Maybe more than any other franchise that I can possibly think of, fans of the hit novels/television series for Game of Thrones are pretty much conditioned to experience pain and suffering around every corner: the funnier thing, is that they’re perfectly okay with that. Or, at least most of the time, anyway.
Over the course of five novels and five seasons of television, the body count in Game of Thrones isn’t so much a statistic anymore as much as it is expected, with so many of the show’s most beloved (and most reviled) characters being killed off, and usually in pretty horrific ways.
With Telltale Games providing its own take on the series over the course of five previous episodes through (almost) one year, the final, bloody conclusion of Game of Thrones has arrived in its sixth and final chapter, “The Ice Dragon.” To preface the review, I’ll at least emphasize “bloody” one more time before going in to it, as in true Game of Thrones fashion, there is going to be plenty of it.
Following the previous five episodes of the series chronicling House Forrester’s attempts at survival, Game of Thrones: Episode 6 builds off its previous chapters to a finale that is packed with a sense of dread and unpredictability, but in the best way possible.
As the Forresters find themselves surrounded on all sides by the likes of House Whitehall, the menacing Ramsay Snow, and other forces working against them, it becomes clear right away that a truly happy ending is nigh impossible for the Forresters. Instead, the player’s choices come down to getting as many of the Forresters out of their dire circumstances alive, and in that regard Game of Thrones: Episode 6 provides a brutal, emotional closer to a solid (though sometimes uneven) fantasy experience.
Switching between the perspectives of several members of House Forrester as they each work together, even when regions and continents apart, to aid their family in what is easily their greatest hour of need. From there, the primary conflicts come down to House Forrester taking on the Whitehills in an epic battle, while across the way other members of the Forrester clan like Mira and Gared Tuttle seek out the aid that the family might just be looking for.
Given its extended running time of six episodes compared to the usual five episode structure of Telltale’s previous series, some moments in the previous entries of Game of Thrones certainly suffered under some bloated or extraneous scenes, along with the often repetitious cycle of violence that would befall the Forresters earlier in the series. However, “The Ice Dragon” proves that even with the series’ somewhat slower build-up, the payoff comes to a head in the series finale, with many questions answered, fates revealed, and several new plot threads that could be explored in future seasons.
The meat of the action takes place in Ironrath, as the season-long conflict between the Forresters and the Whitehills builds to an absolutely brutal battle sequence. Talking in more detail about it is a little difficult given that players will most likely play under extremely different circumstances (based on their outcomes in Episode 5), but it’s not hard to say it’s one of the series’ absolute highlights, and truly brings home the unpredictability of knowing who will live or die.
Telltale’s previous games have always made me a bit cautious when playing and making hard choices, and Game of Thrones has done that pretty well in particular, though the finale brought that to a new level and especially in viewing how some of the choices can play out in pretty radically different ways. It’s hard to say much without spoiling anything, though in particular this is certainly an episode that could warrant multiple playthroughs for what can be wildly different endings.
Away from the conflict in Ironrath, Mira Forrester’s story in King’s Landing also comes to a head as, ultimately, the season-long conflict between obeying the royalty and helping her family twists and turns Mira’s words forces players to make some difficult choices. In particular, Mira’s storyline often takes the most of the player’s choices and actions into heavy consideration, as previous events in the series (dropping or keeping the knife, choosing to side with Margaery or her handmaiden friend, Sera, etc.) all play a heavy part in how Mira’s storyline plays out.
While Mira’s plot thread was always one of the highlights of the previous episodes in particular for its heavy reliance on moral conflict and hard decision-making, the ultimate conclusion(s) to her storyline are a bit somewhat underwhelming in comparison. Given the importance and role that was placed on her shoulders in helping to secure powerful political allies and partnerships for House Forrester across the Narrow Sea, ultimately the outcome of Mira’s storyline doesn’t feel like it has quite the impact or importance on the overall storyline as it maybe could (or should have), though it’s still ripe with tension and drama in its own right.
Likewise, the season-long trial for Gared Tuttle to discover the fabled “North Grove” detailed by his family also comes to its conclusion, with its end in particular providing plenty of promise and airs of spectacle. While Gared’s storyline was never in particular one of my favorites in the series – given its heavy resemblance to that of Jon Snow’s in the television series – the finale provides some great closure in Gared’s story, despite his action having been so secluded from the rest of the Forrester clan in comparison.
Despite some of the more uneven aspects of the series as a whole – its mixed visual style and its sometimes over reliance on recreating events similar to the original television series – “The Ice Dragon” proves to be a finale as satisfying as much as it is incredibly bloody and heartbreaking in many ways. Though Game of Thrones‘ experience wasn’t always at the level of some of Telltale’s previous efforts like The Walking Dead or this year’s Tales from the Borderlands, Episode 6 brings the Forrester’s tale to a close, but leaves more than a few loose ends to clearly suggest that their tale may be able to continue for additional seasons. Even though winter is coming, it’s clear that the Forrester’s tale of vengeance and redemption is just beginning.