It’s almost showtime, everyone. Batman – The Telltale Series – Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham came out this past Tuesday, which, if you’re a Telltale fan like I am, you know exactly what that means. It’s time for the big info dump on everything you need to know going into Episode 5 – City of Lights and that you also need to deal with the ramifications of Episode 3 – New World Order. And oh boy, are there ramifications here.
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this review, I want to call to attention something that has been a really hard thing for me to let go in the course of writing this review: the fact that I may have to spoil certain parts of the episode in order to properly review the episode. Normally, I’d just allude to what’s happening, and I’ll try my hardest not to spoil anything if I don’t absolutely have to. This may be honestly just a personal feling I have with episodic games, but there is something special in letting someone experience those feelings of shock & awe all on their own time and of their own accord. So, with that in mind, on with the show.
In Guardian of Gotham, we see a Bruce we rarely see. This Bruce is battered and beaten. No, not like the Bruce in The Dark Knight Rises or Batman: Knightfall. Worse. After Episode 3, Bruce no longer has a company to give him his fancy toys, his parents have been proven to be just as corrupt as the mob bosses, oh and his best friend caught him in his underwear at his girlfriend’s place. Yikes.
Sadly, this is just the beginning for poor Bruce. Now, his former ally has been revealed to be his newest enemy — Lady Arkham. After the Lady stabs him with some not so fun drugs, Bruce is now stuck in Arkham Asylum. Double yikes.
However, this twist was quickly spoiled for me during the “Next Time on Batman – The Telltale Series” reel that appeared at the end of Episode 3. So, instead of saving the grand reveal of what happened to Bruce and being utterly surprised by it, instead there’s a feeling of “I knew this was coming, but not this deeply disturbing”.
Man, this episode gets really dark. Instead of just resting on its laurels, Telltale instead opts to make whatever version of Bruce you’re creating a truly terrified one, as you can no longer just punch or think yourself out of any situation you find yourself in. Instead, you have to rely on 12 Monkeys rules. Meaning, you may have to rely on a certain jokester to get you out of the Asylum ASAP, so that you can take down the Children of Arkham.
However, given this is a choice-based game, you don’t necessarily have to listen to the clearly insane person whispering in your ear. I would recommend it, though, since this is one of the best Jokers I’ve seen on screen in a long while and it’s entertaining to listen to just how different and interesting this version of The Joker is.
As you might imagine, in the time you’ve been locked up in the Asylum, Gotham City has been on a steady decline into madness. After you escape, Bruce is found in a police state not unlike Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union that’s been created by Harvey Dent, who’s basically become Two Face, just without the flashy name.
This is where the illusion of choice quickly starts to become blatantly obvious, and it’s quite frustrating. No matter how much you try to prevent Harvey from becoming Two Face, he still becomes Two Face. The one and only difference is that he doesn’t have the facial scars to match – even if I did give him some scars to remember me by.
Either way, this whole storyline with Two Face actually has started to grind on me, as I’ve tried saving Harvey at every turn. I know some of you may cry foul for this and say that it’s all a part of some larger metaphor to say that “you can’t save everybody” and that’s a load of baloney. If Telltale really wanted to make me feel like I was creating my own Batman, they would’ve given me the choice to actually save Harvey – before he becomes Two Face and with a choice that didn’t just result in a fist fight.
That actually brings me to another point where I felt like there was little to no choice in influencing the storyline – the choice between saving your Bat Tech or saving Alfred. Turns out, if you play the Episode twice and do opposing things, they both result in a fist fight. This has quickly become one of the dreaded “Telltale Tropes” that I have been seeing carry over from series to series. In The Walking Dead: Season One, it was a fight between Lee and The Stranger. In The Wolf Among Us, it was a fight between Bigby and Beast. In The Walking Dead: Season Two, it was a fight between Clementine and Jane. It’s pointless to go on, but do you see what I mean? A fight doesn’t have to resolve conflict with the story and I hope Telltale can see that with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, their Marvel game, and Game of Thrones: Season Two.
Oh, and for those who care to know, this Episode is the least buggy – at least for me on my Xbox One, running of an externally-power hard drive.
All things considered, I do think this is one of Telltale’s better episodes, even if the illusion of choice quickly fades away with failed QTEs and a story we’re no longer in control of.