(This is a tentative review critiquing an ongoing series. As such, this review will contain no final score, but an individual critique and summary that is solely based on the experience of the episode. This game’s overall critique is subject to change in other episode reviews and will be determined after the final installment.)
(This review of Game of Thrones: Episode 2 — The Lost Lords is spoiler free.)
After the sudden shock ending of Episode 1 (which you can read our review of here), Telltale invites us back into the tragic tale of House Forrester. But Episode 2, subtitled “The Lost Lords”, doesn’t exactly present itself a full-fledged episode. Each quick snap between main characters, coupled with the short length spent with each of them, made “The Lost Lords” appear as more of a catch up episode, reminding me of each character’s plight and adding only a few scenarios of consequence.
But that isn’t to say that episode 2 offers nothing new or lacks any important resolutions; It actually introduces a few key elements that have easily become my favorite in the series so far, including a new main character: Asher Forrester. Only mentioned in the first episode through disgruntled whispers and last resort plans, I finally got to meet the man who feared for his brutality, even among his own house. The man I got to know throughout the episode, as well as his travelling partner Beskha, was much more than a violent brute, but also a man who is somewhat sentimental, whether it’s worry expressed towards his family or his charming sarcasm towards Beskha. While that may just be in part of the way I personally played him, Telltale allowed his character to remain flexible and nudged me in that direction slightly.
More importantly though, I came to another realization as to why I enjoy Asher’s story arc: he’s the only Forrester so far who isn’t portrayed as a victim. Westeros is filled with dread and despair at every turn, which Episode 1 hammered home to remind us. But in Asher’s shoes, there’s a sense of a destructive hope (if that makes sense). His tale is still fraught with tension and danger, but at least it’s a bit on the adventurous side.
“The Lost Lords” as a whole comes across as more of a second prologue than a real continuation of the story. Plots progress and characters come and go — sometimes by the sword, sometimes by deception — with each new crucial decision, but that’s delegated towards the last half to a third of the episode. The outset of the episode is very much like what they do in many anime shows — the one I have specifically in mind is Dragonball Z — where the first five to ten minutes is solely to re-establish the characters and their arcs. It’s slow, rocky start grinds the pacing to a halt, creating a bizarre offset to the startling twists it suddenly starts slinging at the player.
Onto the more technical side of the episode, I died for the first time in “The Lost Lords”. I died. In a game that emphasizes storytelling flow and immersion, that’s a statement I should not have to make. Past QTE (Quick Time Event) failures in Telltale titles — and a few present in the very episode itself — have a form of failure progression in the game; this means that if you blunder a button press, the fight continues unfavorably which might lead to something undesirable happening later on. But instead of using this mechanic consistently, one of my characters died because I missed one QTE and I was presented with a “Game Over” screen. It’s utterly bewildering why they would implement this sort of design as it completely broke the immersion of the game.
Speaking of breaking immersion, Telltale games have a strong tendency to be riddled with bugs and technical errors and “The Lost Lords” is no different. In fact, compared to Episode 1, “The Lost Lords” was even more of a disaster in the bug department. Sound glitches, severe fps drops, game freezing and unacceptable load times plagued my Westeros experience. These were sparse in previous games and the previous episode, giving it a somewhat passable mark, but “The Lost Lords” showed problem after problem frequently. Telltale needs to focus on their engine’s problems if this keeps happening.
So in the end, Episode 2 is more of an intermediary episode. There are a few new interesting introductions and harrowing choices but most of the episode is just a look back at the recent misfortune of House Forrester and their step by step struggle to fight back. As it’s only episode 2, I’m still anticipating where my choices will lead — or if it differs at all — and what will become of the characters I’ve come to know.
Written and Edited by Tim Atwood