Game of Thrones: The Lost Lords Review: Rising From The Ashes

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Telltale’s Game of Thrones series continues on with The Lost Lords. Picking up more-or-less right where the first episode leaves off, this second episode wastes no time letting you know what the title is all about. The Lost Lords slows down the tide of constant references to the HBO show and instead focuses on, as the title would suggest, the lost Lords of Ironrath that are currently spread out over Westereos at the beginning of the episode.
Fair warning, this review will assume you have played through all of Iron From Ice, so there will be no attempt to hide spoilers of that episode. If you’re looking for a review of the first episode of this series, you can find the one I wrote when it released a few months ago. If you’re looking for a review of Episode 3, you are from the future and should already know about the game anyway.

Story

Not surprisingly, this is the most important aspect of Game of Thrones: The Lost Lords and is weighted the heaviest in the score. Luckily for it, and anyone who purchased a season pass for the series, the story is fantastic. While the story and writing of Iron From Ice was far from terrible, it suffered a bit from the constant need to shove Game of Thrones characters and references in your face. Couple that with the fact that it was tasked with setting up the entire season, and it made for a bit of murky writing from time to time. The Lost Lords ditches all those issues entirely, and gives you four extremely varied and interesting characters to experience the story through.
The first is an entirely new playable character, Asher. He was mentioned in the first game, and it was never hidden that he’d be a playable character, but he makes a great one. He and his “sellsword of four years,” Beshka, are roaming around Yunkai and dealing with bounties when we first encounter them. Being that both characters are warriors and not much more than bounty hunters, their segements are more action-oriented than the rest of the game. It makes for a blurry experience during the battles, with having to constantly complete quicktime events and aim your reticle in a split second, but outside of the battle the duo are a lot of fun to see interacting. They are admittedly much more one-dimensional than most Game of Thrones characters (no matter what the medium), but it doesn’t hinder their stories too much. As it was hinted at in the first episode, Asher is a hot-headed master of the sword, and Beshka is not much different. Depending on your choices, they can be entirely blood-thirsty or slightly more subdued, but either way it’s clear they are meant to be the brutish characters. Which is a big departure from Ethan, Mira, and even Gared to a degree. Being that they aren’t dealing with the issues of House Forresters personally, they have a lot less weight on their shoulders, and it allows them to have a playful banter that is hard not to love. It’s a shame their story doesn’t progress very far, and they mostly only serve as breaks between the other main characters, but what few parts they play in the episode are certainly enjoyable.
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Another new playable character is a bit of a surprise. It’s only a spoiler of the the first two minutes of the game, so I don’t feel entirely bad saying it, but Roderick didn’t die at The Twins after all. The way he’s introduced and progressed through the episode is fantastic. He has by far the furthest arc of any character in the series to date, playable or otherwise. He literally and metaphorically rises from the ashes, and all of the events that lead to his position at the end of the episode are a joy to play through. Similar to Gared’s story in the first episode, you are mostly playing through Rodrick’s recovery from a series of gruesome injuries. Considering the dramatic events of the first episode and the state of House Forrester, however, the stakes are much higher right off the bat, so there is little time wasted in getting his character up to speed. It also helps that he is just plain a great character.
Other than the obvious surprise, I honestly didn’t feel a whole lot when Ethan died. But I swear if they kill of Roderick I am going to weep like a grown man. He is instantly charming with every character he interacts with, and the joy that he brings his downtrodden family is a welcome change from the bleak tones of the rest of the series. Being a bright light in a dark tunnel of sorts, it’s not hard to be instantly drawn to his charismatic personality, and strength amidst the staggering levels of adversity that face him. He just has such a sense of purpose and immediate ability to take control. And without spoiling too much, the short segment with Lady Eleana was just damn adorable, and there’s no other way to explain it.
Gared Tuttle is one of two returning playable characters, having finally made it to the wall after avenging his family’s murders. His sections are honestly the biggest letdown. Jon Snow feels way more established within Castle Black than he should be, and he’s not much more than a generic strong-willed leader. Considering he’s one of the deepest and most well-developed characters in the Game of Thrones universe, his cardboard cutout personality is a huge bummer. The other commander you run into isn’t full of much depth either. Luckily, there are a couple other Watchers that you befriend (or become enemies with), who have relatively interesting personalities, but it doesn’t help the segments all that much.
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And finally, there’s Mira. Oh, Mira. Of all the playable characters so far, it always feels like no matter what decision is made from her perspective it’s going to be the wrong one. In that respect, she presents by far the biggest challenge in the game. If there is a “correct” way to drive her actions in this episode, I’m almost certain I did them all incorrectly, and reverberations of my mistakes were felt within the other playable character’s stories. That’s another big difference between this episode and the first: long-reaching consequences.
While choosing something that felt incorrect in Iron From Ice might make that specific character’s day a lot worse, the decisions in The Lost Lords can be felt everywhere because of how interconnected all the stories are becoming. Everything, save for maybe Gared’s story, is becoming a giant house of cards that is bound to collapse sooner or later and either build-up or destroy House Forrester, which is already a house on the ropes.
In general, the story of The Lost Lords benefits a great deal from no longer trying to repeatedly slam popular Game of Thrones characters in your face. Tyrion, Jon, and Margaery all make appearances, but they are brief. Instead, the characters that got established in Iron From Ice are given their chance to grow and shine throughout the episode’s two hour runtime. My only major complaint is that the world feels relatively empty, even compared to Iron From Ice. You never see or hear of anything outside of a few very specific stories happening and it doesn’t make for a very Game of Thrones-y experience. Some of the decisions that characters are able to make without any intervention from an outside source that would be there in any real situation is a little jarring sometimes, but nothing that deters from the experience too much.

Gameplay

Not a whole lot has changed on the gameplay front between episodes. Asher and Beshka’s section is a lot more action focused, so they have a lot of quick-time events, but outside of them there isn’t much action in The Lost Lords. There are several “dramatic walking” segments that work well though, especially atop The Wall with Jon Snow. You can read about and watch the view from up there as many times as you want, but it’s a whole different experience walking up to it yourself in the game.
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Unlike the first episode, however, there were never any real intense conversations within The Lost Lords. Sure, a decision here and there might not hit the mark (the effects of which are dramatic), but the amazingly intense conversations of Iron From Ice are mostly absent. In general, other than Mira’s bits, it felt like the “correct” answers were always pretty obvious. You could either agree with a character and act like a brave hero, or be unnecessarily confrontational. It leads to a lot of satisfying “character will appreciate that” prompts, but the decisions were never quite as hair-pullingly intense as one would expect.

Graphics

Like mud sent through a meat grinder, The Lost Lords doesn’t improve on Telltale’s classic looks. Lady Margaery still looks like a plastic lizard queen, and every character’s eyes bulge at strange moments in conversation. There was one section in particular where I thought the animators made great use of a character’s facial expression (the soldier guarding the stairs), but everyone was mostly as hideous as always. The aforementioned view from the top of the wall was impressive, but its effect is pretty quickly lost when you see Jon Snow’s bizarre face and constantly puckering lips starring at you from the corner of the screen.

Sound

The Lost Lords once again makes great use of the licensed Game of Thrones music throughout the episode. A lot of the time its pleasantly subtle, and others it shoots to the forefront at the most Game of Thrones-like moments. My favorite use of the music was during the cold open sequence. After the big fight, the battle music continues to play during a simple conversation until a big bomb shell is dropped, then it goes silent and cuts to the recognizable HBO show’s intro theme. It was a great way to start things off and paced perfectly.
The wholly original song at the end of the episode, while sung terribly, has some great lyrics and sums up the events of The Lost Lords nicely in a very Game of Thrones kind of way.
Voice acting was mostly good, especially Rodrick’s, but Peter Dinklage still should not be allowed near a microphone. There are hints of Tyrion that leak through appropriately, but every one of his lines are still so painfully stilted that it kills a lot of the tension that should be in his scenes.
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Not a drawback, as I can’t blame them too much for doing it, but the episode uses the same door opening sound from The Elder Scrolls and I noticed it every single time. More of an observation that a knock, however.

*Total score was overwritten to be 8.4 due to the nature of the game and importance of the story over every other aspect. 
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