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Game of Thrones: Episode Four - Sons of Winter

By Bobfish30-05-2015

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

We all know what we’re getting into by now. It’s the latest episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones. It looks, sounds and plays like a Telltale game. So let’s forgo all the usual preamble and jump straight in.

The Trial

To open by saying this is not the best episode of the series would be true, but also somewhat misleading. Considering the quality of the three episodes preceding it, which has consistently increased from one to the next, you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m implying this stepped backwards in some way. Which, well, I suppose it kind of did. It’s not as good as the previous episode, but that is really as much criticism as you are likely to hear. In fact, the pacing is the best so far. Where previous episodes seemed to favour shorter scenes to build the impression of tension, jumping from one to another at an often dizzying pace. Sons of Winter favours longer, more sedately paced lingering moments that keep you permanently on edge waiting for something to go wrong.

In fact, one of the best moments of the episode is around the midpoint. As Mira, you are tasked with making your way into a soiree against the express instruction of Lady Mogface. A task which is easy enough in itself, you just ask Sera. But once inside, a lot of plot starts to unfold as characters both new and old impart a great amount of information. Whether by pointed application of eavesdropping, or playing up the whole “I’m a simple handmaiden” card to lull people into a false sense of security. In fact, if you play your cards right, you can burn one of the pompous windbag’s with infinite flair with a flutter of the eye lids and a “afraid of a handmaiden?” closely followed by the Clementine face. You know, that little squinty “dafuq r u doin’” thing she does.

Listen bitch, that’s is MY burrito.

Listen bitch, that’s is MY burrito.

Speaking of faces, during some of the scenes in the Ironrath courtyard, there was a scruffy looking, uhm...some peasant girl, with the exact same character model as Mira. A different hair style, somewhat longer and decidedly more unkempt, but the facial structure and body shape was, literally, identical. It was never made a point of, and she was only ever there, very briefly, in the background. But it strikes me as unlikely that Telltale dropped her in there purely out of laziness. Whether she, or what she implies (what has Lord Forrester been up to aye?) will have any bearing on the coming two episodes remains to be seen. But it was something that caught my eye and, I wager, is worth taking note of.

Or, perhaps I’m simply looking for the wolves at the door. Knowing that there is a spy (pretty sure I already know who) in Ironrath, not to mention the machinations Mira learns of, it’s difficult not to be looking at everything and expecting it to be setting out to murder you in the face. Ramsay Snow arriving in the closing moments didn’t really help with that either. But it was nice to see Lord Whitehill take an axe to the face, even if that did lead to a Game Over screen. Honestly, I would have accepted the death of Rodrick, Lord Royland and Lady Forrester. But Telltale obviously have greater plans for Lord Galatic Ballsack. Seriously, that man has testicles larger than our own sun.

Another, notable, improvement this episode saw was a better allotment of time between the various characters. None of them really dominated, notably, in time, though Rodrick arguably dominated by force of personality. And the roughly two hour play time was certainly the better for it. Whilst I have lamented Telltale’s awkward pacing with longer episodes in the past, this series has really allowed them to work out the kinks in that, with this episode showing they have finally settled into their groove.

Oh hai!

Oh hai!

The specific ordering of events is a marked improvement also. Where earlier episode, both of this series and others, could have intensive action followed by lengthy exposition, Sons of Winter builds consistently. With some small action sequences, which are actually optional for the most part, at the beginning and towards the middle, then a daring raid on Meereen serving as an extremely frenetic climax shortly before the episode’s cliff-hanger ending.

If there were to be any genuine complaints made, which there will be, it is nothing out of the ordinary. Still, still no custom keybindings? Really Telltale, wot r u doin’? The anti-aliasing solution is also still somewhat borked, but does seem to be improving for the most part. There were also a few moments with teleporting or da’Vinci pose character models. But these are small enough that they subtract not one iota from enjoyment of the game as a whole. And are mentioned as nothing more than they truly are, nitpicks.

The Verdict

In short, it’s a great episode. And whilst it is not the best episode in the series, nor is it the worst. Also, it’s worth remembering, even the “worst” episode is still superb. There are a great many developments, such as the young white haired (one of the secret Targaryen’s perhaps?) girl that Cotter leads you to. The secrets discovered at King’s Landing. Ludd Whitehall ostensibly suing for “peace” and the ill-fated timing of Ramsay Snow’s return. But each of these is currently part of a larger story still in transit, so commenting on them in depth is something that needs must wait for a more opportune time. Each of them on their own, nevermind together, is enough to keep ones eyes firmly hooked on the series.

Case Review

  • Art Style: Whilst the ‘graphics’ are still, well, part of a Telltale game, the colour palette is absolutely gorgeous.
  • Foreshadowing: A whole heap of new plot threads are presented, not all of them openly, which promise a lot more twists and turns to come.
  • Pacing: Whilst the episode as a whole may not be the best of the series, the pacing is the best Telltale have ever written.
  • Animations: The increasingly infrequent derping persists, but is often far more amusing than annoying. Did you know Sir Royland is a ninja?
  • Keybindingsa: Still not custom, and it’s a nitpick, but it’s all I can really complain about.
Score: 4.5/5
A superb episode which sets up more plot threads than you can shake a stick at, and that’s not a dig at Rodrick!


Between Asher becoming the mercenary God of Westeros and Rodrik proving himself once again as one of the ballsiest lords in Westeros, Telltale's Game of Thrones is really heating up in this chapter. A couple audio glitches are scattered about and the art style is still resulting in an effect that looks like everyone's skin is getting vaporized right off their arms, but the story and characters are still as good as ever.

Whereas Episode 3 was all about setting things up for the future, Sons of Winter capitalizes on all of that and has characters actually doing things instead of just plotting and scheming in the background. It's genuinely refreshing to feel power in hands of the characters again after the last episode, even if most of those action sequences can look a bit goofy. All of this goes double for Asher who has made a transition from runaway coward to the best axe chucking kill machine to ever step foot in Westeros (besides Khal Drogo that is). Rodrik and Asher are still incredibly interesting characters while Mira and Gared lag behind a bit, but they're becoming better, and as long as Telltale keeps up this streak of doing or planning Game of Thrones will just keep getting better and better.

There were plenty of improvements in this episode compared to the last, and besides some technical issues like audio cutting out prematurely or a character model rushing past the screen at 5x the walking speed of everyone else, things are getting better overall. If you play Telltale games for the story, characters, and their effect on their worlds, you're going to be happy with Sons of Winter.

Score: 4.5/5
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