My feelings regarding the previous episode of Telltale’s take on the Caped Crusader were mixed. It started off slowly and awkwardly paced, but ended up building up a decent stride and broke away from the three act structure a bit along the way. With the identity of the main villain revealed and Bruce being drugged to attack Oswald Cobblepot while he was stealing Wayne Enterprise from under our hero, episode three ended on quite the cliffhanger and we’re about to learn how it all turned out in Guardian of Gotham.
Batman – The Telltale Series Episode 4 Guardian of Gotham: Windows PC [Reviewed], Mac OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 22 November 2016
Price: 22,99€ [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Guardian of Gotham
Bruce Wayne wakes up in Arkham Asylum covered in blood which is apparently not his own. Inside he makes the acquaintance of an unlikely friend who helps him concoct an escape plan. The plan is particularly ridiculous as it involves calling for help on a phone. Why? Does no one know Bruce Wayne is in Arkham? His outburst took place during a press conference and even Mayor Dent makes a remark about committing him. Why isn’t Alfred already handling matters?
Anyway, free of the Asylum, Bruce Wayne experiences first-hand the newly-established police state of Gotham City, with Harvey Dent’s paramilitary enforcers keeping everything in check against the dreaded Children of Arkham. It was interesting seeing the mighty billionaire humbled by a soured public and hostile law enforcers as his empire comes crashing down. Later you are once more given the chance to decide whether to approach a sensitive situation as Bruce Wayne, banking on diplomacy or as the Man who is the Bat, using force. What I found interesting was that this, not being the first time you’re allowed to choose, you end up slightly changing the character dynamics between Bruce/Batman and the various other players such as Dent or Gordon. They react differently to you depending on which facet you choose and have chosen up till now.
A perhaps unintended consequence of this system is that your investment in one character or another may become slightly diluted. For example, during earlier episodes, you can choose to either step out of the way or impede The Penguin, be friendly or not towards Harvey Dent. As the episodes move forward, depending on whom you focused on and how, you may end up with a Dent who hates you regardless of how friendly you were, or a Penguin who took over your company no matter how much you tried to deter him. Slightly subversive to this is the climax of Guardian of Gotham where you can choose between confronting one of the two antagonists and completely foregoing the other. In a bit of an unprecedented twist for a Telltale Game, the final act of the installment is completely different between play-throughs. Both play out very well, very satisfying to watch and I swear I saw the game perform better, without the awkward pause between combat plays.
A few other remarks and comments: I ended up with Harvey becoming a “partial two-face” because of my actions. I wonder if this could be averted since I completely avoided his facial transformation earlier. Why does Batman keep saying Alfred’s name out loud? Isn’t that irresponsible? Guardian of Gotham features a bit more roaming and puzzling, but not much more. The running time is about an hour and 15 minutes. Harvey Dent doesn’t use his signature Tommy Gun but he uses a Pancor Jackhammer, and that’s pretty badass.
As the story of Telltale’s Batman series draws toward a close, Guardian of Gotham displays the problems inherent with some of the series’ structural techniques. It’s far too easy to act in a way and make some choices that will spread your investment all over the place, which doesn’t happen if you pick a clear path with clear goals and stick to it. This isn’t something that’s easily done over the span of five months. Nevertheless, some lazy writing aside in regards to some trivial matters, the episode is enjoyable, has a lot of colourful characters and builds up the finale in a way that could prove interesting, as you confront one of two antagonists. It remains to see how well it succeeds next time.