Batman – The Telltale Series started off with a solid and innovative first episode which, while somewhat flawed, still delivered a great experience representing both Batman and Bruce Wayne. The second episode, titled Children of Arkham, continues offering an interesting take on the Dark Knight and his daytime persona of Bruce Wayne with some interesting twists on his background. The result is a fairly short but compelling experience that left me wanting more.
The Telltale Games Batman series differentiates itself from Telltale’s other titles by letting you adventure as not only Batman in the dark streets of Gotham, but also as Bruce Wayne as he navigates political and social scenarios. In this episode we are seeing the rise of the Children of Arkham, people whose parents were forcibly confined to Arkham Asylum and now are about to stage a revolution to take down Gotham’s powerful figures.
Over the course of the episode Bruce Wayne will face off against the crime boss Falcone, and will meet Selina Kyle to discuss teaming up to take down Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin. Of course Batman has his moments too, confronting Mayor Hill over past dealings (although in a neat twist you can choose to meet Hill as Bruce Wayne) and taking down a band of the Penguin’s thugs at the location of the mayoral debate.
As hinted in the first episode, there is a big twist to Bruce Wayne’s history relating to his parents. I won’t spoil in this review, but it’s a pretty huge deal and a departure from most of the standard Batman lore. Through flashbacks and memory recollection we also discover some facts about who orchestrated the murder of Bruce’s parents. In the last episode it was a bit amusing to see Bruce’s origin story represented yet again in media form, but it is understandable now why Telltale did it. It seems the series will really look at what happened to his parents and who they really were, and this is already affecting Bruce as he questions what he thought he knew.
Gameplay-wise, the formula established in the first episode continues strongly. There are investigative sequences and stunning fight scenes when you’re Batman, as well as dialog and social and moral choices when you’re Bruce Wayne, all using a variation on Telltale’s formula of timed dialog choices, quicktime events, and exploration tasks. While I was getting some Telltale fatigue with those mechanics in other games (Game of Thrones as an example), in Batman – The Telltale Series the visuals, look, and rapidly unfolding story make them actually work.
While I greatly enjoyed this episode it is still not perfect. There are stutters and technical glitches that pull away from the enjoyment. Some characters are still not well cast and modeled (I’m looking at you, Gordon and Dent) and there was an odd moment when Oz was referred to as The Penguin as if everyone knew that’s who he is, yet it was never really revealed as part of the story – at least with the choices I made.
All in all, the series continues to improve, and the amazing dynamic of Bruce Wayne/Batman and stellar representation of Catwoman are making this a series I look forward to playing the moment each new episode is released.