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Friday, 11 November 2016

Batman: The Telltale Series E3: New World Order.

Batman: The Telltale Series
Episode 3
New World Order.

These episodes are coming out really quickly. I think they're coming out almost as quickly as the Minecraft: Story Mode episodes did. It's a terrible shame that Telltale Games couldn't have spent any time on actually making a game that isn't broken for a big portion of their audience.

In the third episode of Batman: The Telltale Series, Bruce finds himself forced out of Wayne Industries in light of the allegations against Thomas Wayne -- and replaced with Oswald Cobblepot, who is no longer bothering to disguise his desire to see Bruce's downfall. As Bruce discovers that the Children of Arkham have been using his own communications network to spy on the city, he tracks them to a skyrail station, and ends up in a confrontation with their leader, who is forcing Selina to work with them. Meanwhile, Harvey becomes more and more unhinged, as the drug that the Penguin injected him with causes a relapse into a medical condition he thought he'd recovered from.

So, we can say basically all of the same things about this episode that we say about very Telltale Games episode ever: You've got your dialogue, you've got your point-and-click, you've got your quicktime events, you've got your ultimately meaningless decisions.

Batman's Pal Lucius Fox.

There are more meaningless decisions this time around, with there actually being so many that the little end card couldn't list them all. So that's always nice, and it does at least add a little bit of spice to the story, as you get to see it briefly veer off into some new directions. The choices in this episode, such as whether to romance Selina or not, and whether to protect Harvey, do feel a lot more weighty -- and a quick check confirms that if you don't protect Harvey, he'll end up horribly deformed, which seems like it has a bit more impact than Telltale's usual fare.

Apart from that, the story continues down the same track started in the first two episodes: Downwards, with events getting steadily worse and worse for Bruce. The worst of these is him being ousted from Wayne Enterprises, with somewhat-suspicious-keeps-making-owl-references chairwoman Regina apologetically telling him that there's no other way, and urging him not to rock the boat. You get the choice of how much you want to rock that particular boat, and Regina will be very upset if you cause trouble -- who knows if that'll have an effect on the story, though.

(Regina is totally a member of the Court of Owls.)

This episode also has the most awkward sex scene ever, as Telltale compels you to run through various ~sexy~ conversation options, such as deciding whether to have a prolonged or short make-out session with Catwoman, and whether to have Bruce take off her clothes or to have her do a striptease.

Here's Gordon, as a palate cleanser.

Please never do that ever again, Telltale. I beg of you. I am on my knees begging you not to make me have to sit through the bloody awkward multiple choice sex scene again.

The big draws of the plotline involve watching Harvey slowly develop his Two-Face-oid split personality, and seeing more of the Children of Arkham's mysterious leader, who seems to have some kind of gravity-manipulating tech. Both of those storylines culminate in interesting ways: The Harvey one with a brawl in which Bruce is half naked (and Harvey just doesn't comment on how he's covered with scars, for some reason), and the Children of Arkham storyline with their leader being revealed to be Vicki Vale, calling herself 'Lady Arkham.'

I admit, that one caught me by surprise, and in a lot of respects, I think the Children of Arkham storyline is the best thing this game has going for it, as it manages to feel like a Batman storyline while still delivering plenty of surprises. Best of all, the Children of Arkham do feel like a genuine threat -- I'd actually quite like to see them worked into the comics. It'd hardly be the first time the comics have taken something from an adaptation.

Lady Arkham and her electrogravity staff thingy.

The rest of the story is -- fine. I can't say it really interested me much, and seeing things just get steadily worse and worse for Bruce is starting to get a little bit old. The story did, at least, end on an interesting note, with Bruce drugged and trying to attack the Penguin, in front of a crowd of reporters.

The graphics remain very pretty, the music is lovely, the voice acting is generally fine. I am increasingly growing accustomed to rakish young ex-soldier prizefighter Penguin, which is honestly not a sentence I should have to write, but here we are.

All in all, a solid enough episode, albeit not exactly a groundbreaking one, especially in a series that has been kind of lackluster so far. Still, it has two episodes left to redeem itself, and it looks like the next one will start with Bruce in Arkham Asylum, and rapidly progress to the entire city coming under threat, without Batman there to save them. Should be interesting, at least. We don't know exactly when that episode is going to drop, but given the pattern so far, we'll probably see it in late November or early December.

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