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Game of Thrones Ep. 4 - Sons of Winter - The Forresters Strike Back

Marshall Lemon | 5 Jun 2015 18:00
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Developed by Telltale Games. Published by Telltale Games. Released May 26, 2014. Available on PC (reviewed), OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, PlayStation 3, and Android.

If there's one thing Telltale Games excels at, it's developing stories where the consequences are just as engaging as the choices. We all loved The Walking Dead despite seeing the pain our decisions had on the party, and Game of Thrones raised that benchmark to a whole new level. Sometimes, it's a level of suffering that seemed too high, as we watched House Forrester disintegrate solely for being on the losing side of a brutal continent-spanning war. Confronting loss is one thing, but when every chapter feels like another Red Wedding might break out it's that much harder to keep players engaged.

But the latest episode, "Sons of Winter", has a new approach: Letting the player win. For the first time House Forrester is in a position to strike back against its enemies, thanks to new allies with shared mutual interests. Depending on your choices, this chapter is the opportunity to show everyone that House Forrester isn't as beaten as they first thought. On every front, from Ironrath, to King's Landing, to beyond the Wall, the Forresters are finally gaining the edge that might help them survive the coming winter.

Of course, victory has its own consequences that will play out in time. And when the episode's final twist rolls around, you'll feel a pit open in the bottom of your stomach that suggests everything you've struggled for might mean nothing. But the only reason that fear means anything is because you finally have hope - and it's a testament to Telltale's storytelling that we're still invested after so much suffering.

After the events of the first three episodes, things are not looking good for House Forrester. The family is now on its third ruler in mere weeks, their rivals have installed themselves as de facto leaders, and Tyrion Lannister - perhaps their greatest ally in King's Landing - has just been arrested for poisoning King Joffrey. Their only remaining hopes are the mysterious North Grove and a mercenary army from Mereen, both of which are too far from Westeros to lend immediate assistance. For all intents and purposes, the Forresters are on their own.

Of all the storylines in Telltale's Game of Thrones, Rodrik's is perhaps the one most likely to yank on the player's heartstrings. After being assumed dead in Season 1, Rodrik returns home unceremoniously on the back of a corpse cart trying to ship bodies back to their hometown. It's only when he manages to drag himself off the cart with incredibly restricted physical abilities that he gets the attention of his family and is nursed back to health. Sadly, his prospects don't get much better from there.

After the events of Episode 1, Rodrik is now the third Forrester to rule his house in a span of mere weeks. Upon awakening, he returns to a vastly changed house, as the Forrester's support for the Starks led to their territory being placed under the thumb of their rivals - the Lannister-supported Whitehills. The Whitehills couldn't be happier to gain control of the Forrester's lucrative Ironwood trade, but have no idea how to harvest it properly, leading to widespread devastation of the lands.

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