Version tested: Xbox One
Also available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PC, Android, iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Graphic Adventure
With one episode to go in the series and a less-than-stellar showing from the previous episode, Game of Thrones Episode 5 “A Nest of Vipers” has a lot of pressure to perform. And it does perform. The lack of adverb in the previous sentence is intentional.
*Some Spoilers Follow*
“A Nest of Vipers” opens where the previous episode left off with Ramsey Snow discussing marriage to the youngest Forrester, Talia. Needless to say, nobody but Ramsey seems excited about this proposal. Before you have to decide whether to accept Ramsey’s offer, he offers to go for a walk with you.
Along your walk, you come upon a gruesome Bolton family tradition–a flaying of a key member of your team from a previous episode. Maybe I made the wrong decisions, but it did not end well.
Continuing the story at Ironrath, more key information has been revealed by the traitor within your midst. The traitor was witnessed by Talia and–after needlessly extended and painful discussion involving neutral pronouns–the traitor is finally revealed and you are given the choice to execute them or send them to jail. I am not going to spoil the traitor, but even if I did the revelation should come as no surprise. Finally, toward the end of the episode, you must make a decision that will end the storyline for at least one of the characters who have been a staple so far in the series.
Meanwhile in King’s Landing, Mira’s exploits at Tommen’s coronation party have landed her in the bad graces of not just Margaery, but also her friend Sera. With no one to turn to, a prospect that comes from Cersei finally sounds somewhat tempting. Of course there are no truly easy decisions in this game, and getting help from Cersei involves betraying fan-favorite Tyrion. By doing so, Mira will supposedly gain support from Cersei in her family’s fight against the Whitehalls.
In Meereen, Daenerys denies Asher’s request for Second Sons. However, being the resourceful exile he is, Asher decides to ask for help from the now-freed pit fighters. This means beating their best man in one-on-one combat. This actually makes for a pretty decent battle, as far as quicktime events go. Telltale notably got rid of most instances of the “mash on A indefinitely and then hit a different button except it’s too late because you already hit A and screwed it up because we don’t have a solid indication for you to stop mashing A” (that’s actually the official industry term for that particular quicktime fight method). After winning over the pit fighters, Asher gets them on a boat and heads back to his home in Westeros.
Finally, we get to the saga of Gareth and his band up beyond the wall searching for the North Grove. He gets to know Sylvi a little better and (if you can shoot well) ingratiates himself to her. Soon though this moment is interrupted by White Walkers and the group is forced to flee toward the North Grove.
As far as story goes, there was certainly more meat in this episode than the previous. The decisions felt like they had more weight, and at least three main characters have the potential to be lost in this episode. However, with only one episode remaining in the series, one has to wonder how the developers are going to wrap it all up. At the end of “A Nest of Vipers” Mira is still in King’s Landing with only faint promises of help from Cersei; Asher has just landed in Westeros with a handful of pit fighters; and Gareth still hasn’t even glimpsed the North Grove (in fact, he’s still not 100% sure it’s even real). This means one of three things for the final episode: 1) Too many story elements will be skated over 2) The episode will be at least twice as long as any of the previous episodes or 3) The season will end on a cliffhanger. The only one of those that sounds appealing is option #2.
To be fair, Telltale has a good track record of ending its series on satisfying notes. Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead both wrapped up their stories in satisfying ways (although Wolf did leave us with a bit of a teaser for a next season that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon). I remember feeling a similar dread on the penultimate episode of each of those, so I am not going to scream doom and gloom just yet. Telltale is used to pulling a good ending out of unsatisfying final episodes.
Many of the technical bugs from the last episode were fixed as well. I had to restart the game once because none of the sound FX were working (footsteps clopping, unsheathing swords SHINGing, the SQUELCH-PLOP of a disembowelment, etc.) and that was unnerving, but a restart worked just fine to solve that. The load times were much more bearable and tension wasn’t broken by clipped video.
All in all, “A Nest of Vipers” was a good addition to the Game of Thrones series, but the final episode has a lot on its plate.