As a longtime fan of Batman, and superheroes in general, it was hard for me to let someone else review the first two episodes of this game. Before I liked superheroes, I liked adventure games, and have recently finished Telltale’s Back to the Future, and am playing through A Wolf Among Us.
Thankfully, I wasn't busy with something else when Children of Arkham came out, finally allowing me to write about one of the episodes. Unfortunately, I find myself unable to wax lyrical about it… Not that the previous two episodes had sparkling reviews, with a 7/10 and a 6.5/10 respectively...
Episode 3 starts right after the events of Episode 2, with Bruce Wayne being suspected of wrongdoings due to certain footage airing during the Mayoral debates. Bruce’s friend Harvey Dent has been seen by a doctor, and is able to attend the inauguration speech despite his ordeal.
It was during the scene in the hospital room that I began to realise something. Through meeting Jim Gordon on top of the GCPD building, to the next two scenes… I wasn’t playing a game. I was making choices, and occasionally having to hit some buttons for quick time events, like a visual novel.
In all, I moved Bruce/Batman around two medium-sized rooms to look at things, did a couple of quick time events and made a whole bunch of choices. Not that they even changed the outcome of the episode, unlike previous ones. The next episode requires you to end Episode 3 with a specific circumstance which, whilst very well written and surprising, does little to allay fears of “Telltale choices don’t matter”.
What’s more, having been playing A Wolf Among Us, I’ve realised that the greatest detective in the world -- Batman -- doesn’t do much detecting at all. The “puzzles” are as easy to solve as scoring the first line in Tetris. I’ve spent my life playing games on Easy Mode, because I like to get to the story. Adventure games have rarely been as easy as BATMAN is, and as stated, I know easy games.
Speaking of adventure games -- I reviewed each episode of Life is Strange as they came out, and developers DONTNOD managed to tweak the engine each time to fix lipflaps, which were a major gripe of mine. For whatever reason, Telltale Games seem unable to fix the framerate issues which have plagued the previous two episodes. I don’t want to rail on them too much, but they haven’t gone back to past games to fix, for instance, the inability to load properly on a Windows version after Windows 7. This is still in development, though, so surely the monthly patches could find some way to address it.
Honestly, the series so far hasn’t been spectacular. As a Batman fan, some of the changes they’ve made are weird. I’m fine with Harvey Dent running for mayor and how Two Face is being set up, I’m fine with the GCPD not being Batman’s biggest fans, and the changes to Wayne family history are perfectly in keeping with any new interpretation of the character. But then you have Oswald Cobblepot being the same age as Bruce Wayne, called Oz, and speaking with a British accent… just Penguin entirely, really. It didn’t make sense in the Arkham games, given that most of the other characters were voiced by the Batman The Animated Series cast, and for someone who was raised in Gotham for most of his childhood it really doesn't make sense with this version either.
As far as the whole visual novel thing goes, BATMAN is a well written and performed game. As far as an adventure game goes, it's awful. Batman doesn't even have an inventory, which is one of the most important things in an adventure. I'm not expecting him to build a metal detector out of a bottle, a wire and six bags of fertiliser, but it illustrates that Telltale have definitely moved away from adventure games, and into story games.
If they can fix the frame rate issues and make the remaining episodes a lot less “railroading”, then there's no reason the entire season has to be a waste. Unfortunately, ranked against past Telltale titles, this is too dark a knight.
Batman - The Telltale Series (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Bad frame rate issues and basically no gameplay are elevated by an excellent story.