Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness – A Review

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Apologies for the late-ish review. The episode was only released in Europe yesterday, and I didn’t have a chance to play through it until today. Unfortunately, despite some enjoyable moments, I didn’t enjoy “The Sword in the Darkness” nearly as much as the previous two episodes.

Telltale’s formula seems to be growing increasingly stale with this series – a pity and a surprise, since the simultaneously-releasing Tales From the Borderlands has the potential to be one of the studio’s greatest offerings.

I must admit, I am getting weary of Telltale’s constant shoving in our face of the fact that we’re playing a videogame. Many critical choice moments jerk the player right out of any immersion they may have had, as the choice is presented in such an on-the-nose manner. With the likes of The Witcher 3 coming out later this year, and considering what CD Projekt RED have claimed about their seamless plot-changing-choice integration, Telltale’s methods may well be highlighted for their archaic nature.

Contains full spoilers for the episode.

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“Look, the pie!”

But enough about potential problems with Telltale itself. The end of this episode marks the halfway point of the series… and it’s quite boring, all things considered. Notable and exciting set-pieces do occur throughout, but the pacing seems off. If I had to compare it with an episode from the show, I would choose the Season 2 premiere, “The North Remembers”. Both serve to move the pieces into place for later episodes, jumping around from location to location with little consistency, and not much actually happening in between to drastically advance the plot.

In fact, the most noteworthy game-changing event in this episode is the death of Joffrey at his wedding – something that happens without any direct involvement from any of our playable characters. Of course, the game must operate within the constraints of the show-canon. But, the combination of characters being slaves to pre-ordained events outside their control, and the consistency with which our choices don’t even matter in the long run waves a red flag over the whole affair. This combination succeeds only in robbing players of their agency, and it makes the “Telltale formula” all the more evident.

An example of this was the confrontation atop the Wall between Gared and Britt, the Whitehill man-at-arms who murdered Gared’s family back in the first episode. I had Gared give him every chance to step down, in order to keep my word to Jon. Eventually, I saw that I was being forced into yet another situation where my choices didn’t matter, so I kicked the bastard off the Wall. And, guess what? Enter stage right: Finn, witnessing Gared’s fell deed at just the right moment. It was entirely predictable, but it had gotten to the stage where I really didn’t care. The major plot beats are most likely going to be the same no matter what choices the player makes, so why not have a bit of fun with the broken systems along the way?

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Apparently, the Whitehills are the most sadistically evil pricks in all of Westeros, giving even the Boltons a run for their money. Literally every time they are on screen (with one exception near the end) they are sneering at Forresters, cursing Forresters, hitting Forresters, or making fun of dead Forresters. Honestly, Roose better watch his back with these comic-book schemers hanging around the North.

But, I digress. It wasn’t all bad. The game takes some opportunities to add tidbits of world-building and dialogue from the books that haven’t, as of yet, appeared in the show. From memory, this episode’s offerings include a repeat of “Words are wind”, and a mention of “Monsters and Maidens”. The episode also marked the first (and second) occurrence(s) of official music from the show – outside of the opening theme. As Mira flees the scene following Joffrey’s murder (and a very amusing reprisal of Margaery’s “Look, the pie!”), Littlefinger’s theme plays ominously in the background. It both perfectly suits the events that are happening on-screen, and hints at the larger game at play behind the veil.

The second track, “Mother of Dragons”, did not work so well. It was obviously chosen to contribute to building up the climax of Daenerys addressing Asher, but it is also playing during the scenes that come before… and it makes no sense. To the unaccustomed ear, I’m sure it would be fine. However, since I (and many others) already associate it specifically with Dany, it strikes a discord to hear this triumphant theme underscoring a touching piece of dialogue between northerners Rodrik and Talia Forrester, as they discuss how much they may have to change in order to deal with the yoke of the Whitehills.

To be honest, I will only play the next episode out of obligation to finish the season. It’s a sad thing to say as a Game of Thrones fan, but after this episode I have no great investment in the overall outcome of the game, Gared Tuttle notwithstanding.

Here are my choices, followed by a brief rundown of the episode:

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  • Rodrik hopes that with the combined efforts of Asher (securing an army of sellswords in Essos) and Mira (securing funding from King’s Landing to pay the sellswords), he can overthrow the Whitehills and restore House Forrester. While waiting for either/both of these to occur, he must deal with rowdy, entitled Whitehill fourthborn son Gryff as the latter attempts to usurp rule of Ironrath. He must also make the tough decision to either focus his full efforts on reclaiming his home, or diverting resources into a rescue operation for youngest brother Rickon Ryon.
  • Gared says his vows and becomes a ranger of the Night’s Watch. He is visited by his uncle Duncan and given the secret task of abandoning his post and seeking out the fabled North Grove. He must deliberate whether to hold true to his new brothers, or do what he can to assist his liege lord at Ironrath. Meanwhile, the man who murdered his family arrives at Castle Black – cue confrontation. At the same time, Finn and Gared make up after their fight, while Cotter reveals to Gared that he is actually a wildling (“I’m part of the free folk. What people around here call ‘wildlings’.” Ugh.). Despite my misgivings, Gared’s storyline remains the most interesting, and the prospect of going beyond the Wall in later episodes has me stoked.
  • Mira continues to play the game of thrones in King’s Landing, and prepares to assist Margaery in the upcoming royal wedding. Falling out of Margaery’s favour for brokering a mutually beneficial deal with Tyrion behind the queen-to-be’s back, she is thrown into dire straits as Joffrey is poisoned and events conspire to possibly implicate her along with the Imp.
  • Asher… wanders around Essos for a while until he meets Daenerys in the last scene. Along the way he and his supporting characters inexplicably survive a face-to-face encounter with Drogon in a cave, and meet old acquaintance Croft, captain of the Hellhounds, whose services Asher and uncle Malcolm wish to acquire for Rodrik. Upon finally being greeted by Dany in her tent, he is addressed as follows: “So, Asher Forrester. If you presume to speak of my dragons, choose your words carefully.” These are actual lines of dialogue in the episode. Woeful.
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How is this even a choice?

Previous episodes:

43 responses

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    1. Probably the best episode yet. Can’t say that I understand all the hate in this review, but what do I know…

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    2. Eh, I liked it. In fact I thought it was the best episode yet. Almost every other review site seems to think so, too.

      If I had to nitpick, my only complaint about this episode comes from the Ironrath side of things. Where the Whitehills are starting to get a bit redundant.

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    3. impuregold:
      Probably the best episode yet. Can’t say that I understand all the hate in this review, but what do I know…

      Same here. I found this episode very satisfying. Standing up to Gryff was one of many great moments IMHO.

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    4. I also really enjoyed it! Seems like a really nitpicky review. I mean, complaining about the use of the Dany music for the ending sequence, even though it was building up to the appearance of Dany? Come on now.

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    5. Best episode to date, full of intrigue in all the stories, every character we play is confronted with really hard choices. I confess I had to pause to really think on my answer, also because for unknown reasons the mouse moves really slow on this, and I have a good graphic. The final fight with Gared was so brutal, it reminded me of Brienne vs The Hound, oh and by the way I gave that Britt cunt a slow death and it felt so good 😉

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    6. Very critical review.
      If nothing matters in the game, what about you kicking that guy off the wall. I left him, might the guy you kicked come back? We know what happens to dead things beyond the wall.

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    7. Can someone explain something for me? Duncan reveals to Rodrik that Ludd Whitehill has been ordering his soldiers to pillage and loot farms across Forrester lands, and to persecute their smallfolk. Why then was Britt sent to the Wall for doing the very thing he was ordered to?

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    8. This review summed up my feeling pretty well, though it’s interesting to see a lot of people disagree. My overall feeling was, more than before, that choices did not matter at all, and quite early on I couldn’t be bothered to really consider the implications of different choices, because there always seemed to be a very forceful invisible hand pushing me along the desired path.

      And, didn’t anyone else feel like maybe it was a bit rushed, like they wanted to get it out before S5 starts a bit too much? I just kind of felt that some dialogue and character movements would have really benefited from some polishing.

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    9. Yeah, I also enjoyed it a lot. Definitely the best episode so far and I can honestly say that if I were to choose between seeing the season premiere of season 5 or playing episode 4, I would choose episode 4.
      I really enjoyed Gared’s storyline this episode and I can’t wait to see his adventures beyond the Wall (next episode’s thumbnail is a White Walkers so that should be exciting).
      Mira’s part wasn’t that great, but it was still enjoyable.Things at Ironrath are depressing as usual… and Asher keeps being the badass of this series

      Drogon was the highlight of the episode really, I wish we will see more of the dragons in the game because they look really good and obviously they aren’t that expensive 😛

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    10. I played it last night. I was surprised how quickly I played through it. The previous episodes seemed to take longer to get through. I enjoyed this episode, but I have to agree with this reviewer, as the so-called “Telltale formula” has become more apparent. Perhaps this is partly due to my familiarity with their 2 seasons of The Walking Dead (which I prefer to this series). Don’t get me wrong, It is fun playing as these characters, and getting to interact with the characters from the show, but I have to agree that it’s obvious MOST of the choices you are offered have ZERO effect on outcome. I’ll probably play it again though, just for shits and giggles, CUZ IT’S FUN, JEEZ.

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    11. I think it was a good episode. Things that I really loved were:

      The opening with Drogon was epic (apart from the fact that some of the dragon animations, including the fire looked horribly unrealistic, but I think that’s excusable).

      The fight against Britt was awesome and intense, at least if you play it correctly and just let Gared show all his rage.

      If you play Rodrick as the guy he is supposed to be (strong and confident, yet forgiving and kind), the ending with Gryff is beyond awesome. Rodrick is like Jaime Lannister (one of my favorites), just more badass, and if the game does it well, he could very well become one of my favorite characters in the ASOIAF universe.

      Things that I thought played out horrible:

      Duncan’s visit. They were in public and just blurted out the stuff about the north grove and all? Nothing suspicious going on there. I think it would have been better if Duncan had just left him the note, and Gared had to figure it out on his own later on.

      Why on earth would Britt get sent to the wall? He seemed to be on pretty good terms with Whitehill when he showed up at Ironrath in episode one, and I don’t think Bolton would give a damn either. So having him be sent to the wall is just pushing the story where it doesn’t want to go.

      Why does Gared have to be an exact copy of Jon Snow? Hell, why is he even at Castle Black? It’s fairly obvious that Kit was the only one willing to lend his voice, so why invent unessecary characters like Frostfinger to replace Ser Alliser? They could have avoided problems like that by sending Gared to a different Castle. Not only would show fans be able to take a look at a different location, but it wouldn’t have to look like every character we know from the show (except Jon Snow) disappeared in thin air. After all not every story from the game has to be linked to some major event or location that’s featured in the show.

      Oh and, Cotter is a wildling? The fuck? That pussy of a thief is the last person you’d expect to be from north of the wall.

      Anyways, like I said, I enjoyed most of the episode, especially the opening with Drogon and the fight against Britt. I think while the first two episodes were kind of consistent but neither really good or bad, this one had some really good stuff but unfortunately some really bad stuff as well. In the end, I still think it’s the best of all three so far.

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    12. I pretty much agree with the review. This episode for me was the weakest of the three. They really need to pick up the pace in this series. I don’t think I had ever been disappointed by Telltale before. Maybe it is because its GoT, and my expectations were high.

      The only part I enjoyed was killing Britt, and no I didnt give him a quick death.

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    13. The White Winged Fury,

      Because the Boltons knew about it so the Whitehalls had to do something about it. When they’re burning and looting the countryside they’re going against what the Boltons said, and that’s brought up one point in the episode.

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    14. davy,

      Every single time a new episode comes out this is what people complain about the most. Like a broken record.

      Which leads me to believe either A: They’re not very familiar with Telltale Games, or B: They have ridiculously unrealistic standards for what the “choices” should be.

      Would you still be complaining if they DIDN’T advertise their choices and consequences as much? Would that make a difference? I’ve long accepted the fact this isn’t gonna be groundbreaking or vast in its epic moral system.. and I’m enjoying it quite a lot.

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    15. Anyone here play the A Clash of Kings mod for Mount and Blade Warband? 2.0 just came out today.

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    16. Renly’s Peach:
      davy,

      Every single time a new episode comes out this is what people complain about the most. Like a broken record.

      Which leads me to believe either A: They’re not very familiar with Telltale Games, or B: They have ridiculously unrealistic standards for what the “choices” should be.

      Would you still be complaining if they DIDN’T advertise their choices and consequences as much? Would that make a difference? I’ve long accepted the fact this isn’t gonna be groundbreaking or vast in its epic moral system.. and I’m enjoying it quite a lot.

      To be honest, you pay 25 euro’s for the experience. Gameplay isn’t awesome, choices don’t matter. It’s the style & story what this game is about. I really liked it in the walking dead and I like it even more now.

      Although some stuff could’ve been done better, I think this game is one of the best game of thrones games one could have.

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    17. The second episode kind of felt its length at times. This one kind of held its own, plotwise. There are two things that kind of stick out to me though:

      – Too often there are dialogue reference “House,” or “this House.” The redundancy is rampant and rather cheesy.

      – There is also an abundance of scenes where the antagonists are very… up-in-your-face and acting like a huge dicks. There’s not a huge variation of it either. Cersei and Margaery have their own flavors of it, which is good, but among Gryff, Britt, Tazal, Lord Whitehill, Ramsay… each one has practically the same personality with a different background.

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    18. My biggest gripe with the linear part is that it’s not too hard to disguise the fact they’re forcing you down a path. As an example you have the fight with Britt that leads to his death no matter what choices you make. Having him live if you choose not to kill him you’re still breaking your vow to Jon Snow due to Britt forcing you to fight him, leaving Jon Snow to not take you with him to Craster’s – which in turn leads to Gared having to just desert the night’s watch at some point and go beyond the wall with Cotter (which now seems to happen because you killed Britt). You’d feel your choice actually happened, yet you’d still end up having to leave the NW. The differing outcome in having him live or die I imagine would just be an extra scene or two.

      I’m really enjoying the story though, and the game in general. Just as I mentioned I feel they could’ve disguised the linear parts better.

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    19. TT’s GoT is supposed to be greatly interactive game. Well, it not. Set of preferences is very limited, one cannot really designate how the story will occur. Or how it will end.

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    20. The Garret Britt fight is amazing, if done right.

      I really get a kick off of the finale of the fight, I’ve repeated it like 12 times already and not getting tired of watching it, lol.

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    21. This was the first episode that made me look back on my choices in previous episodes, and think “huh, maybe that DID matter…”

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    22. I understand the dissatisfaction by the limitation of choice, but hey, it’s not like Telltale can afford to go full Mass Effect on that thing.

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    23. I have to say, this episode had one of my favorite gaming moments from recent memory.

      As Rodrik, I spent the entire episode playing along with my mother, telling her I’d submit to the Whitehills. I tried to remain restrained, I didn’t piss them off too much, and I was even going to let Gryff have full control.

      Then he threw Talia into the mud. Everything changed with that. I seldom have genuine reactions to games, but consistently rising to my feet every time I was knocked down brought a huge smile to my face.

      Great episode, with a great, great moment. But hey, to each their own.

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    24. This particular episode felt like it went on forever. I recall myself thinking I was close to the end of the episode, then the achievement popped up showing that I had only completed 4 of 8 achievements. Anywho, like others have said, the forces are starting to feel forced. I’ve played many Telltale Games in the past and enjoyed them but never has the illusion of choice been so fragile. For me, the biggest “Really….?” choice was choosing Beskha or Malcolm. A Walking Dead veteran, I thought I knew what this meant. And as contrived as it may be, I was glad that I had that choice, because generally the death of a main character shakes up the storyline. And no, they both survive, and to top it all off Malcolm’s all like “Oh I know you thought one of us was going to die, didn’t you?”

      Regardless, the best storyline continues to be Mira’s. Gared’s had promise before he was forced to kill Britt regardless of your intentions. Rodrik’s is sooooooooo meh.

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    25. Awful review . How can you actually compare a game from TTG(a relatively small company) with Witcher 3 ?!
      Do you realize that you control GARED and not Britt ? Let’s say a guy keeps attacking you in the street and you don’t want to fight him . What will you do ? Will you actually just tell him I REFUSE TO FIGHT and leave the place ?!
      Britt’s life had had a big turn , and not for the better , so he wanted to take a partial revenge for what had happened to him , he was determined to kill you on wall . He attacked you with the sole intention of killing or dying in the attempt , no matter what your choice was ! Sometimes what you want doesn’t matter ! Sometimes your choices don’t make a difference ! I would’ve loved it if Ramsay hadn’t killed Ethan , but well , so what ?!
      This game isn’t flawless ofc and everyone is inclined to their own opinion , but the thing is , you’re reviewing it in full-cynical mode which imo is one of the worst things a critic can do . It takes the whole credibility away .
      P.S : This game is tailored by your decisions . Not actually changed , and that’s TTG style , and it has been like that for years . I find it ridiculous that after all this time , people still say the same thing after every single episode !My choices mattered and my story was tailored by it , or was it just me who got all those references to his previous choices ?

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    26. bruh:
      P.S : This game is tailored by your decisions . Not actually changed , and that’s TTG style , and it has been like that for years .

      Everybody read this. Now double-read it again. Remember it well and put it at the forefront of your mind next time you want to complain about it.

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    27. This is really not a game! Its an animated movie with different endings, (slightly)
      Still, well done and intersting story but not really a game where you do stuff to beat anything!

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    28. The White Winged Fury:
      Can someone explain something for me? Duncan reveals to Rodrik that Ludd Whitehill has been ordering his soldiers to pillage and loot farms across Forrester lands, and to persecute their smallfolk. Why then was Britt sent to the Wall for doing the very thing he was ordered to?

      Someone put forward an idea he was sent there as a kind of spy

      Alternatively they don’t like the idea he “escaped justice” when he was sent to the Wall before Ramsay got there so they are sending in Britt to kill him

      Seems to be the games version of Locke perhaps?

      For my part I am enjoying these games. It’s not quite a full-on game, so it’s not surprising that your decisions only make a difference in how the path through the various plot-points plays out, not enough money or resources to fully explore the permutations

      I did cringe a bit at the end though

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    29. Nice job, Cian. You wanted us to remember the shitty articles at WinterIsComing.net, and you even surpassed them.
      I’ve written things on the Internet at the wrong moment that later embarrassed me, so I know how you feel when you now read the article. Look, you can still rewrite the review and make as this never happened, or at least ask an admin to hide it, because it really feels out of place given the high quality of the website. If you don’t like video games or this type of video games, it’s ok, everyone has his taste. But please, let another person with more interest and knowledge on this genre do the reviews. It isn’t serious to read the old “choices don’t matter!” in the article of the THIRD chapter of a series. I think it’s time to understand what kind of narrative the game uses.

      My opinion on topic:
      -Great great GREAT prologue scene with drogon. Best moment of the three chapters.
      -Gared’s storyline is the better, I agree. Cotter revelation really shocked me.
      -I think Britt got sent to the wall because Ethan accused him, so the Boltons had to do something in respect. Or maybe he was just sent to kill and/or spy Gared, we’ll see.
      -Really intrigued with the coal boy and the “people that want to help Mira”. Varys?
      -I really want that the Ironrath scenes start being less depressing in the next episode. I don’t know if I could stand through another humiliation of Gryff.

      -Am I the only one that noted something strange with Rodrik’s voice? Just the tone or maybe a change of actor?

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    30. Sue the Fury,

      Ok, maybe it was a bit too much, but a extremely nitpicky article deserves at least an above-average critic. It really irritated me, because I liked the chapter and came here looking for a high quality article, just like the other ones in this website. What I found was really disappointing, and I got the feeling that Cian really dislikes the game, so in my opinion someone else should do the reviews now on advance.
      Sorry if someone got offended, maybe I should have relaxed before writing that comment. *blink*

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    31. High Sparrow,

      If he didn’t like the previous chapters and want to continue playing them, he wouldn’t have played this chapter. This is a review- and sometimes reviews are bad. It sounds like you came here looking for a positive review, but not all reviews are guaranteed to be that.

      We have a variety of people check out the game chapters but I wouldn’t ask Cian to stop reviewing them simply because he disliked a chapter. We are not required to give everything a good review, and I wouldn’t penalize a reviewer for giving a negative review by not letting him write those posts anymore- that would be extremely dishonest and reinforcing the idea that only positive reviews and reviewers would get posted.

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    32. Sue the Fury,

      If i could interject, I am not looking for reviews that are gushing about this game simply because it is about Game of Thrones. I mean we have seen some really bad games come out with this IP, but… I do sort of expect people reviewing things on this site to like the things they are reviewing. This is a fan site, we are fans of this show and things about it. Now do i expect you to call out bad games like that RTS, yes, but is not the case here at all. It seems like Cian just does not like these types of games. I mean Ivan and Red from Boars, Gore, and Swords who are getting tired of the show and the books freaking love this game. This is one of the reasons i stopped reading the Westeros.org reviews of the show, they do not like them and their reviews show that. that is the same vibe i get out of this review.

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    33. The fact that this review is still up is a little funny. The fact that not a single commenter agrees with the review shows how bad of a review it was. If its not obvious the reviewer just plain doesn’t enjoy TTG.

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