Just as the show itself tends to give us harrowing episodes ahead of the finale, so too have HBO and Telltale Games done with Game of Thrones’ penultimate episode - A Nest of Vipers. Episode 5 was full of heavy decisions that are sure to impact the last entry in drastic ways, but not everything is perfect in this digital version of Westeros.
This time around, there seemed to be less focus on allowing the player to explore the environment, and more time spent jumping from one meaningful conversation to another, with the odd mini-cutscene thrown in. There were so many conversations occurring in rapid succession, but well-placed quick-time events (QTEs) allowed for better pacing that of previous episodes.
With that said, the episode felt incredibly short, and that is one of gripes I have with this entry. As much as I love that we are starting to see where all the events up until now are leading, having a few small conversations make up an entire chapter results in a far quicker experience.
Several of the characters’ chapters felt a little fillery too, as though they had to add a little drama just so they had something to say leading up to the finale. Truth be told, unless the next episode turns out to be incredibly long, a lot of what went down probably could have been cut, or merged with Episodes 4 and 6 to make the season a total of 5 episodes long. But that doesn’t mean A Nest of Vipers was without awesome moments, and gut-wrenchingly important decisions.
I love the decision that was given at the end... well, actually, love is a strong word, as this is that kind of love-hate that tends to happen with Game of Thrones. After the last few episodes, I think Telltale Games managed to successfully lull me into a false sense of security for this cast of characters I’ve come to love as much as those in the show and books - that’ll teach me.
As for the story, I’ve already mentioned that I feel this had quite a bit of padding, and this time it’s Gared’s adventures that felt a bit like re-treading old ground - although we did get a nice push towards the end that’s sure to result in an interesting confrontation. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how the actions occurring beyond the wall could possibly end up mattering to those back at the Forrester’s home of Ironwrath, but I guess we’ll find out.
Speaking of Ironwrath, the start was a little rough. I feel it has got to the point where it’s shown how you can overuse a cameo, and perhaps overly display that illusion of choice I’ve been mentioning since Episode 1. Other than that, the big decisions that had to be made here probably should have felt tougher, but honestly, I made them in a heartbeat and would do the same again, just as quick, at a moments notice.
I think Telltale Games managed to successfully lull me into a false sense of security for this cast of characters I’ve come to love as much as those in the show and books.
Some of the events in King’s Landing also felt a little underwhelming, but one of them happened to be the part of this episode that I felt I had to replay over and over to make sure I made the decisions I wanted to make. Not because I wanted to change my mind, but because the options weren’t exactly clear on what sort of response they were, which resulted in a few outcomes that I wasn’t expecting - well that, or it was that nasty illusion coming into play again, only a little more forcefully.
That’s an unfortunate thing about these pick-your-dialogue titles, players have a direction they want to take the conversation, and it’s up to the developers to read our minds to come up with a short list of phrases that accurately portray what we all want to say based on what we feel we would do as the character in that situation… and they don’t always provide what we want, so we have to make do with the results we are given.
My final thoughts on the story of this episode relate to the portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen. She felt a little off - I’ve always taken her as someone who would never break their promise, and I feel that despite not entirely doing so, during her short stay in the game, her actions didn’t feel as honorable as I’ve always seen the character to be. I truly wonder what sort of events could occur with her based on our decisions should there ever be a Season 2.
Regarding the looks of the title, once again, I love how it evokes the feel of the show within this game environment. It’s impressionistic art style is still great, and only a few moments of stutter held the graphics back. There was a bow and arrow section that didn’t give you much of a chance to get the hang of, but nothing a quick reload couldn’t fix if you wanted to get it down - in saying that, I would love to be able to skip dialogue and cutscenes - that really would have helped the replay value.
I really do enjoy my time with each episode of HBO and Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones, and A Nest of Vipers is no different. Episode 5 has it’s flaws, and as I’ve said, there is a quite a bit of what felt like filler content, but as a lead-in to the finale, it left us with numerous cliffhangers, and a gloriously tough decision that is sure to make what’s up next a ton of fun. With a title like “The Ice Dragon”, Episode 6 sounds like Telltale still have a lot of content up their sleeves, and I for one am on the edge of my seat waiting to see how this epic plays out.