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Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Game of Thrones: Episode Three - The Sword in the Darkness (Sony PlayStation 4)

Game of Thrones: Episode Three - The Sword in the Darkness, as the midway point in Telltale Game's latest episodic epic, does an excellent job of pulling more narrative threads together while dangling just enough new ones to keep you invested. The writing continues to be strong, but a lack of high points left me with the overwhelming sensation that the best is yet to come.

This third episode in the series got off to a strong start - any time you can introduce a dragon to the mix, you have a recipe for excitement. Bookended by my favourite action sequence so far, The Sword in the Darkness started and ended on high notes, but most of the events in between is the framework for something bigger than this episode. It lacked the startling conclusion of Episode One, and the character development from Episode Two, in other words, and certainly doesn't stand on its own merits as a narrative as a result.

There are also a couple of notes of concern for the rest of the series, now that we are three episodes down. So far the story of Mira in King's Landing has been the most underwhelming. It is a shame, because it tends to bring in the most appearances from established characters from the show and books, but at the same time her character is floundering about is an almost perpetually uncomfortable way. That is intentional, and before everything concludes, I have no doubt that she will have larger part to play in all of this, but right now her story arc is little more than uninteresting water treading.

While Mira's story is mired in political intrigue and angles, Rodrik's proves more interesting because of the balance he has to strike not just for his own good, but the good of others he cares about. There is a very physical threat from the Whitehills that he is attempting to manage and his choices have given me the impression that they will be the most meaningful not only in the present, but also the future. There are other characters, such as Gared and Asher, who are more action-heavy but have fewer apparent narrative consequences attached to the decisions you make for them them right now, and that almost make those two characters more liberating to play.

This is a delicate balance that the writers at Telltale Games have managed to strike, so that even when the pacing of the narrative is more interested in setting the stage for what is to come, the game itself still works well. The narrative continues to shift between protagonists, making it more akin in presentation to the books than the television show, but no character overstays their welcome on the screen. The cut away points are perfectly timed, leaving you to wonder what will happen next for one character left in the frying pan as you take over a new one threatened with the fire themselves.

This balanced pace makes it easier to overlook the fact that when everything was said and done, very little actually changes. I appreciated the call backs to the show in particular with Mira's tale, reminding me yet again how fragile alliances can be and how something that seemed like a good idea last episode might in fact prove to be a poor one today. Several decisions that were made in The Sword in the Darkness do not really come to fruition yet, leaving that impression that more is to come soon - but we have to wait patiently for just a little longer.

Thankfully this was the largest episode in a Telltale Games release in some time. The game never overstayed its welcome, but I sunk close to three hours in as I soaked in the atmosphere, wandered around and interacted with as much as I could along the way. Those looking to burn right through the episode can probably do so in under two hours, but I would not recommend it. The world is rich enough that it deserves your time.

Game of Thrones: Episode Three - The Sword in the Darkness was my least favourite in the series so far. I assume it will become a very important part of the narrative, but its highlights are few enough and far enough in between with the promise of more to come that it comes away somewhat less than its predecessors.

- Nick H.
US Editor

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Review: Game of Thrones: Episode Three - The Sword in the Darkness (Sony PlayStation 4)
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