Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness Review

With season 5 of the TV series fast approaching, Telltale Games’ episodic series based on Game of Thrones has just dropped the third of six planned episodes. Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness further progresses the story of the hereto suffering Forrester family and allows players to begin to see how their decisions will start to shape the narrative.

Whilst the first two episodes thus far have felt more like setup work with only a couple of major decisions being made with the remainder of the running time being padded out by dialogue, The Sword in the Darkness, although it felt shorter than the previous chapters has finally managed to create a feeling that the story is actually starting to move forwards a little. It still retains its dark overtones of course and our protagonists can’t seem to catch a break, but you can almost feel that coming to an end in the near future.

There is a lot going on in the game and in The Sword in the Darkness the four separate stories and the decisions made in each are starting to impact on one other slightly, a promising sign for episodes to come. Players continue to experience the land of Essos through the eyes of Asher, with he and his entourage slowly making their way from Yunkai to Mereen, Gared continues his training with the Night’s Watch at Castle Black with Jon Snow, Mira deals with the fallout from the final chapter of Episode 2 whilst getting drawn into the quarrel between Cercei and Margery Tyrell in the midst of King’s Landing and the remaining lords and castellans of Ironrath continue to deal with the presence and occupation of their land by the rival Whitehill family.

The game retains progression issues that have been hampering it from the start. As there are four simultaneous narratives running at once, the game seems to flip between playable characters on a regular basis following brief conversations or snippets of action and whilst it is an attempt to feed decisions and consequences into the overarching narrative, it also feels like the story is stuck in first gear and burning time until it drops the inevitable cliff-hanger during the final chapter. Having said that, the storylines are starting to converge a little and as with episode 2, you can begin to see some consequences being brought up in conversations and some threads appearing between the characters.

If you are this far into the series, you’d not be surprised to learn that the latest episode continues the trend of dialogue heavy gameplay being broken up by a few short, restricted exploration sequences and some of those button-mashing action sequences. As ever, there’s very little in the way of actual gameplay with storytelling taking top priority.

As mentioned in the previous episodes, the same few issues make a comeback once again with some muddy edges around objects and characters that would otherwise provide a nice aesthetic design. The animations are still a little primitive and the story seems to stall in places whilst unnecessary dialogue pads out the running time.

The Sword in the Darkness represents the halfway point in the Forester’s story and despite similar situations and similar content to the first two chapters there is more forward momentum here than in the previous chapters and a definite sense that after a lengthy introduction and character building phase that there will be some serious narrative progress in the not too distant future. Let’s just hope that the story takes it up another notch in the upcoming release of Episode 4: Sons of Winter.

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