When it was first announced that Telltale had acquired a license for Game of Thrones and would be developing an episodic title based on the series, I was filled with equal parts trepidation and excitement. Disappointingly, this union between one of my favorite developers and one of my favorite fantasy universes failed to really hook me with its first installment, Iron From Ice.
The series second episode, The Lost Lords is much more successful – both as an episodic game and as an adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s work.
Iron From Ice introduced players to the plight of the Forrester family and abruptly ended with a brutal murder at the hands of Ramsay Snow. The Lost Lords emerges from this savagery and chaos to rebuild the series’ own episodic structure – effectively revealing the greater narrative arc as one that is much more rich and sprawling than initially implied.
The first thing that struck me about The Lost Lords is how much more confidence it displays as compared with its predecessor. Iron From Ice tended to recycle tropes from its source material to the detriment of its own narrative. The Lost Lords leaves a much stronger impression by addressing this directly – throwing new characters like exiled sword-for-hire Asher Forrester and the resurrected Rodrik Forrester into the mix whilst simultaneously escalating events to the north and south of Ironrath.
New locales like Castle Black and the city of Yunkai adds some well needed variety to the game’s environments and what the latter lacks in cameos it more than made up with flavor – the action on Essos makes for a delightfully distinctive start to the episode and has some nice visual flair to it. Like the first episode, The Lost Lords is quite long by Telltale standards – though the pacing felt much stronger than its predecessor.
Iron From Ice saw the Forresters act much more like analogues and poor imitations of the Stark family and (thankfully) The Lost Lords breaks away from this, taking major steps to generate a more distinctive and memorable cast.
The resurrection of Rodrik is a big part of this. This surprising and entirely successful addition to the series does a fantastic job of turning the decisions you made in the first episode on their heads. His return helps keep events in Ironrath interesting and, perhaps most importantly, helps escalate the Forrester/Whitehall rivalry from a tedious cliche to a grudge match with real personal and political stakes.
The Lost Lords abandons the somewhat-predictable approach that held Iron From Ice back from great success – paradoxically resulting in an episode that feels much closer to its source material its predecessor. If Telltale can continue to escalate things and maintain this kind of confidence and strong pacing, this could end up being one of their best efforts yet. Stay tuned.