New World Order. Sounds more like a conspiracy theory then the name of an episode, but if the Children of Arkham have their way, a new world is exactly what the people of Gotham are looking at. Sure, they should be used to it by now, some super criminal/organization threatening their livelihood until Batman swoops out of the shadows to save them, but the Children of Arkham are a bit different, as Bruce Wayne is beginning to find out.
With their 3rd episode now live, Telltale’s Batman continues to surprise as they come up with more and more ways to mess with eponymous superhero, and unlike the other super villains in his rogues gallery, their designs focus on separating Bruce Wayne from the city he loves.
As always, I’ll do my best to avoid specific spoilers, but Episode 3 is all about breaking down Bruce. His relationship with Harvey Dent, strained at the end of the last episode which ended with Harvey getting severely injured and his opponent, Mayor Hamilton Hill, murdered, seems set to break completely. With half of his face scarred almost beyond recognition, and his mind beginning to slowly unravel, it’s only a matter of time before Dent’s transformation into Two-Face is complete, and while this version of Bruce may not know where his friend is headed, it’s made clear very early that Harvey is no longer “all there.”
Life would be tough enough if that was the only thing Bruce was dealing with, but the recent revelations about the Wayne’s less than legal dealings, has left his future with the company that bears his name name in jeopardy. It's a sticky situation to be sure, and one that would be a little easier to avoid if his nighttime dealings weren’t directly tied to the company’s R&D department. Lucius Fox, introduced for the first time in the series, makes it clear just how badly Bruce needs his company to be able to continue being Batman.
While I believe that Batman would exist without the monetary backing of Wayne Enterprises and its various subsidiaries, it would more closely resemble Bruce Wayne parading about in a set of hockey pads then the terror of the night he is now. Bruce’s replacement, while not knowing that Wayne is Batman, feels that there is a lot more to Wayne Enterprises then just the forward face as well, further emphasizing the need for Bruce to retain control. Beyond Bruce Wayne’s social and financial life being left on the proverbial rocks, there were some other nice scenes featured, including one featuring Catwoman that turned out far less awkward than it could have. I also have some questions regarding the true leader behind the Children of Arkham, especially given some revelations from late in the episode, but I am hoping that when viewed as a whole season, those questions are properly addressed.
If I have an issue with Episode 3 at all, it has to do with the way it ends. Both previous episodes end on a solid story beat, closing out the issue at hand with more than enough strings left to continue on to the next. It left the episodes feeling complete. New World Order however, ends with a quick cut to black during what could have been a fantastic action scene, especially given the circumstances. The lack of bookend on the episode made this the first of the Batman series to feel like it was simply building up rather than accomplishing anything on its own.
It was kind of inevitable that we would get here eventually, as Telltale is telling a complete story over the episodes as opposed to 5 separate tales, but they have had problems with the cliffhangers in the past, specifically when emulating The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones style. If this is the only time it happens, fine, but with their being two more episodes left, my fear is that the next episode will continue the trend. Cliffhangers themselves are not inherently bad, but when overused, well, ask any TWD fan their thoughts on last season.
I also ran into a number of graphical issues with this episode. Multiple times I experienced some horrid framerate drops and outright stuttering, most often when Batman was talking in the Batmobile and when looking over the interactive map of Gotham in the Batcave. I also had an action scene that ended with the game locking up and quickly closing, but the game thankfully treated the issue like a game over and threw me back to the moment before it happened. Given Telltale’s track record with other products, this was bound to happen at some point, but it still pained me to see it happen.
Overall, Episode 3 feels like a middle episode. The story had some wonderful beats, with a beautiful middle section that blends Batman and Bruce’s problems together nicely, but it ends with a hard cut that practically begs for the next episode to start rather than providing a break in the action. Here’s hoping that Episode 4 handles all the promises the ending of 3 makes while still holding its own.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!