While developer Telltale's release schedule for Tales from the Borderlands could be described as sporadic at best, the studio's done a reasonably good job of delivering episodes in its Game of Thrones series in a relatively timely fashion. And this trend has continued with the season's penultimate episode, Game of Thrones: Episode 5 – A Nest of Vipers. But while delivering the instalment on schedule is admirable, it should never stand in the way of quality – and on this occasion it has.
For starters, being the next to last episode should bring with it some kind of nail-biting tension as it builds towards a crescendo – especially when the source material is based upon the excellent Game of Thrones. And all of the pieces were in place for it to do that; several loose threads are finally cleared up here, while there are some important plot developments, too. The problem is that it all feels so passionless.
It's almost as if the writers are working their way down a checklist, looking at unanswered questions from previous episodes, and simply crossing them off. One such event essentially undoes the entire arc of one of House Forrester's members in a cheap, unsatisfying fashion. And this is par for the course for the entire instalment. It's an example of why the five episode format is used so often – the events here would have been far better off incorporated into other releases.
But it's not just a lack of passion that makes this outing falter – there are also some odd inconsistencies, as characters act, well, bizarrely out of character. Without delving too deeply into specifics, we found one spy character's motivations profoundly off-putting; Telltale's titles live and die by their narrative consistency, and this instalment falls short of its otherwise staggeringly high standards. Indeed, there are multiple portions of the plot that lack logic, such as monologues mid-battle and more.
It's still got stellar voice work across the board, of course, and Jared-Emerson Johnson's supporting score is as strong as ever. However, this instalment features more audio issues and bugs than its predecessors, which we thought that the developer had got on top of. One particularly strange glitch that we encountered resulted in a dead character being temporarily brought back to life – it's hard to buy into the story when this sort of nonsense is going on.
To be fair, there are some positives – the introduction of a band of new characters, for starters. But while they provide some fresh, quirky personalities, it's hard to shake the feeling that they should have been introduced much earlier on. With one episode in the series left, it doesn't look like there'll be the time for us to get to know them better. A shame.
The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones is a bit of a mess. While there's a lot of meat in this instalment, it still ends up tasting a bit bland. Between oddly behaving characters, technical issues, and poor plotting, this feels like Telltale's least inspired release in some time.