Starting amongst the fray of Asher’s latest swash-buckling adventure, The Sword in the Darkness establishes action, mystery and the fantastical from the outset. And while there are many scenes that propel the plot forward, the latest chapter in Telltale’s Game of Thrones series certainly feels like an intermediary between the excitement. It does, however, set up some high-stakes scenarios for later on, and despite my complaints, this episode still manages to pack in a lot of top-notch storytelling within a few short hours. The Forrester children (and Gared, of course) are given many significant moments of bravery, waning integrity, and even some light-hearted banter.
The majority of such witticism comes from Asher and his adventure across the Narrow Sea. Even the threat of death from the Lost Legion does little to crush his spirits, and his philanthropic mission does little to deter the pirate from pocketing some coin. This then continues on into some bawdy fun with a mercenary named Croft, and makes Asher the most likeable character of the Forrester lot.
Of course, rude jokes about appendages are not the only enticing element of Asher’s journey, as the introduction of dragons adds an element of fantasy not yet seen from Telltale’s offering. A small-scale fight may only give a glimpse into the world of large, colourful creatures of mythology, but it was one of the most exciting moments in this chapter. Unfortunately, the coolness of dragons is then undercut by a choice that has little to no ramifications for the player; the same disappointing result is achieved with either option.
Back at Ironrath, threats and tensions are continuing to mount with great force due to the absolutely detestable Whitehill clan. Lord Whitehill’s son, Gryff, has taken control of the hold, and is even allowing his men to sleep in the Forrester’s great hall. Disrespectful behaviour is rife here, and while the insults of northern idiots may become grating, they do manage to create a sense of determination; a determination to stand up fiercely to tyranny. On multiple occasions, I would refuse to back down to their torments, even when faced with the slaughter of the Forrester family. Above all, this episode relishes in a genuine appreciation for integrity, and while there will certainly be trouble ahead because of my defiance, laughing in the face of those scoundrels was monumentally satisfying.
Another satisfying inclusion can found up at The Wall: a hidden locale that may be the key to the Forrester’s victory over the treachery that has befallen them, known only as The North Grove. Gared is tasked with finding the mysterious site, shortly after he and his uncle read a map like a couple of children. Despite his idiocy, Gared is steadily becoming one of the greatest characters, as he is faced with the prospect of desertion, creating conflict within a young lad that wants to honour both his new brethren and his old family alike. His scenes go from the deeply poignant, to the downright awesome. They begin with a solemn prayer, continue with some newly-developed camaraderie, and end with a kick that would make King Leonidas extremely proud. Gared Tuttle’s story epitomises the genuine Game of Thrones experience, with a number of highs and lows that emphasise his loyalty, brutality, spirit and fear.
The events at King’s Landing have generally been the lowest points of the series so far, and here they are no exception. While Lady Margery’s wedding may provide a distinctly festive atmosphere of revels, colour and vibrancy, this does little to shield Mira from the boring events surrounding it. The situation with Tyrion and the iron wood has been dragged out long past its welcome; the assassination attempt from episode two is never truly expanded upon and Margery herself is still as insufferable as ever, with an expression of shifty coldness constantly strewn across her face. The saving grace of this portion is Mira’s descent from fearful handmaiden into desperate thief, highlighting the corrupting influence of the city’s desolation. She has finally been given something to do, and it appears that the meek child from previous encounters has been overcome with the devious nature of her King’s Landing elders.
Despite having some flaws in the south of Westeros, The Sword in the Darkness truly shines when venturing to The North, The Wall and across to the slaver cities in the East. The stories of Gared, Asher and Ironrath are becoming ever more complex, and therefore more interesting as a result. Mira’s ventures leave much to be desired, but I remain hopeful that she will be involved in more griping scenarios now that she has acquired her newfound streak of assertiveness.
Although very few player choices actually have an impact on the events of this particular episode, the tease for the next chapter suggests that big trouble in little Westeros is close at hand. With a dragon on the loose, the episode concludes with an encounter between Asher and a very special lady. I sense a lot of Kalessi in the future, and that will surely be excellent.