The one developer that nailed video game storytelling this week
The last Game of Thrones episode from Telltale, Sons of Winter, is very good. Like, very, very good.
It used each of its four main characters to construct tough decisions, made even harder with the developer’s signature time-sensitive choices.
If I had to point to one, specific thing that was great, it was the build up to each of the player choices. Here’s some of them.
Obviously, there will be spoilers.
1. Rodrik and Elaena
The episode begins with a fantastic moment between Rodrik Forrester and Elaena Glenmore. Elaena needs Rodrik’s help after her father has promised her marriage to the man that’s taken Rodrik’s own home away from him. Of course, Rodrik is going to help, since it means he’ll be able to take down Gryff Whitehill. But after the agreement, Elaena comes up to him and reminisces about their childhood. And then the game gives you the option to kiss her. Typically, this kind of thing is pretty awkward in games, but Telltale sells it because of how earned the moment is. Rodrik loves her and, with all the stress from his house being destroyed, it makes sense for him to act on that. It’s a great moment to have early in the episode.
2. Gared and Finn
Okay this one is not technically a choice, but it’s based off of what decisions you made before this episode. Gared just murdered someone and Finn stumbled on it. The last episode left it vague. It wasn’t clear what exactly Finn saw. As players we know that Gared was forced to stab the man. So when Gared is questioned about it and his reasons are not believed, you feel powerless. Then Finn shows up and you pray that he’ll tell the truth. But given how I’ve treated him and he’s treated me, I wasn’t entirely sure he’d take my side. Finn isn’t an easy person to suss out. I tried to be nice, but he still pushed back. Thankfully, he took my side in this episode. It’s a nice that Telltale still puts some doubt on where Finn’s allegiances really are though.
3. Asher and Beshka
This one had me scrambling to choose an answer before time ran out. You learn that Beshka was a slave in Meereen and was forced to fight other young children. She is hesitant to help Asher and Croft sneak out into the night and kill the guards protecting the big, warning symbol. Not long into your mission, she runs off and finds her old master and threatens to kill him. Croft stands on the other side of her with his crossbow ready; he doesn’t want any unnecessary deaths. And Asher is in between them. This is where you have to decide whether to allow Beshka to kill the man and risk Croft shooting her, stop Croft, or kill the man yourself. It’s an well-crafted choice because none of the options felt more right than the others. No matter what I did, one of the characters wasn’t going to be happy with me, which is a testament to Telltale’s storytelling. Grey moral choices are great, but it works when they’re grey to the character not the player. This is clearly what Telltale understands and it continues this throughout the episode.