Game of Thrones: Episode Three – The Sword in the Darkness
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Interactive Drama
Release Date: 03/24/2015
(Note: This review will contain bits that are copied verbatim from my review of Episode One. While the story for each episode may be different, the graphics, sound, and gameplay remain largely the same. Old stuff will be in italics. Feel free to skip them if you wish.)
Well things certainly seem to be moving fast for this episodic game series. It’s only been about a month and a half since the last episode, but here we are at the halfway point. We might get to finish up before the end of summer at this rate.
That speed certainly hasn’t done anything to heal the technical issues the game has. Let me get this out of the way first. The game runs like a joke. Between the lines of dialogue that are skipped, the words that are repeated, the god awful textures, and the fact the game looks hideous in motion, I still can’t believe it was released this way. I mean it’s basically one bit cutscene. It’s not like they had to program the thing to respond to user inputs beyond tapping a face button to choose a line of dialogue every now and then. It’s clear Telltale just doesn’t care.
Anyway, last time we had a lot of setup for things to come. We were introduced to a couple of key new players and a big event or two happened. This time around, there’s even more setup, and the series continues to use simple tricks to make it seem like a lot is happening. It also seems far too obsessed with tying events with the show. It’s getting distracting.
So we still have four POV characters. Gared finishes his training on the wall before getting a visit from his uncle that could lead to something interesting down the line. Asher has an encounter with a dragon, which seems to be a setup for an interesting event in the next episode. Rodrik has to deal with a Whitehill in his house, but that’s pretty much the same damn story from the last two episodes. And then there’s Mira. She’s trying to help out her family while balancing the emotional state of Lady Tyrell. The story struggles to find its own footing. Perhaps this is because of all the cameos from the show. Asher needs to build an army, and apparently the only way to do that is to talk to Dany. Mira just happens to have a deal with Tyrion on the table right before the purple wedding. It’s just all too damn convenient. More to the point, it’s all still setup. Stretching this season out into six episodes was clearly done to make some cash, and it’s clearly done the story harm.
Now comes the bad news. This game is perhaps the least graphically refined TT game since Jurassic Park. It’s probably even worse than that. The textures are horrible. In motion, they often resemble smeared water colors. Character models don’t fare much better. They animate poorly, look plastic, and often have parts of their bodies bleed into the background. Add in the usual clipping issues, framerate drops, and constant pausing for loading/saving/trophy notification, and this game simply runs horribly. The art style is strong though. It manages to salvage some pleasurable visual moments. Still, this game simply wasn’t optimized for the PS3. It’s almost unplayable at times.
Using the show’s music and actors, the game does quite well in the aural department. Peter Dinklage sounds much more lively then he did in Destiny. The new cast does quite well also, and the accents don’t become overbearing. It’s pretty high quality stuff all around, although problems arise because of the game’s technical limitations. In particular, characters will be cut off mid sentence. I suggest playing with the subtitles on, so you don’t miss anything important.
GoT doesn’t break the TT mold when it comes to the gameplay. For the most part, the game is on rails and simply asks you to make a selection now and again. Most of your choices have little effect on the game, but allow you to add your own personal flare to the proceedings. For example, you can play Ethan as a scared young man, or as mouthy brat. It’s up to you. Silence is always an option as well, but rarely leads to more interesting bits of dialogue. Either way, the meat of the story will play out the same no matter what you do.
Occasionally, you will be allowed to wander around and explore a bit. Compared to other TT games, you get to do more of this than usual. These areas aren’t very large, but there are often fun bits of lore that you can uncover. For example, you can go over the entire Forrester family by looking at a family portrait. This gives you an idea of who everyone is as well as your characters thoughts on them. Stuff like that is always appreciated.
As you might expect, you’ll end up in some big action sequences throughout the game. When these pop up, it’s all about the quick time event. You’ll flick the stick, mash on buttons, and try to react as quickly as possible while a scene plays out. Failure doesn’t always result in death, but too many mistakes will send you back a bit to try again. Like in previous games, these QTE’s are getting less intrusive. The inputs are smaller or more out of the way. This lets you see the action better without not being able to see what you need to do.
This is probably the least interactive episode yet. There’s basically a fight scene at each end and a lot of talking in between. While these fights are certainly the game at its most exciting, they certainly don’t save it from tedium. The series is starting to feel more like a chore than a game. Hopefully the next episode can pick things up.
Short Attention Span Summary
Episode Three is the worst of the bunch so far. It still has all of the technical problems we’ve come to hate, and it doesn’t even do anything of note with the story. It seems like a lazy attempt to get characters from the show on screen at best. At worst, the game uses the same basic plot from the other two episodes. I figure a fourth Whitehill will show up next time and we’ll have to decide again whether to bend the knee. It’s getting ridiculous. There’s still hope for this season, but it’s getting thin.
Tags: games of thrones, ps3, Sony, telltale games