Game of Thrones: Episode Two – The Lost Lords
In the past, some of the established franchises that developer Telltale Games has adopted have been a little unexpected. Whether it’s taking on The Walking Dead series, the lesser known Fables comic books for The Wolf Among Us or carving out an entirely new take on Gearbox Software’s Borderlands video games, Telltale have made judicious choices that always felt a step ahead of expectations. Now having established their unique brand of point-and-click adventures, the sprawling Game of Thrones universe is perhaps Telltale’s most obvious port of call yet, a series that is as multi-faceted as a diamond and, at times, just as precious.
With so much scope on offer to prospective storytellers, last year's inaugural episode Iron From Ice did a bang-up job of threading new characters and a concentrated story arc into a narrative that even casual viewers of the show would recognise. This second episode, The Lost Lords, doesn’t quite have the slow burning grip of its predecessor and in true GoT style, introduces even more characters that will likely take some acclimatisation. Having set the scene, whilst managing the odd patented gory shock in Iron From Ice, it’s down to The Lost Lords to play things a little straighter in order to propel the narrative.
As with other Telltale episodes, there are some issues with the division of interaction and passive viewing. Some scenes in The Lost Lords can feel a bit lengthy and though they are broken up with player-led choices, many feel fairly ephemeral. You may be given a trio of responses to a certain situation but often it can feel like three sides of the same coin, as if the scene will play out more or less the same regardless of your input. Yet whilst that may be true at times, there are certainly some pretty divergent forks in the road too, decisions that will have your thumb hovering over your joypad’s face buttons whilst you grimace at the ever depleting time bar forcing your hand.
In one particular scene you’re faced with ensuring that a previously-arranged marriage of military convenience is still in place even though, in the interim, your face has been kebabed well beyond the accepted parameters of ‘alluring and dangerous scar’. It’s set up and signposted well so you’re under no illusion that this is an important juncture that will require the right level of tact and humility. There are other such moments too and they more than make up for some of the more scripted scenes inbetween.
Visually, Game of Thrones is far from pushing any boundaries on last-gen consoles, let alone the shiny new black box under your TV. It is however perfunctory enough and many of the little creases that plagued Telltale’s game engine with The Walking Dead have now been ironed out, meaning GoT is a much smoother experience. It’s not perfect by any means, and there was still the odd hiccup on our playthrough but such instances are now much easier to overlook.
Other areas of production are less of an issue. Scripting and acting are without fault and whilst the bulk of screen time is dominated by some fresh blood, there are plenty of familiar faces that give proceedings a nice tie-in to the overall universe. Coupled with the ease of play and GoT is something that even non-gaming fans of the show can appreciate.
Whilst not as immediate or as gripping as episode one, The Lost Lords wins out by keeping its various story threads warm and setting up the precarious pieces for what is looking to be a typically unpredictable story run. There’s a ways to go yet, four more episodes to be precise, but The Lost Lords is enough to ensure we tune in again next time.