As this series draws closer to its end, all of the carefully laid plans of House Forrester are starting to come together. However, nothing in Westeros is gained easily, and many more sacrifices and setbacks befall the Forresters. In Game of Thrones: Episode Five – A Nest of Vipers, we see that enemies can lurk in every corner, or even right in front of you. We also see characters make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their House.
The fifth episode is where previous Telltale Games franchises have ended but this is actually the penultimate chapter in the series. One could have been forgiven if they believed that things were being dragged out for the sake of producing more episodes. That is far from the case here as Episode Five is the strongest episode yet. We see disparate story lines finally coming together and the stakes being raised further as things head down to their inevitably bloody conclusion.
Mira has met with some success in the previous episode when she found out about a fleet of ships being sent to her home of Ironwrath. This however made her lose her closest ally in King’s Landing. This is especially precarious since she has so few people she can count on, let alone trust. That doesn’t mean that she is without resources though, as Queen Mother Cercei sees how cunning Mira is and decides to help the Forresters… provided Mira can get information from Tyrion, who is currently in custody for the (supposed) murder of King Joffrey.
Mira’s section of the game is engaging due to the fact that you have to try to outwit two Lannisters: Cersie and Tyrion. Both are shrewd and cunning individuals who will use your own words against you. Both of them also require a certain level of ego boosting as well so that’s something that must always be considered when speaking to them. As hard as it is to get Cersei on your good graces or convince her to help you, Tyrion is much harder to manipulate since he is easily one of the most clever people in Westeros. Even when I thought I had said the right things, Tyrion always managed to catch Mira’s duplicity and lies.
On the opposite end of the world is former Forrester squire, Gared Tuttle, who is north of The Wall on a quest to find the North Grove. Gared and his companions get a bit of a respite after being ambushed by wildlings (or free-folk as they call themselves), where they get to talk about their mission and even do some rabbit hunting as well. Things don’t stay quiet for long as the party is ambushed by Wights, the undead that the White Walkers resurrect.
Gared’s section contains one of the game’s thrilling action sequences. As far as mechanics go, it’s the same type of quick time event based gameplay that the series is known for, but the way the battles are staged here always keep things from getting dull. I especially liked how certain motions needed to be timed correctly in order to either attack or defend yourself. This sequence was a bit more hair-raising than others due to the fact that you needed to attack specific body parts of the Wights to actually kill them. Taking out the undead is tricky business indeed.
With only one chapter remaining, I’m a bit worried about Gared’s tale. I don’t see how he can make it to the North Grove and return to the Forresters without the whole affair being rushed. It’s also possible that he will fail in his endeavor which would make his journey kind of pointless. I just hope that some sort of deus ex machina isn’t employed here with regards to whatever magical power is at the Grove. I have to trust that Telltale knows what they are doing with Gared’s story.
Asher Forrester’s portion of these episodes have always had the most action and this chapter is no different. He failed to get the sellswords from Queen Daenerys, so he has to instead recruit pit fighters from Meeren to help him win back Ironwrath. In order to do this however he must prove himself via combat in a fighting pit. This action sequence was easily the most elaborate of the series at this point since it required more reflex based actions on the player’s part. There is also the fact that Asher gets to use a variety of weapons which make it all the more exciting.
Most of the dialogue sequences in the game require a certain level of finesse since you are mostly dealing with nobility or people who are mentally unstable. With the pit fighters however, it was nice to throw subtlety out the window and play to their pride and bloodlust. I enjoyed having Asher give speeches about gaining glory by bathing in the blood of enemies. This also seemed very in-character for Asher to do as well so having him give big boastful speeches felt right.
As empowered as I felt with Asher, the opposite was true for his brother, and current Lord of Ironwrath, Roddrick, who had to contend with the evil Ramsay Snow during the game’s introduction. As I’ve learned with this series, there isn’t much you can do to sway Ramsay when he has that murderous look in his eyes (when doesn’t he though?). It was difficult to have to sit by helplessly as he made someone pay for what he believed was Roddrick’s transgressions against House Bolton. Once again, Roddrick has to suffer humiliation at the feet of his foes.
Roddrick and Asher’s stories finally coincide with a skirmish at Ironwrath which quickly goes bad for the Forresters. During this part of the game, players have to choose which Forrester Lord will live, and conversely, which one will die. Having your characters be killed is one thing, but deciding which one will meet a gruesome end makes witnessing their demise all the worse. However, it was a great sequence which let you go out fighting no matter which character you decided to leave behind. It was a fantastic close to an already exceptionally well put together chapter.
Though the game is still using the same graphics engine as before, it somehow looked better in this chapter. The previous episode’s jagged looking textures seemed to have been smoothed out. As such, the water color template which the series has striven to achieve is more fully realized now. There are some large exterior shots of castles and landscapes which looked absolutely stunning and show what this series is capable of graphically. Here is to hoping that the final chapter will maintain this level of quality.
Speaking of keeping things stable, I noticed that the frame rate of this chapter was as smooth as it was during the earlier episodes. Previously, I noticed that each subsequent chapter’s frame rate became less consistent and more prone to stuttering. However, I barely saw any of that this time around. I’m guessing that Telltale knew this was becoming a bigger issue and took steps to keep things as stable as they could. This is highly appreciated as I didn’t have any moments where I was taken out of the experience due to a low or stuttering frame rate.
The next episode will finish off the season and I expect many more shocking moments full of betrayal and violence. So far, this series has done an excellent job of capturing and honoring the spirit of the novels and television series. I believe that by the end of it, Telltale will have constructed something that is a worthy addition to the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones lore. I expect the final chapter to be something truly exceptional and memorable.
This review is based on a digital copy of Game of Thrones: Episode Five – A Nest of Vipers for the PlayStation 4 which was provided by Telltale Games.