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Game of Thrones: Episode Three - The Sword in the Darkness

By Bobfish06-04-2015

The Defence

Telltale Games
Telltale Games
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.3 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8800
AMD equivalent
4 GB
3 GB

The Case

With the position of House Forrester looking ever more desperate, we reach the mid(ish) point of their tale to find...it's Game of Thrones dude, work it out. If you don't know by now, suffice it to say shit got real. So with that out of the way, how does The Sword in the Darkness hold up, and what does it add?

The Trial

Well, the first thing you do is confront a dragon whilst being chased by an army of murdering sellswords in a cave, so if you came here expecting flowers and rainbows, y'all need to quit whatever you've been smoking. If I was to make any complaint, which I will, it's that the dragon is way too small (though we do learn it's a juvenile) and the fight actually takes place inside a cavern reached by a narrow crevice. Why not just stand at the opening, kill a few of your pursuers and leave the rest of the troops trapped on the other side of all the dead bodies? But let it be known, those are the only problems in episode three. Now we can proceed with all the gushing.

As far as all the technical aspects of the game are concerned, it's identical to the previous two episodes. The only exception being that the anti-aliasing works better now. It still has that odd fuzzy effect around a lot of things, but is far less pronounced now. Beyond that, it's another Telltale game. And it looks, plays and sounds like a Telltale game.

Ooh, hey sailors!

Ooh, hey sailors!

Clocking in at just short of two hours, it remains longer than the average, but shorter than its predecessors in the series, and is certainly the better for it. Pacing is something which Telltale seem to struggle with when they pass the two hour mark. With both of the earlier episodes, and several in the first season of The Walking Dead, starting to drag a little at times. Often reaching moments that feel like a perfect climax, only to jump to another scene that completely kills the momentum, leaving them with an uphill struggle to build you back up again. With The Sword in the Darkness, this is most certainly never a problem.

From the outset, right up to the final moments, the pace is brisk, tense and, most importantly, highly engaging. And though the episode's climax is devoid of action, it does a superb job of rounding off one of Telltale's best episodes to date. Introducing another fan favourite from the larger franchise and opening up a multitude of new possibilities for the beleaguered Forrester family. No spoilers as to who, but it’s worth pointing out, the episode opened with a dragon. Make of that what you will.

Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that the series is really coming into its own now. Where the first, and to a lesser degree the second, episode suffered from a focus on bringing players up to speed. Both those who are familiar with the setting and those, like myself, with little to no knowledge. Now though, that is all very firmly behind us, and it shows as clearly as the difference between night and day. The back and forth between the various characters works far more effectively this time as well. With just the right amount of screen time given to each scene before moving on to the next, and the relative actions of each helping drive home the passage of time without needing to rely on lengthy exposition.

How do you expect me to take you seriously if you don't have a beard?

How do you expect me to take you seriously if you don't have a beard?

There is a lot, a hell of a lot, going on this time. Both in terms of actual content, and the time frame over which it unfolds. Though it seems, in the heat of the moment, like everything is happening all at once, there are telltale (heh) signs that significant time has passed. With not only Gared taking his vows as a Ranger, but also the man who killed his parents in episode one. Having been exiled to the Wall also, for the aforementioned murders, he serves as a more immediate nemesis on which to vent your frustration. But also a warning when considered in context to a troubling fact Rodrick learns at about the episode's mid-point.

When meeting with Gwyn Whitehill, eldest daughter of Ludd and one time suitor of the exiled Asher, she informs him that her Father has a spy in the Forrester household. This casts an ominous shadow over the arrival of Britt, and actually puts his open animosity towards Gared into stark relief. Especially when considered the all too convenient timing of his arrival coinciding with that of Duncan, Gared's uncle. The former brining new information regarding the North Grove mentioned in the first episode.

It seems far too convenient that Britt would be so determined to provoke Gared into open conflict. Culminating in a vicious showdown atop the wall which puts Gared in a most uncomfortable position indeed. Rangers, you see, take a solemn vow to never raise arms against one another. So when Gared is forced to kill his new 'brother', it promises to make his position untenable at best. Providing just the excuse he needs, though clearly does not want, to abandon his position and set out to find the elusive North Grove.

Honestly mate, it wasn't me!

Honestly mate, it wasn't me!

Or perhaps it's all just one big coincidence after all, and I'm just jumping at shadows. But that's the whole point. With all the politicking, double and triple crossing going on, it's impossible not to see snakes in the grass at every turn. Which is precisely how one is supposed to feel when playing the game of thrones. So whether this is a red herring or not, in narrative terms, it does exactly what it is supposed to do. Leaving the player on edge and constantly looking over their shoulder for the next twist of the knife in their back. But that doesn't even scratch the surface.

With the game's timeline now caught up to the wedding between Joffrey and lady Marjory, the former has been killed. And Tyrion Lannister, formerly seeming to be the only ally the Forresters had up to this point, has been arrested in connection with Joffrey's death. Something which happened the very day he promised an official decree that would ensure Ironwood's sale to the crown, providing House Forrester with both a significant boost to their finances, and monarchal protection to boot. Exhausted from all the names and plot twists? You should be. And that's not even the half of it. That's the whole point.

The Verdict

What we have here folks, is a thrilling, exhausting rollercoaster of deceit. A finely woven tapestry of dizzying, internecine schemes all branching back out and into one another. With the entire world and their Uncle seeming to be arrayed against House Forrester for no other reason than the sheer, sadistic fun of it. But then there's that final moment, holding out a tantalising glimpse of a final, desperate chance to bring everything back around and ensure victory. Or something grater. Survival. And frankly, episode 4 cannot come soon enough.

Case Review

  • Brevity: Whilst still clocking in at a respectable length, the story is now progressing far more fluidly.
  • Dragons: I love dragons. Especially when they're burning people to death, like this one does.
  • Foreshadowing: Plot threads are all starting to come into focus now.
  • Length: Yeah, it's still short. And it's still an episodic game. What do you expect?
  • Illusion of Choice: Nothing from the previous episodes has really had any impact on the story so far.
Score: 5/5
One of the best episodes Telltale have ever produced, and far and away the best of the series so far.


OK, we’re up to episode three of six in Telltale’s Game of Thrones. So what do I think? I think the story is progressing along nicely and, as always, it’s more of the same from Telltale. This is a good thing though.

I judge this game, and some others like it, based on how stressed I am when making decisions. If I’m playing a decision based game where all the decisions seem to be no-brainers I tend to not be as invested in it because, to me, there is no real choice. I’m not having that problem here. The Sword in the Darkness has its requisite combat/action sequences, which are a nice change of pace, but the decisions are the meat of the experience and the decisions here in episode 3 almost always had me fighting to settle on what action to take before the timer expires.

When you conclude the episodes you get a screen that shows you the percentage of players who made which choices. Nowhere on this episode was there an overwhelming majority, like 80% or more, making the same choice. Most were pretty evenly split at the time of my completion which suggests that others aren’t finding many no-brainer decisions either. So in a nutshell, The Sword in the Darkness is well worth the playthrough. Now, I need to dock it for something or I’ll have to give it a perfect score. Oh, I know, about that godawful depth of field effect we can’t turn off...

Score: 4.5/5


The Sword in the Darkness, the third episode of Telltale's Game of Thrones is...polar. In some parts it's easy to see the culmination of every skill Telltale has learned over the years being put into one scene, while in others it's like they haven't learned anything.

Chapters five through seven are fantastic! They have drama, and Rodrick went from being a boring grump of a kind to one of the coolest heroes in all of Westeros in my book near the end, but the same can't be said for the whole episode. There's a chunk in right after chapter one that just goes, and goes, and goes. Even though Rodrick is one of the coolest dudes in all of Game of Thrones now thanks to one of the later chapters, the same can't be said about Mira who spends most of her time tiptoeing her way around fancy-pants nobles, and not in the interesting way that devious Game of Thrones politicians like Little Finger or Tyrion have brought us to expect from the series.

There seems to be a developing theme in this series where action is so good that politics becomes boring, and that's a problem when half of your game is politics. I mean, the game opens with a dragon attacking you. And not a small, weak dragon either, this is a legendary, fully fledged, fire breathing monster, and then the very next chapter you just sneer at a guy and talk to a tree. C'mon Telltale! You can't follow up a fight with a dragon with people shooting stink eyes at each other! For all the boring political sections though, the good sections are just too awesome to pass this episode up, and, to be fair, even some of the boring sections do set up important events later on.

Score: 4/5
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