“… Episode 2 is a step in the right general direction.”
Telltale’s Batman series got off to a slow start with Episode 1. Despite some intense scenes played as both The Batman and Bruce Wayne, the main objective of the first instalment in the series was simply to introduce the game’s mechanics and central characters. The ending however set players up nicely for a more intriguing Episode 2, with the reveal of Bruce’s parents’ involvement with notorious crime lord, Don Falcone. The storyline was left on a cliffhanger with Bruce in shock at the discovery, and players just as eager to discover the truth behind it as the lead protagonist himself.
Episode 2, Children of Arkham, opens with Bruce confronting Alfred on his knowledge of his parents’ criminal dealings. After a brief exchange however, the pair become re-focussed on the more pressing matters at hand. Again, as with Episode 1, the storyline takes a greater focus on the character of Bruce Wayne than on his vigilante alter ego, offering a unique insight into the life of the man behind the mask. It certainly seems as though this is Telltale’s unique selling point for their series, and so far they have pulled it off well. In particular, Bruce’s emotional conflictions take centre stage in Episode 2, reminding us just how human the character truly is.
The lead antagonist of Episode 2 is the briefly introduced but very familiar adversary of The Batman; Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin. Cobblepot, depicted in Telltale’s take on the Batman universe as Bruce’s childhood friend “Oz”, has returned to Gotham seeking to inspire a revolution. The true nature of his cause is a mystery until later into the episode, but as an antagonist his charisma clashes well with both Batman’s and Bruce Wayne’s. Although the character is a violent one, his intelligence and similar goals to Batman’s become the focus of the two characters’ exchanges, leading not only to a battle of wits but also one of conscience. A critical decision made towards the end of the episode underlines this perfectly, but also reveals just how different our two key characters truly are.
As well as taking on his old friend, Bruce Wayne faces many challenges throughout Episode 2 when it comes to his personal relationships. Selina Kyle becomes a close ally to The Batman when her life is revealed as being in danger. Whilst Bruce seeks an alliance between their animalistic alter egos, Selina is interested in something more. The direction this takes is, in true Telltale style, entirely up to the player to decide. Parallel to this is Burce’s relationship with mayoral candidate and Gotham DA, Harvey Dent. In Episode 1 the pair are close friends and allies in Harvey’s campaign, but Bruce’s support becomes tainted with the media’s focus on his family’s past criminal relationships. Players are faced with decisions on whether to stick by Harvey whilst staying out of the limelight, or to otherwise pull away from his campaign altogether. Clashes with current officiary Mayor Hill however make this decision even tougher still…
Despite Episode 2 taking a clear focus on character development for the most part, some surprising scenes unfold in the process. Some central characters lose their place on the roster not half way into the series, putting a dramatic spin on the events to come. Perhaps more interesting still however is the introduction of another masked antagonist, seemingly pulling the strings behind Oz’s revolution. Revealed only as the faceless leader of the Children of Arkham, this character adds an element of mystery into an otherwise straightforward plot thus far. This will no doubt lead to some more detective work for The Batman as Episode 3 unfolds.
Outside of the continuation of the series’ story, there is little new to speak of in Episode 2. The gameplay mechanics we see are similar if not identical to Episode 1, both in terms of their execution and largely the order that they appear in too. The episode does however feel better structured than the first, but still seems to be lacking an element of awe in its proceedings. Despite the series offering interesting twists on characters and now adding mystery into the mix as it reaches its middle, there is little to make it as exciting as the graphic novels, games or films that the franchise has been graced with before. We are however only just out of the build up phases in the story, and things are hotting up. Episode 3 still needs to offer something special to make the series a success, but Episode 2 is a step in the right general direction.