Nothing's easy in Westeros. There are no simple decisions, no sure outcomes, and just when you think you've made the right call, something unexpected turns up and kills you.
The second episode of Telltale's Game of Thrones game came out this week, and man, did it hit the ground running. Over the course of its two-ish-hour run, we followed multiple Forrester children in multiple locations, all of them trying to recover from the devastation brought down on their family in the wake of their father's death at the Red Wedding, as well as the events at the end of episode one.
Heads up! Spoilers for the first two episodes of Telltale's Game of Thrones follow.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, some broad thoughts on the episode: I thought it was plenty engrossing, but it also felt a bit off at times. Everything was so clear-cut, the villains were evil, the good guys were good, and there was so little time to get to actually know anyone. It may have been that I also spent this week playing the first episode of Life is Strange -- a Telltale-like game that improves on the formula in some notable ways -- but I found myself wishing that episode 2 had given everything more space to breathe.
A lot of that is likely a function of the Episode's place in the season -- this was the one that really had to get things going. So, I understand that the writers had to get a whole lot of balls rolling at once, but I hope there'll be time in the future to slow down and let us get to understand why we should even like the Forresters, aside from the fact that they seem like generally likeable people.
Anyway! On to the sweet, sweet choices. This time around, I thought it would be fun to try something a little bit different than we've done with past Telltale games. As the season goes on, rather than run an essay on release day about what one of us thought of the new episode, we'll wait a few days until more of you have had a chance to play, then post a rundown of the major decisions. (It does sound like some people -- possibly a lot of people -- are having trouble getting their episode one choices to carry over on Xbox One, which sucks. We've asked Telltale what the deal is.)
I asked all of Kotaku's staff members who'd played the episode what they decided to do at each critical juncture. Here goes.
Did you forge Margaery's letter?
Kirk: I didn't forge the letter. It seemed like such a foolish thing to do, and I give Mira more credit than that. Any gains that a forged letter could win for the Forresters would be undone in the long run once the forgery was revealed. She's gotta do this legit or not do it at all.
Luke: Mira danced a fine line in the first episode, and as Margaery's talk reveals at the start of this one, it was best not to push things too far. So I didn't, and stuck with the plan to finish up the wedding letters.
Nathan: I had Margaery send a letter in the first episode, and it went terribly. Joffrey lost his shit, Margaery got upset with me, and I realised that throwing around power is a fast way to lose it. Also, I dig the Tyrell's "come in, act cooler than everyone else, and fuck up King's Landing" attitude, so I decided I wanted to stay at least kind of on their good side. Forging the letter would have had obvious detrimental consequences, and Rodrik struck me as a guy who could handle himself. It was a cold decision, but a calculated one.
Tina: No, for the same reason I didn't drink the stolen wine I was offered. You just don't fuck around in King's Landing, at least in such an obviously trackable, spur-of-the-moment way. If you're planning on playing deviously, you do it with tact, not emotion. Plus, I sense genuine sympathy and affection from Margaery and I didn't want to jeopardise that relationship.
Did you kiss Lord Whitehill's Ring?
Kirk: Hell no, I didn't! I have some issues with Whitehall as a character -- he's just such a complete and total prick that he doesn't seem believable, even by Game of Thrones standards of prickishness. (I did like the scene with his daughter Gwyn, though, who was a much more sympathetic character despite being allied with her father.) So, no, I didn't kiss the dude's ring. He wasn't going to be satisfied no matter what I did, so I saw no reason to bow to him.
Luke: Lord Whitehall is a fat piece of shit. I'd rather see Ironrath burn than bend the knee to a pig like that.
Nathan: I'll explain it here the same way I did in the game: "If I hadn't done it, things would have turned out even worse." It was hard to watch Rodrik kiss that pig-faced arsehole's ring, but I'll make him pay when the time is right.
Tina: No, because why should I? This guy's a tyrant, and my bending to his will on such an insulting demand was never going to do me any favours but to show weakness. A life without dignity isn't worth living, anyway.
Did you win Rodrik's betrothal to Elaena Glenmore?
Kirk: I did, and I was glad for it. In the end, I offered Elaena's father half of the Ironwood grove, and that pragmatism sealed the deal. Though I did think the whole bit with the betrothal was too convenient. Oh, there happens to be some other house I've never heard of who might step in and hold off both the Whitehills and the Boltons? Seems unlikely. I thought Elaena and Rodrik were both cute as hell, but I kiiiinda hope this whole thing ends with everyone dead.
Luke: I didn't want to lose the betrothal! But with all those variables and conflicting pieces of advice in the way, it just...got away from me.
Nathan: I may not have had the letter, but I had Rodrik's raw, er, Rodrik-ness to work with. I played him as someone who's tough yet honest, aware enough of his own strengths and weaknesses to wield both as weapons. I had him reveal to Elaena that he was struggling, but also that he still cared about her. When she cited practical concerns, I offered her the remainder of our Ironwood. Her face lit up at that idea, and that sealed the deal. I should note, however, that I've played it pretty fast and loose with Ironwood in this game -- I offered it to Tyrion as well -- and I feel like that's gonna come back to bite me.
Tina: I'm not sure how my charm and good looks did not woo her, but I wasn't about to lie to Lady Elaena. Maybe I'm honest to a fault. I'd probably never realistically survive the Game of Thrones.
Did you stand up for Cotter after he stole Finn's knife?
Kirk: I did, but I don't like that I did. I told Cotter to give the knife back, told Finn to go fuck himself, and really just tried my best to stay out of it. I wasn't happy to see Gared get involved in the way he did. Cotter kinda seems like an idiot, just as much as Finn seems like an unreasonable arsehole. I sort of wish both characters felt more like people and less like archetypes, and wanted to be shut of both of them.
Luke: This wasn't hard. Almost everyone at Castle Black is there for committing some kind of crime. Better to save a thief with a sense of justice than side with a bully (or worse, condemn them both).
Nathan: I actually didn't mean to stand up for Cotter. I thought he was an idiot and Finn was a jerk. They were made for each other! But then Finn took a swing at me and well, I really don't like his face. Honestly, I might play through the episode again to change that choice -- not because I want to save scum it now that I know the possible outcomes, but because I don't feel like I got to make the choice I was trying to make. It's a little frustrating, having that hanging over my head.
Tina: Yes, because he seems more reliable as an ally than Finn. Finn is hotheaded and clearly violent and vindictive over matters that are not worth being vindictive over. If I need to create alliances with my brothers, it's going to be Cotter over Finn.
Did you kill Mira's attacker?
Kirk: Yeah, I killed the guy. I tossed the knife into the bushes, too, since the alternative would have been to (I guess?) have Mira hide it in her chambers, and as far as I know they don't have fingerprinting technology in King's Landing. Who knows whether it will come back to bite me… I wish she hadn't run into that guard earlier.
Luke: He's a Lannister, and he tried to kill Mira. Either one of those is enough justification for a stabbing. The fact that both were true made me sad I couldn't stab him a few more times, just for kicks.
Nathan: I made this call in the heat of the moment. Someone tried to kill me, and they were about to drown my friend. I killed him, but I should have fled while I had the chance. As soon as I stuck the knife in the guy, I was like, "Fuck, that was a mistake." Yeah, street urchin dude had been a loyal friend to Mira, but you don't murder a high-ranking Lannister anything and come out on top in King's Landing. That's not how the game of thrones is played. Having that kind of blood on your hands leaves fingerprints. Now I've got all sorts of skeletons in my closet: a missing guard, someone who could squeal on me, and plenty of reasons for people like Margaery and Tyrion to turn on me. Mira herself is kinda boring and tough to care about, but I imagine her next episode will be exciting -- for better or worse.
Tina: I killed him, because it's kill or be killed and that guy was just so damn rude.
So there you have 'em -- our choices from this episode. I asked everyone to reply separately, and it's interesting how some of our choices and rationales were similar, while some were very different! I'm curious what you all did, too, so I hope you'll let us know below.