Iron from Ice was Telltale’s first attempt at capturing the essence of the wildly successful HBO show within the walls of its point and click adventure formula. It did so with mixed results. The Lost Lords, as a whole, takes more efforts in its quest to compel players through its two hour plot full of political intrigue. It’s middling pace extinguishes any fires that this episode may have started, though.
Pacing seems to be this series’ most unslayable dragon, and Lost Lords makes Iron from Ice, another footslogging story, look like a footrace from the hare’s perspective. Part of the issue can be rested on the fact that there are multiple protagonists, and each one seems to retread the same sorts of steps the one previous has. They all need to speak introspectively to some caregiver, grizzled partner, or mentor figure about the woeful burden that hangs over the Forrester clan. By the end of the this episode, its absolutely impossible not to know, in excruciating detail, every character’s opinion of House Forrester’s fallen fortune. Whether you want to or not.
That said, the multiple protagonist approach is also a very strong lynchpin in delivering the best parts of this tale. With shifting environments comes shifting perspectives. King’s Landing’s posh and pretentious socialites are so far removed from any real hardships, that they couldn’t relate to Mira Forrester’s plight if they were even bothered to. Gared sits upon The Wall, in hopes to protect his house from afar, arguably trading the familiarity of the Ironwood Forest for a setting much more hostile. It’s these scenery changes that happen often enough to keep you engaged and serve as supporting narratives to many of the characters’ that so sorely needed it. Even with all of that, though, it still feels like pulling teeth far too often.
Many of the pieces set up in Iron From Ice make minor shifts to what ends up being no real episode-length resolution. A surprise character debut serves as the subplot with the most potential, but it happens rather early and by the end of the episode, feels like just another slowly moving cog.
Asher Forrester, estranged castaway of the clan, is also introduced. He is the swashbuckling, face-punching sort, which is both a blessing and a curse. His stays in the arid and exotic Essos adds a welcome change of scenery and attitude to a game full of dreary greys and dour omens. Many of his scenes are action sequences, though, and Lost Lords (and Telltale as a whole) really doesn’t do action scenes all that competently. Either the actions I’m being prompted to take feel arbitrary in relation to what I’m seeing, or there’s no great punishment when I fail (outside of a game over screen). As he is convinced to return home, it really has yet to be revealed why his presence home is even needed.
Mira plays politics once more outside the spiteful gaze of Queen Circe, and more than once with the gentle push of Tyrion. Of the protagonists, Mira might be the most interesting, because she’s the one always being overloaded with things to do in context. She’s needs to keep Marjory happy, as well as attempt to get the royal family to help her family, on top of making backdoor deals with Tyrion on behalf of them all. All while trying not to bite the many hands that are feeding her. She may not have many action scenes, but Mira has full agency over all of the plot lines flowing through her.
Gared, in contrast, feels like the personification of “sit and wait.” As he learns the ropes at the wall, nothing he does seems to be making him more or less prepared for whatever his future holds. The isolated nature of his training unfortunately bleeds through to the overall narrative. Gared is isolated from the story at large, his only real importance to it currently is remarking about it with Jon Snow in a conversation towards the end.
Ironically, back at Ironrath, the place where the drama is thickest and the pressure placed on the family by the Boltons is most oppressive, the moment to moment storytelling feels the most like treading water. By the end of the chapter, you feel no less threatened by the Whitehill/Bolton alliance, and no less hopeless that your fate is sealed. But there also weren’t very many options given to you to attempt to solve some of problems. It’s a lot of “sooner or later, we should do something about these guys.”
The Lost Lords is building to something, this is clear as day. But whatever that something is, it needs to come sooner rather than later. Even with the more interesting writing, character debuts, and some genuine twists and turns, there are fewer memorable moments in this episode than the last. A third unremarkable episode could spell disaster for this franchise.