Version Tested: PC
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac
Where To Buy: Steam
Before we launch into the review of the (very good) fourth episode of Batman: The Telltale Series, it needs to be said that the Telltale engine has got to go. It’s clunky, characters clip through the world and each other, they speak without moving their lips, and sound effects drop entirely. For a game based entirely on immersing you in a story, and not having demanding technical aspects, these jarring breakdowns of the game engine are extremely frustrating and seem to crop up more and more as the episodes of Batman go on. “Guardian of Gotham” was the worst yet in regard to these technical issues.
That aside, “Guardian of Gotham” was an excellent episode from a storytelling perspective. It had some dramatic twists and turns, some great action sequences, a few choices that feel truly impactful, and continued to do excellent work with the portrayal of Batman’s gallery of rogues. After last episode’s reveal of who was leading the Children of Arkham (and his subsequent attack on Oswald Cobblepot), Bruce is committed to Arkham Asylum. Of course, Arkham is home to some of Batman’s greatest villains, and it was fun to see how Telltale was able to subvert expectations once again. “John Doe,” aka the Joker, particularly stands out as a unique take on the character that was not at all what I expected.
The hallmark of a good Telltale episode is whether or not your decisions seem like they matter, and “Guardian of Gotham” has quite a few of them. One choice in particular (the last big decision of the episode) felt particularly powerful, and I found myself agonizing over what to do. As is the case most of the time, it is doubtful that it will have a huge impact on the story, but Telltale’s ability to make you care about the characters and your version of the story is in full effect here. It was also nice to see that choices were difficult for everyone; at the end, it shows you percentages of how you chose compared to everyone else who has linked their account. This episode had, by far, the most even splits I have seen in any episode of Batman yet. This indicates that there were not “easy” choices, and everyone is getting a slightly different variation of “their” Batman.
The villains of Batman continue to shine in “Guardian of Gotham.” Two-Face and Lady Arkham are both believable and unpredictable (although how Lady Arkham managed to become a ninja master, terrorist organizer, and still managed to excel at her day job seems a mystery to me), Cobblepot is a very fresh take on Penguin, and the familiar faces that crop up in Arkham Asylum are interesting and compelling. “Guardian of Gotham” also had a few great action sequences, including a dramatic fight scene that continued to showcase what Telltale can do with simple QTEs.
The problems with the game engine in “Guardian of Gotham” are infuriating. Entire scenes went by where a character’s lips did not move at all: Batman just sat there, speaking like a ventriloquist (or maybe using telepathy?) while characters around him spoke as normal. At one point, Batman got stuck in a couch and I had to restart the game. And several sound effects dropped out during gameplay. These technical issues are somewhat par for the course at this point with Telltale games. That does not excuse them, and it does not detract from the story, but they are extremely frustrating.
Overall, the technical issues do lead to some frustrating moments, but the story is top-notch and the action sequences are extremely well made. I’m not quite sure if it makes me feel like Batman, but I do feel like my choices matter, and I would be curious to see how the story would be impacted if I had chosen differently. Telltale typically ends their stories with a bang, so I fully expect Batman to follow suit. There is still a lot to wrap up, assuming they are not going to carry stories over to a second season. Every time I have assumed Telltale could not adequately wrap up their stories, they blow my expectations out of the water. Hopefully Batman can follow the trend.
- Gameplay: Good action sequences and impactful choices.
- Graphics: Looks good, but there are some annoying graphical glitches.
- Sound: Voice work is still excellent. Alfred, Two-Face, Batman, Commissioner Gordon… everyone sounds excellent.
- Presentation: Story is great, glitches are annoying. Villains continue to shine.
- Great voice acting
- Impactful choices
- Compelling story
- Fun action sequences
- Extremely annoying glitches - engine is showing its age