I was really impressed with the opening episode to Telltale’s Batman series. Realm of Shadows was a strong first episode for me as it very much a different Batman story unfolding with the focus on the man under the cowl and the decisions he has to make both as Gotham’s dark knight but also as Bruce Wayne and how the public sees him. The juggling of player choices to keep both sides of the same man able to coexist was a refreshing take on the Batman story. Now Episode 2 looks to pick up from the climatic events of that episode and to see if and how my choices for both Bruce Wayne and Batman would impact the next chapter.
Children of Arkham opens with the fallout from the player’s choices and actions from episode 1. For me that meant having Falcone in police custody after choosing to let Batman hand him over to the GCPD and with Jim Gordon in possession of all the evidence needed to put him behind bars for a long time. But for Bruce Wayne a much darker mystery has begun to unfold as the Wayne family secrets start to unravel leaving Bruce questioning and doubting his mission to protect Gotham in their name, for his promise of “no one else”. Could his parents really be guilty of not only working with the criminal elite of Gotham to control the city and if so, what does that mean for Bruce and his crusade?
The strength of Batman: The Telltale series for me as a player and as a Batman fan is in the focus on the man himself, the choices and sacrifices he has to make not only as Batman but as Bruce Wayne to fulfil his promise to his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. But with the intriguing twist that his parents were potentially corrupt and profited from working alongside criminals like Falcone, getting to see how this affects Bruce is captivating. Episode 2 immediately focuses on this as Bruce Wayne is given the opportunity to talk to Falcone, now in hospital care and under GCPD protection, to find out more about his parents secret life.
The power of player choice in not only shaping events in the story but also in developing the kind of character Bruce Wayne will be is tremendously satisfying from a story telling point. After the exchange between Bruce and Falcone at Wayne Manor in Episode 1, how you deal with Falcone now will determine how much information you can get from him and Telltale really gives the player the freedom to explore Bruce’s emotional state here. Do you deal with Falcone in an angry and aggressive way or calmly and almost passive manner? To have this opportunity to react to what Bruce is learning about his parents is again a refreshing aspect to this re-imagining of the Batman story itself.
Players will also have the chance to further the relationship with Selina Kyle, now fully in the knowledge that Selina is Catwoman and who knows the truth that Bruce Wayne is Batman. As someone caught up in the events unfolding around him, she is a potential ally but also very much as fans will know an attractive love interest for Bruce. Episode 2 will teasingly give opportunity for the player to expand and further this relationship and has a really fun set piece event that for me really defines Bruce and Selina’s relationship both in the game and overall showing Telltale really understand the source material.
Children of Arkham is a strong second episode for this series, it has plenty of character development for the key names and adds more intrigue to the story at such an early stage. How the player chooses to have Bruce react to events around him including uncovering more about his parents role in the darker side of Gotham drives the narrative but at the same time provides enough opportunity to put on the Batsuit and be Batman. There is a solid balance between time spent as Bruce Wayne and as Batman with the story flowing nicely for both story-lines and the two worlds of Bruce Wayne begin to blend into each other.
I am really enjoying seeing how the side characters of Harvey Dent, Jim Gordon and Vicki Vale all begin to react to player choices as Bruce and Batman just as the plot and villains start to take shape in the shadows as Oswald Cobblepot morphs into Penguin and the Wayne Family conspiracy continues to underline everything going on in Gotham. This series continues to impress me with the little details and the large set pieces that genuinely feel as though they are being shaped by my decisions. Some choices tease a particular outcome only to have me immediately begin to second guess the path I picked.
Two episodes in and I am really engaged in Batman: The Telltale series and its story. For fans of DC Comics and Batman, Telltale really have done a great job of creating their own Batman universe and crafting the characters within in their own way and retaining the key aspects of a Telltale game that work well to give a new refreshing take on how you can deliver a Batman game and experience.