You Already Know You’ll Be Bitten
Telltale has the habit of making their second to last episodes in series be their weakest ones, and their Game of Thrones series is likely their weakest series in and of itself. So what happens when you put those together? Something that’s not very fun. I wouldn’t say Episode 5, A Nest of Vipers , is a bad game. Rather, it’s a depressing and discouraging one. It makes you feel so bad about the characters and the whole Game of Thrones universe that you just kind of want to give up.
This episode kicks off with Rodrick talking with Ramsay Bolton, and oddly enough, that’s the first problem the episode encounters. Anyone who has been following the show or the books knows that Ramsay, the evil person he is, survives. So your choices don’t feel like they matter here. You don’t particularly care about, say, selling your sister into marriage because you know she isn’t the person Ramsay marries in the end, and you certainly don’t want to make any move to attack him, because you know he is still alive in the main storyline. The illusion of choice, however strong an illusion it might be, was broken as soon as the episode started and it discouraged me from playing the game by making decisions as I thought the characters would, and instead encouraged me to try to “win” with my choices with the prior knowledge I had.
The story continues on and gets really gory, far more gory than previous episodes. The blood and viscera flies in many scenes, and it’s much more graphic than it has been in prior episodes. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Yes, Game of Thrones is a gory series, but the gore in these scenes isn’t actually furthering the story. In fact, the first gory scene, which I won’t spoil, literally accomplishes nothing. There’s a bunch of gore and then the story is reverted back to where you were before the episode even started. It’s like the scene exists just to gross you out.
One thing that has really been annoying me since this series started is the way it’s handled characters from the mainline series. Everyone seems more skewed toward the evil or incompetent side. Margarey, while not a saint, is made out to be far more unforgiving than she was in the show, and Daenerys is characterized as a shady businessperson who looks to get out of any deal she makes while in the show she is slightly unsure of herself and sticks to her principles. Spoiler alert example here: in the show she was ready to string up every slave owner in Mereen shortly after she took it, but in the game we accidentally killed ONE slave owner, in the heat of battle, and she says, “Whoops! Sorry, no deal, suckers!” It completely breaks character and makes it feel like I’m playing in a version of Game of Thrones with even more backstabbing betrayers than there already were – and that’s saying something!
If I were to describe the feeling of Episode 5 overall it would be, “discouraging.” Telltale continues this series’ tradition of invalidating everything you did in the episode prior. Even if you jailed your enemy as Rodrick, a higher power sets him free. Even if you were stealthy as Mira, Lannister guards still find you. Even if you did everything Daenerys said, she won’t aid you. Nothing you do is ever rewarded.
The game then asks you to play through it again, making decisions and trying to save your family with all these different characters, but it doesn’t work. The feeling of pointlessness is just too heavy in this episode. I struggled to continue on because I knew my choices weren’t making a difference. The game would constantly show me shadows of success just to take that success away, and while stories of tragic downfall can be compelling, I don’t actually feel like I’m even guiding the house’s downfall. Every episode starts you back at tabula rasa , which makes the decision making feel like a waste of time.
The rest of the episode falls into the trap of making you do busywork in order to progress. Want to see the next chapter in the conflict between the Forresters and Whitehills? Too bad! Play this rabbit hunting mini-game first. Oh, and we are going to very poorly explain the controls so you never realize you can’t fully aim. No, just wait with your bow trained on a spot and wait for rabbits to come through. This is not the epic tale of politics and swordplay I signed up for.
The game also has a habit of cutting to different stories at the worst time. Like, usually you’d cut to a new character after a battle, but on more than one occasion Episode 5 cuts away BEFORE a battle. So you are ready to do some sort of quick time event that will save you and your friends from utter destruction and in a blink you are doing something completely different. It wrecks the game’s pacing.
But despite the episode’s many many flaws, it does have some great moments. There’s this one point where you get to piece together a speech with Asher as he says it, which gives you this fantastic feeling of triumph. Immediately prior to that you get to have a pit fight with your choice of several different weapons, which is pretty fun. There is also a confrontation with the traitor you have been chasing since the first episode, and that has a lot of payoff.
Still, this is once again a second-to-last episode that ends up being the weakest episode. No matter how accomplished I feel, I know that I’m not actually doing anything. I know nothing is changing. I know next episode I’m going to feel powerless again, and everything I did in this previous episode will barely be addressed. I have to admit, Game of Thrones has been hard to get through. So much horrible tragedy befell my characters and I was powerless to do anything about it. I wanted to quit. I still want to quit. But there’s one episode left, and coming this far means I absolutely have to ride the story of house Forrester to the end. Just don’t expect this episode to feel rewarding. Look at it as something you have to do for the inevitable finale.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The graphics are beautiful, but they don’t shine through as well this time. 4.0 Control
Simple point and click interface, nothing different here. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Still fantastic voice acting performances, especially from cameos. 2.0 Play Value
I can’t care about any of the plot. Everyone dies and there’s nothing I can do about it, and that feels profoundly disempowering and not fun to play. 2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best