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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Batman: The Telltale Series E2: Children of Arkham.

Batman: The Telltale Series
Episode 2: Children of Arkham.

I actually did try playing this game again, on the reasoning that, hey, Telltale Games would surely have fixed the glaring problem where it doesn't work on a significant number of computers, right? Well, no, apparently they haven't -- it's very slightly improved, but by no means fixed. Again, I'm forced to wonder exactly what Telltale Games is doing, since surely fixing that kind of glaring technical issue should be their first priority, not putting out a second episode.

Anyway, since it didn't work, that meant it was back to Youtube for me, to watch other people playing it. I don't feel like I've really lost much of the experience in doing so, but at the same time, the fact that people are having to resort to a third-party video website to experience the story is more than a little galling.

Picking up shortly after the end of the first episode, the second episode opens with Falcone being murdered while in police custody, courtesy of a drugged Renee Montoya. As Bruce figures out that Oswald, now calling himself the Penguin, is behind the murder, he starts chasing down leads, resulting in discovering that Mayor Hill has been working with Oswald. Events come to a head when the Penguin and his men hijack a debate between Harvey and Hill, using it as a platform both to reveal Thomas Wayne's crimes to the public, and to introduce a the revolutionary group that Penguin is a part of: The Children of Arkham.

Continuing on from the 'the Waynes were bad people' storyline in the last episode, we get a 'the Waynes were assassinated' storyline in this one, which is a plot turn I always hate from Batman stories. It's always been an important thematic point in the Batman mythos that the Waynes die not as a result of conspiracy, but as a random, violent crime in a city that's choked with them -- and the fact that they do die like that cements Gotham's status as the true antagonist of Batman (along with being both setting and love interest). I have very little patience for stories where the Waynes are assassinated due to a conspiracy, because doing so completely skews the themes of the story.

Joe Chill.

What all of this cements is that Batman: The Telltale Series doesn't feel all that much like a Batman story. It feels like a Telltale Games' story loosely draped in Batman's clothing. It's not just the Wayne assassination thing, either -- in many respects, Bruce doesn't feel like Bruce here, being altogether too smug, self-satisfied, and volatile (even in private) to really come across as the character we know. He's a little closer to the source material when in his Batman guise, but veers into Nolan-esque territory at times. Not to mention, this episode hammers in exactly how strange it is that Penguin of all people was turned into a rakish, ex-military revolutionary. Wouldn't Anarky, Knightfall, or even Catman or White Knight work better for that, even if they maybe aren't as iconic?

Either way, this episode does, at least, seem a little less busy and a little better constructed than the previous one, not least because it introduces us to our main villain: The enigmatic leader of the Children of Arkham, and Penguin's boss. Fair play to Telltale Games, they have made me genuinely interested in the Children of Arkham, and precisely what it is that they want, and when the preview showed that we'd be seeing their leader (albeit still masked) in the next episode, I was genuinely interested.

A bar brawl.

(At the moment, my main bet is that it's either the Scarecrow or the Joker, both of which seem a lot more likely to take a revolutionary angle than the damn Penguin.)

Oddly, this episode seemed a lot more thin on choices than the first episode, although they did seem much more impactful. You seem to only get two really important choices: Whether to visit Mayor Hill as Bruce or as Batman, and whether to save Catwoman or Harvey at the end (a choice quickly revealed to be meaningless, as Catwoman survives whether or not you save her, and Harvey is scarred either way -- albeit much less severely if you save him). That's not a lot of choices, especially not when you show moments later that one of them won't have any real impact on the story.

Nice mask, Pingu.

Anyway, I did enjoy this episode, more or less, but increasingly I'm starting to wonder if this will be one of Telltale's less acclaimed series, or at least certainly one I enjoy less compared to things like Minecraft: Story Mode and the like. Given the schedule these episodes seem to be coming out on, we should see the third episode some time in early November, so I'll be interested to see what happens there.

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