The third episode in Telltale’s Game of Thrones series, The Sword in The Darkness continues to execute on the confident storytelling that drove previous chapters – but distinguishes itself through a greater focus on the political powerplays of its source material.
Given the episode’s title derives from the sworn vows of the Night’s Watch, The Sword In The Darkness unsurprisingly spends a lot of time with Gared and his rise through the ranks of the Night’s Watch. Though his sequences do initially seem to retread a lot of the character development fans of the books or show will be familiar with, they quickly evolve into some gripping decisions and surprise appearances.
If The Lost Lords was about setting the Forrester family on the path to victory, The Sword In The Darkness is about mapping out a path for how to get there – and it’s particularly effective on this front when it comes to Gared’s plotline. Though Gared’s time at Castle Black thus far has explored very similar territory to Jon Snow’s arc, this episode does a great job of highlighting the differences between the characters and leveraging those differences to tackle a number of compelling scenarios and developments. The Sword In The Darkness marks a shift from Telltale offering players the chance to step into the shoes of a man on the wall and a shift towards giving them the chance to make decisions that take them where the Crows of Castle Black fear to tread.
The other central player of The Sword In The Darkness is Mira. The episode’s seamless incorporation of the series’ second big canonical event – The Purple Wedding – is a shot in the arm when it comes to events in Kings Landing – though the continued absence of Oberyn Martell is noted. Mira continues her trajectory from pawn to player in the game of thrones and there are some great moments that force Mira to choose between the interests of her friends, her family and herself. Appearances from Cersei and Tyrion are predictably delightful and there are some tantalizing hints that Mira could wield some real power of her own in future installments.
While there’s nothing as dull as the exposition-dumps of Iron from Ice, there are some weaker aspects to the proceedings. Asher once again finds himself shafted of screentime and the occupation of Ironrath does sometimes feel like a locale that’s been left in the lurch until events unfold elsewhere in Westeros.
Though it’s action-heavy opening and closing may imply otherwise, The Sword In The Darkness moves away from the bloody violence Game of Thrones is known for and towards a focus on the ever-escalating game of deception – wherein lies the series’ real appeal.