“…the series now feels like it is worth a go, especially for die hard Batman fans…”
Telltale’s Batman series has finally reached its grand finale, and boy what an exciting one it has been set up to be. When we last saw Bruce and Batman, Harvey Dent had overthrown Gotham city, turning maniacal in his position as Mayor. Consumed by his darker side, one enemy of Gotham will stop at nothing to defeat another. Hell bent on destroying the now rampant Children of Arkham, Dent sees no line he cannot and will not cross. Naturally, both Batman and Bruce Wayne have been caught up in the crossfire.
It’s all-action from the get go in Episode 5 of the series. After saving Gordon from the GCPD rooftop and fighting your way through the game’s best action scene to-date, Bruce must confront Harvey man-to-man in a last ditch attempt to talk his old friend down. We get the best of both worlds from Telltale’s series in these opening scenes. The adrenaline-filled combat of Batman and the focus of critical decision making from Bruce have made the entirety of this series both exciting and interesting to play. If anything, this opening sequence highlights the lack of pace that some of the previous episodes suffered. Exhilarating and intense, this is how the series should have felt from start to finish.
Once the situation with Harvey is resolved, in one way or another depending of course on your decisions, only one foe remains. Lady Arkham, the disturbed alter-ego of reporter Vicki Vale, is still at large. Her goal seems to be to bring Gotham to its knees, and in order to stop her Bruce needs to know why. The story deepens in just a few minutes of gameplay here, with Telltale showing off the reason they are famous for this element.
Connecting the dots between Vicki and her previous strategies and companions, Bruce is close to figuring out what he needs to do when Selina once again appears on his radar. The game slows the pace here for a moment in order to tie up loose ends before the inevitable final battle begins. The relationship between Bruce and Selina, both in their infamous suits and out of them, has been a series highlight. The way it moves has always been down to the player, and the game’s stats have always reflected this with mixed results in the decisions people have made. The end of their partnership is intended to be emotional, and whilst it does not quite achieve that in this scene, the door is satisfactorily closed so that the endgame may now commence.
The chase is on when Lady Arkham makes a ground assault on Wayne Manor, taking Alfred Pennyworth hostage as her prize. Her motivation, like that of all of Bruce’s enemies in this series, is revenge against the Wayne family name. Bruce’s father wronged many citizens of Gotham through his connections to the mob. The theme of people’s desire to hit back has been a heavy burden for the series to date, but Lady Arkham’s personal grief stands out. It is not until we begin to chase down the villain and save Alfred that we truly learn why that is.
The game takes the opportunity now to suit you up as Batman, graciously handing over the Mark II suit developed by Mr Fox. A visibly more armoured edition, this Batsuit is fits itself somewhere between those of Mr Bale’s and Mr Affleck’s from the movies, and the upgrade looks fantastic. If Batman had a badass (or batass?) meter on his utility belt it would be ticking happily by now. Sadly, before you really get to make use of the new gear, you have to trawl through a couple of the game’s detective sequences…
To begin with, the series used these well, making Batman live up to the title of the world’s greatest detective. The model was intelligent and intuitive, tasking you with finding evidence and connecting the dots at the crime scenes you visited. This felt a little better than the game simply doing this in a cutscene, but eventually the long drawn out process of the activity becomes dull. In this case, although not exciting, your detective work reveals some heavy truths. Specifically, it reveals the true reason why Lady Arkham is a viscious a villain as she is, but I won’t spoil that hear. To cut a long story short, this reveal is emotional and powerful, hitting at the perfect moment in the series right before you have to fight this foe one final time.
Lady Arkham’s plan it seems is to release the inmates of her namesake; Arkham Asylum. Believing she is giving freedom to those wrongly imprisoned there by the late Thomas Wayne, her motive is powerful; almost relatable for the player. There is no time to think about this however, as now you get to test out your suit. For the most part, it is easy to take down enemies. That is until you come up against the ever disturbing Mr Zsasz.
Scenes become violent and deadly, and ultimately you get the pleasure of finishing the fight with style using on of Telltale’s best features from their Batman series. Planning out your attack in advance and executing it with finesse to create both the perfect climax and finisher, your custom strategy plays out in the perfect cutscene. It is a thing of beauty. And then we see our old friend John Doe, happily sitting and watching, appreciating our efforts. We all know that there has to be more from him later, but right now a different challenge awaits.
After a long but never boring build-up, you finally face Vicki in the crypts below Arkham Asylum. The fight is an extended and in some way under dramatic one, with efforts to make it look cool falling somewhat short of expectations. Perhaps it is the choice of villain, but the big ticket boss sequence feels second to others we have fought. Perhaps most notably our fight with Penguin in the episode before. The outcome too is predictable, and it seems a shame that such a strong episode in the build-up should end here, like this. Thankfully, it doesn’t.
There is one final surprise waiting at the end of the game. As you back the new Gotham City Police Commissioner, our friend and ally Gordon, a new threat reveals itself. Unexpected in some ways but something we were all hoping for in others, it doesn’t look like Batman or Bruce Wayne’s work is done yet. The only downer is that if there is a Series Two, it looks like it will be the story that Series One should have been all along anyway…
Telltale’s Batman series closes on an initial high, followed by something of a lull before the end. The episode is another strong one, keeping up the trend of the latter installments in the series, but it doesn’t quite offer everything we might have wanted. As a whole, the series now feels like it is worth a go, especially for die hard Batman fans, but expectations should not be over-hyped. Players should also remain at a level of cautious optimism for the second series that it appears will follow now. If if plays to this one’s strengths and builds on them, it has the potential to be special. If it is more of the same, the model may turn sour…