Part of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic’s appeal was how it felt like a Star Wars story without regurgitating anything specific from the original films. Separated from the canon stories by thousands of years, the story couldn’t revolve around familiar characters or events. Instead, BioWare presented the themes and situations that made Star Wars Star Wars in new ways, creating an exciting story of their own that just felt “right”.
That’s exactly what Telltale Games have done with Game of Thrones. Spoilers for one particular playthrough follow.
Where we last left off (or at least, where I last left off), Ethan Forrester had been killed and young Ryon kidnapped by the occupying House Whitehill; squire Gared Tuttle had been sent to the Wall; and Mira Forrester was becoming caught up in the political games of King’s Landing. This episode, we get to control four playable characters across thirteen scenes that flow surprisingly well for such fragmented in-game storytelling.
The bulk of the episode takes place at the seat of House Forrester - appropriate, given that the other storylines revolve around it as well. Rodrik Forrester, previously thought dead but actually only mostly dead, returns to his home via corpse cart to find an occupying force and a power vacuum following the murder of his younger brother. But thanks to his injuries he can barely walk, let alone lead the machismo-hungry troops, so he invokes the popular Westeros tradition of arranged marriage.
The marriage in question is to Elena Glenmour, a character with little to do in this episode other than grump. Elena shows glimpses of agency, but ultimately she’s there to prop up Rodrik - in a political and also literal sense. One scene sees the player more or less trying to talk her into marrying Rodrik, and though I don’t know what all the potential outcomes are, it feels as though she’s likely to accept regardless of the approach taken. At any rate, the marriage - and resultant allies - can’t come fast enough, because House Whitehill quickly claim logging rights over the Forresters’ land. And poor Ryon is still in their clutches! These Whitehills aren’t making any friends.
In King’s Landing:
Mira Forrester, toiling away as Margaery Tyrell’s handmaiden in King’s Landing, doesn’t fare well either. Dealing with Red Keep royalty takes enough of a toll even without Mira needing to help secure Rodrik’s betrothal. That Mira and Rodrik are working towards a common goal helps give the story coherence, but it also takes away some of the Mira’s agency. It’s less interesting watching Mira try to get her brother hitched than to do something for her own more present needs and wants.
Mira’s story this episode is characterised by secrecy and fear. Forging a letter, in my playthrough, as Margaery, she starts making enemies. Soon enough, a mystery contact meets her at midnight, only to attempt to assassinate her. Gaining the upper hand thanks to her servant boy, she goes on the run, setting in motion her story for the next episode. Hope she gets objectives of her own next time.
On the Wall:
Gared Tuttle’s story is mostly place-setting this episode, as the former Forrester squire arrives at Castle Black to find his social standing reset to zero. We’ve seen all this before - the interim Lord Commander busts balls; training is brutal; everyone in the Night’s Watch is morally dubious but hey, they stick by their brothers. The most memorable part of the early Castle Black material is that you can pat a horse. To be fair, it’s really memorable.
It’s at Castle Black that the game becomes a little Forrest Gump-y (or worse, Star Wars Expanded Universe-y) with its use of canon characters. There’s no reason for Jon Snow to appear other than to bring Kit Harrington into the game. Jon and Gared bond over their hatred of the Freys and Boltons, but Jon’s story can’t really accommodate Gared all that much, as Gared vows to find the North Grove, whatever it may be. I have a suspicion that it’s just a some trees in hiding somewhere, but we’ll see.
The freshest material in “The Lost Lords” concerns new character Asher Forrester, living a mercenary’s life in exile across the sea in Yunkai. It’s an unpleasant life: three days after liberation, police brute squads are on the rampage, none too kind to hard-drinking, sarcastic rascals like Asher and his awesome partner in crime, Beskha. These two are looking for one final score to get them out of the game - unsurprising, given that the game includes extremely bloody drunken swordfights.
That final score comes in an unexpected form, as Malcolm, a character I had to look up, arrives to hire an army and bring Asher home. So off the trio set to Merreen to recruit the Second Sons sellswords to their cause. If you’re playing “spot the recurring situation,” this one is the equivalent of Danaerys Targaryen’s. It seems likely to include her at some point. Do people do anything in Essos other than recruit armies?
Only two episodes in, the status quo in Telltale’s Westeros story has changed several times over, and will continue to do so, as indicated by this episode’s cinematic, haunting ending. Telltale have taken all the plot devices from the Game of Thrones - betrayals, marriages, murders, politics, institutionalised misogyny - and put them on shuffle. Aside from occasional distracting cameos by TV show characters, it’s a self-sufficient tale that sits comfortably alongside the canon story, maintaining all the defining characteristics from the source material, for good or ill. Luckily, it’s mostly good.
What did you do in your playthrough? I’m curious to know how much variation there is within the storylines. Did you pat the horse? You’d better have.