fantasy experience that will probably stand tall as a completed series, whereas the latest TV season fails to do so. ‘A Nest of Vipers’ bunks the Game of Thrones tradition of turning it up to eleven the episode before the finale, with it mostly being subdued as it ties off some of the smaller ends as we close in on journey’s end. Even with this in mind, the episode lacked cohesion and felt like its aim could’ve been sharper on what it wanted to achieve. I’m hopeful that the upcoming finale will tie it all together in a neater bow than the state that the current episode has left it in. I’ve enjoyed the series and admired the writing throughout the story but ‘A Nest of Vipers’ has been a letdown to say the least (especially after the best of the series so far) and acts mostly as set up to the final episode, and only a somewhat satisfactory one at that.
A disappointingly disparate penultimate episode.
The whole series is half price on Steam at the time of this review! Certainly worth your money if you’re a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire.