It ain’t gettin’ better for Bruce and Bats.
Batman: The Telltale Series- Episode Two on PC
Following on from the first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series was always going to be a difficult one. It had found a perfect balance between the QTE-based action of Batman and the more human and emotional side of Bruce Wayne. Moving into episode two, titled Children of Arkham, and dealing with Bruce coming to terms with his newly-discovered family legacy, it seemed unlikely that Telltale would continue to strike that balance.
Due to the number of plot points and potential spoilers during Children of Arkham, reviewing this episode comes more from a point of view of the gameplay and the fragile dynamics and relationships in Gotham.
The second episode began by continuing on from the awkward exchanges between Bruce and Alfred. Returning to a familiar location from Batman’s background, the action centered on uncovering the real truth behind the Wayne family’s past. It was only a brief reintroduction to the millionaire playboy, but one that helped set the scene and tone for the rest of the episode.
During Realm of Shadows (episode one), we got an idea at just how gritty Telltale could take this new series. The freedom at the developer’s disposal is prevalent thanks to the series’ standalone nature in this world. This was a theme that continued to recur through the episode. Gentle reminders that there was no telling what could come next, especially after the revelations of the debut.
The second chapter completely shifted the scenario, placing Bruce in a far more conflicting situation. This is where Telltale’s storytelling shines: dropping these familiar characters in which fans are so used to them acting in a certain way, and giving you a choice to change that without clearly signposting the ‘correct answer.’ Yes, you could do what makes sense for you to do as Batman in your head, but when put in control, it’s difficult not to want to push your suspect a little more and get your revenge where it certainly wouldn’t be undeserved. A boundary that the Batman from the movies would never cross, but one that your Batman might.
Episode two continued to hint at the importance of having allies around you in Gotham. Both Bruce and Batman see important relationship decisions tossed at them during the entirety which, if developed on further by Telltale, could lead to some interesting character dynamics between Gotham’s big figures and how they act toward each of the two personas. It was something touched on in episode one with Vicki Vale noticing the scratch on Bruce’s face from his encounter with Catwoman on the rooftop. Realm of Shadows laid the foundations, and Children of Arkham is taking it in a promising direction.
The rest of the chapters went by and it was clear that the blurring of the line between Bruce and Batman is coming more to the forefront as the season progresses, even going as far as introducing the ability to tackle a situation as one or the other. It’s no longer simple enough to determine the pros and cons of opting for one over the other. Bruce proves he’s more than capable of taking care of himself, and Batman is just as likely to have to make an important decision where you’d think brawn would always be more important.
Merging these two forms of gameplay into both characters as opposed to keeping things cut and dry helps to keep the action entertaining and unpredictable. I’d have much rather tackled the big events of chapters three and four as the other side of our protagonist, but instead found myself learning to adapt to the new advantages one may have in this circumstance over the other. It’s a novel way to change our perceptions of the tried and tested Bruce/Batman formula.
Episode two was ultimately a driving force for the story and it served its purpose well. There were very few instances I found myself tired of what unfolded in front of me and that’s probably because events and new story points are unveiled at such a fast pace that it’s sometimes difficult to piece it all together. But Children of Arkham’s pacing worked well to allow for times of contemplation to piece everything together.