Game of Thrones: Episode 5 – A Nest of Vipers
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Interactive Drama
Release Date: 07/21/2015
(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 it’s been a long and bumpy ride, but it’s finally…..oh wait. This season has six episodes? OK then.
Last time, things finally started to pick up. Mira had an incredibly interesting series of conversations at a party, Asher helped free Mereen, Rodrik took it to Whitehill, and Gared ran off in search of the North Grove. Sure, the game was constantly hampered by the performance issues that have constantly plagued every game every made by Telltale, but complaining about that so much is starting to get boring.
This time, there’s some good and some bad. Gared and Mira are pretty much given nothing to do this time around. Sure there’s a fight scene or a conversation or two, but it’s not all that exciting. Mira’s section in particular is a complete let down as it revolves wholly on the Tryion/Cersei dynamic. We know how that works out by now. There’s no need to go down that round.
On the plus side, apart from the first ten minutes or so, both Asher and Rodrik are free to explore their own story. You find out who the traitor his, decide what to to with him, and prepare for the final battle against the Whitehills. Asher, on the other hand, gets to get his army and finally set sail for home. The series has always been at its best when these original characters are moving forward.
Choice is one of the key tenants of Telltale games, though the choices you make are often relatively unimportant in the long run. In this case, one of those choices comes to a head in a rather unsatisfactory way. The character motivation for what happens is unclear and completely random. It doesn’t make any sense. The episode also ends with the biggest decision yet. Some of the consequences are immediate, but only time will tell if it ends up meaning anything significant.
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.
With only one episode left to go, A Nest of Vipers needed to set the stage big time. In a couple of ways, it did that in spades. In others, it failed miserably. The quick time battles are fun and all, but the performance issues drag them down considerably. It’s up to the story to keep player invested, and this episode only got that about half right. It’ll be worth seeing through to the end, but that final episode is going to have to be spectacular.
Short Attention Spam Summary
The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones both wows and disappoints. Two of the four main characters get lost in the shuffle while the other two move boldly forward to the end. Performance issues abound, and they’re still using characters from the show as a crutch. The ultimate success or failure of this season is going to come down to the final episode. If you’ve been playing so far, you might as well see it through. At the very least, the end of this episode will give you something to talk about.