Note: I’m experimenting with a new spoiler system in this review to discuss a major plot resolution. It should be hidden by default, but I can’t guarantee it on all browsers until I get enough user feedback. Caution advised.
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Format: PC (reviewed), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Released: July 21, 2015
Copy supplied by publisher
With it being the penultimate episode, a number of things needed to be resolved in Episode Five: A Nest of Vipers. This fifth chapter resolved some issues, but did not sufficiently tackle everything required in order to get us adequately prepared for the final chapter. While some teased revelations have finally come to a head, the fate of the Forresters is still so unaltered – and in some ways completely set back – that I fear the finale will become a heck of a rush job to get things square.
For starters, two of the game’s main plot threads achieved absolutely nothing this episode, playing for time more than doing anything productive. Mira’s adventures in King’s Landing, until now an increasingly exciting part of the story, treads water as our intrepid handmaiden chews the fat with Cersei and Tyrion Lannister. There’s very little on offer narratively, save for yet more teasing and potential intrigue at a time when events should have moved a lot further along already.
Similarly, Gared’s trek north of the Wall goes absolutely nowhere this episode. One potentially surprising event occurs, but its relevance to the actual story is minimal at best, and the character involved isn’t compelling enough to make it effective. All that really happens is that Gared and Cotter get into a bit of a debate, there’s an attack from a certain force, and all the aforementioned debating is soon forgotten as Gared and chums hightail it to the North Grove. Nothing was sufficiently advanced. May as well not have happened.
Asher’s scenes, at least, pick up the pace and give us something of dramatic note. Having helped free Mereen at the behest of Daenerys Targaryen, the black sheep of the Forrester clan is free to finally acquire his army – albeit a fairly unconventional one. His scenes are by far the most exciting, packed with some decent combat sequences, a great deal of banter, and a new selection of fun and interesting characters that should really help spice up the final episode.
Finally, Rodrick’s Ironrath trouble concludes one of the most sinister subplots, and I have to say that I’m fairly shocked, not least because…
I somehow totally called it. Duncan was annoying enough that, in a prior review, I’d hoped for him to be the traitor, and it turns out he was. His reasoning, such that it was, felt pretty damn spurious, or at least misguided. Not sure what your choices where, but… I administered sharp justice.
The episode’s concluding scene is beautifully done, and offers perhaps the most difficult choice in the series yet – the results of which are legitimately heartbreaking if you’re at all invested in the world thus far. It was a stark conclusion indeed, and one that will have a genuine consequence on the final episode. As of right now, there are more than enough Whitehills that are simply begging for death.
A solid ending, however, does not quite make up for the fact that A Nest of Vipers was fairly uneventful, and even felt rather short in comparison to the prior chapters. Most certainly, the lack of narrative momentum has put a dampener on things, especially since Episode Four was so damn good.
Sometimes, a slow installment can be an important one, setting things in motion and building necessary blocks for later use. With only one more to go, however, we should be past all that, and the relative lack of activity with Episode Five is something of a letdown. It has its moments, and it’s still as enjoyable a romp as any TellTale game, but it’s an average outing at a time where things should be at a near fever pitch.
Episode Six is going to have to pull out all the stops to regain the ground lost here. I’m hoping it does.