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Friday, 25 November 2016

Batman: The Telltale Series E4: Guardian of Gotham

Batman: The Telltale Series
Episode 4
Guardian of Gotham.

This episode actually seems to have a genuine, bona fide, impact-ful choice at the end of it, and that makes me suspicious -- not least because the last time I thought a Telltale Games game was giving me a big, important choice in its penultimate episode, they not only proceeded to demonstrate how wrong I was, but they also left that particular series with every plot thread either proved to be pointless or left on a cliffhanger.

I admit, I can't actually see how Telltale could pull a 'psych, this choice didn't matter after all' gambit with this episode's final choice, which will result in either Dent arrested, but Penguin still at large, and with Batman's tech inoperable; or with Penguin defeated, but Dent still at large, and Wayne Manor burnt to the ground. But I'm sure they'll find a way. They have form.

In the fourth episode of Telltale Games' ongoing Batman series, Bruce wakes up in Arkham Asylum after attacking Penguin, where he encounters John Doe, a mysterious green-haired inmate who nobody can remember ever being committed to the asylum, and who quickly reveals himself to know a great deal about Lady Arkham. After being freed by Alfred, Bruce finds himself with several new issues on his hand: Lady Arkham's violent murder of the Vale family, an attempt by Penguin to hack his tech, and a rampaging Mayor Dent whose obsession with destroying Bruce sees him targeting Wayne Manor.


Weirdly, this episode seems to have less choices, with the usual five cut down to maybe three choices, at best, two of which are quickly revealed to not matter at all anyway. It's disappointing, and it certainly does nothing to help what is, in fact, a fairly underwhelming episode.

It also is quick to clarify that some of the choices you made in previous episodes aren't really relevant: If you told him to work at the Batcave, Lucius will make vague noises to the effect that maybe he could have stopped Penguin from hacking your equipment, if he was only at Wayne Enterprises, but if you leave him at Wayne Enterprises, he's no more successful at stopping Penguin, so the episode marches on to exactly the same conclusion either way.

The section in Arkham at the beginning is certainly fun, with John -- soon to be the Joker, one presumes -- livening things up considerably, with an interesting take on him that sees him as a genial, affable buddy to Bruce, who seems to get along with everyone and mostly appears harmless, apart from occasional flashes of violence and menace.

'John Doe.'

We don't spend all that long at Arkham, though, and before long, Bruce is freed, and we get the usual line-up of gameplay features: Quicktime events, some mostly meaningless choices, and precisely one (1) section where Bruce wanders around a room making connections between pieces of evidence, which was an interesting if not exactly groundbreaking gameplay feature when it first showed up and has now very much lost any shine it once had.

We do get a few interesting plot turns. Discovering that Vicki is actually Victoria Arkham, thus literally making her Lady Arkham, as well as learning about her vendetta against the Vales, was actually pretty interesting -- and Lady Arkham and the Children of Arkham remain far and away the most interesting part of this series, to the point where Dent and Penguin feel almost surplus to requirements.

Other plot threads find themselves very quickly dropped. Bruce starts off the episode suffering from aftereffects of the Arkham drug, but as soon as he gets back to Wayne Manor, we get him quickly formulating an antidote and then injecting himself with it -- while also conveniently noting that the antidote won't work on anybody else, since I suppose that would rather sap the dramatic tension out of it all. But it seems like it would have been more interesting to have Bruce continue to suffer from aftereffects until the start of the next episode, and then have 'we need to distribute the antidote' be a major plot point in the finale.

A knife.

I should do a quick rundown of the technical stuff, so: Graphics are fine, but still render the game unplayable of a sizable proportion of PCs, and Telltale Games not only has yet to patch that but seems to have no particular desire to patch that. There's a suspiciously high amount of lag in this episode that wasn't there in previous episodes, which is odd. Voice-acting remains fine, music is passable but not great, just as in previous episodes. If you've read any of my other three reviews of this series, then you basically know the drill so far.

So that's Guardian of Gotham. Not really a worthy penultimate episode, and a bit of a letdown after the fairly interesting end to episode three, but it's probably enjoyable enough. I mean, if you can actually play it.

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