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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Batman: The Telltale Series E5: City of Light

Batman: The Telltale Series
Episode 5
City of Light.

Ah, what a rollicking ride we've been on. Well. What a rollicking ride some people have been on, at least, while those of us with integrated graphics cards have had to be content watching those people rollicking about on their merry, bat-themed rollercoaster of a story. The lag and stuttering issues seemed to even be affecting those people this time, with entire sections of the game jerking about and stuttering like a bad PC port of an early Playstation game. Marvelous. I imagine for those people, they considered that money well spent.

Do I seem bitter? I am. I am bitter, and it's terrible. We are all suffering because of it, to be sure.

In this episode, after quickly taking down whichever villain he didn't take down at the end of the last episode, thus restoring things to a calm and soothing status quo where players can feel comfortable knowing their choices don't matter, Bruce's life is thrown into disarray once more when Lady Arkham kidnaps Alfred. Chasing down Alfred, and finding himself betrayed by Selina, Bruce eventually ends up at Arkham Asylum, where Lady Arkham draws him into a game of cat and mouse that culminates in her discovering his identity.

First thing's first: Well done, Telltale Games. Once again, you managed to convince me that you'd given players an actual meaningful choice, and once again you have proven that you did not, in fact, do any such thing. I will give the devs some points for the fact that the choice you make at the end of the fourth episode does change the first twenty to twenty five minutes of the fifth episode, but not many, because ultimately that's still not any kind of lasting choice, which is what people want from these games.

Yes, very dramatic.

It's a shame, because both of the possible villains you can face at the beginning of this episode are ones which have a close relationship to Bruce, with Penguin being an old friend and Harvey being a new one. We do get to see that Penguin now has a monocle of sorts, though, so that's a nice addition to the otherwise unrecognisable Rakish Young Bad Boy Penguin. 

The rest of the episode revolves around trying to find Alfred, and in the process discovering some things about Lady Arkham and her plan. The biggest of those discoveries is the discovery that the Vales actually tortured her, trapping her in a room in their basement and hitting her with whips. While certainly an effectively macabre story, it does raise some issues regarding how plausible Vicki Vale's life story is in this episode.

Okay, so she was an Arkham, and then her mother was locked up by Bruce's father, and her father committed suicide, and the Vales adopted her? Why were there no records of them doing that? Would that not have been a major news story, since the Arkhams were apparently a major family in Gotham?

Selina and Bruce.

But the Vales adopt Vicki and they begin torturing her. I can just about buy that adoption agencies might not realise that the Vales had a torture basement, and I can just about buy that Vicki's younger brother not only got off scot-free but also had no idea about it, especially as he's young enough that it's entirely possible that Vicki was already an adult when he was old enough to have feasibly realised.

But that's a lot of bad luck to befall one person, surely, and it makes Vicki's motivations awfully tangled, because we're now left with wondering exactly which of these terrible events is the key one in her backstory. Also, why she has super-advanced hover boots and an electro concussion staff. Those are also things that seem a bit weird.

Either way, the story progresses on to a confrontation at Arkham, where you quicktime event your way to victory, and then return triumphantly home for the last choice of the game: If you should show up at a red carpet event as Bruce or as Batman, hammering in the theme of dual identities that the game has had going on. As you might expect, the choice you pick really changes nothing, so it's not something you really have to worry about at all.

No smoking.

The end of the game sets the Joker up as the villain of the next series, which is fine, I guess. I don't think the Joker is a tremendously interesting villain, but he's perfectly passable.

Anyway, that was Batman: The Telltale Series. Disappointing in the extreme, even if you choose not to take into account the fact that it was irrevocably broken for a large portion of its players, and that there was never even a gamely attempt at fixing it. In many ways, this series represents the absolute worst of Telltale Games' tendencies as a developer, so it deserves its place in the annals of video game history just for that, I guess.

For the developers' next projects, we apparently have a Guardians of the Galaxy series in the works, and then The Walking Dead Season 3 after that. I will try to at least Let's Play Guardians.

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