By Josh Kenehan

The penultimate episode of Telltale Games‘ sojourn into the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, titled A Nest of Vipers, once again delivers that trademark brutality of GRRM’s creation. Deceit, life or death decisions and the struggle for survival, staples of Telltale and GoT, are seen in spades. We’d expect nothing less.

In the wake of the capture of Meereen, House Forrester is no nearer to securing the future of the family. Beyond the Wall, Gared nears the elusive North Grove, but the threat of the white walkers looms close. Mira is in hot water with Margaery in King’s Landing. Lord Forrester must still attempt to hold off the Whitehills and the Bolton overlords, and Asher needs to find an army while the Mother of Dragons wages her war on Slaver’s Bay. Things never seem to go smoothly for the keepers of Ironrath.

This latest instalment gears up for the finale of Season 1, but lacks its own umpf. It tries to keep the player engaged, but everything still seems just out of reach. There just isn’t enough meat in this episode to satisfy. There is some gratification, it has to be said, but what victory you gain seems hollow, as it does most of the time in this game, it seems. With the HBO series, the wide range of people and places make the story so expansive and overwhelming, but with the smaller scale of the game, the high risk of your decisions become so personal and dramatic. Maybe this is great story-telling, and it certainly is emotional and effective, but often unsatisfying.

Interaction with the show’s stars, while fun, and immersive in terms of the extended universe, seems a bit forced. Having an interactive conversation with the likes of Tyrion and Ramsay Snow is exciting in theory, but does it really work? They’d can’t be influenced, they’re already on the path the show has made for them. It’s difficult to accept sometimes, and it does affect how you decide to play the game. It can be quite jarring.

In the end, A Nest of Vipers provides the Telltale experience: choice and the unexpected. Traitors are revealed, battles fought and friends sacrificed… This will be a particularly heart-wrenching play. It never gets easy to make those split second decisions that you know can’t be reversed. The result is almost always awful but it always reels you back in. How does the Forrester’s story end? With those who are left alive, and this game’s track record, who knows? I’m sure many players will return to see the looming finale of the first season of Game of Thrones.

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