Game of Thrones: Episode 5–A Nest of Vipers
Developed by Telltale Games
Published by Telltale Games
Available on Ps3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac
After a couple of somewhat lackadaisical episodes, filled with table-setting, stage-dressing and a series of questionably relevant choices, Telltale’s Game of Thrones is finally pulling the curtain back with episode 5, which is certainly the finest to date, even with some pretty noticeable flaws.
Beginning with an opening that plays off of the Ramsey Snow reveal from the ending of Sons of Winter, a Nest of Vipers starts at its absolute weakest, with more of Iwan Rheon phoning it in for his silly background role in this series. The problem with having secondary writers taking on a character like Ramsey Snow is that he can’t help but come across as fan fiction. It takes a certain deft hand to temper a character like this, and without that he comes across ham-fisted and goofy, even at his most menacing. Iwan Rheon seems to know that he’s playing with second tier material here, and his performance reflects it, taking away from what meaning the death of a certain second-tier character might have had–if any at all.
Once again in this sequence, as in previous episodes, we’re put in the position of knowing our choices are sometimes pointless even as we’re faced with them, and it’s Telltale at its most clunky when we’re given the chance to “stab” Ramsey. Anyone who’s been paying even a small amount of attention can surmise that Ramsey is currently still alive on the HBO show, and since this plot line is set during S4 it’s completely pointless to even try and take him out. The stats at the end of the episode confirmed that most people noticed this flub, with nearly 70% of players choosing not to try and murder one the most hateable characters in the entire mythology.
While we’re on a negative slant, the gameplay this time around is particularly troublesome, with elements from previous episode QTEs popping up at random and without much warning. If you can hit that rabbit during the Gared section, you’re a better archer than I, and the timed button presses during fight sequences, with their counter-intuitive ring system, continue to frustrate.
Luckily, after this clumsiness, we’re on a steady upswing for the remainder of the episode. Asher bargains with Daenerys for his sellsword army (leading to an uncharacteristic note of dishonesty from the Mother of Dragons), Mira faces the consequences of her confrontations, and in the biggest surprise, Gared finds himself tangling with White Walkers north of the wall. This Game of Thrones staple appearing in his plotline seems to add a bit more relevance to his search for the North Grove, pairing him, by comparison, with a character like Bran Stark. We don’t know what Gared will find when he finally reaches the North Grove but it has to be of some import lest all of the time we’ve spent with him be a complete waste.
Another stand out section is Mira being caught between Cersei and Tyrion in King’s Landing. Though the Cersei scenes are, again, a touch clunky, with Cersei even going so far as to use the same pet name she used on Sansa Stark, the Tyrion scene, which takes place in his dungeon, is nearly profound, allowing Peter Dinklage’s charm and inflection to ease through the digital void in ways we haven’t seen in his previous appearances.
The real thrillers come in the second half of the Rodrik section however, and it is in these moments that this episode reminds us why we should care about the Ironrath conflict. With the long dangling plot point of the traitor being revealed at last, and the burning of the cane that follows, Rodrik’s scenes are filled with dramatic gravitas, right up until he meets with his brother at last in this episodes closing moments.
Forcing you to choose between two of your four central protagonists in the final moments of the experience lends a real sense of meaning and power to the coming finale, while setting up the inevitable war for the Ironwood with appropriate stakes. It’s a characteristic penultimate episode for any Game of Thrones season, and that alone should leave fans pining for the end of this occasionally uneven tale.