Batman: The Telltale Series Episode Three: “New World Order” PS4 Review

 

Note: I’ve previously written reviews for episodes 1 and 2

Also this is your spoiler warning ❤

Telltale Games have upset the balance of power in Gotham with upending twists making this episodic story the best one yet of the series. New World Order is a lengthy exploration into how the revolutionary Children of Arkham are gradually eroding Bruce Wayne’s power, position and family legacy in Gotham with devastating results that makes the story in this episode so thrilling and enticing to take part in. The developer’s definitive characteristic of player-involved story and dialogue choices are showcased strongly in this episode that play out in excellent ways that further draw the players into the game, while character relationships develop and continually conflict with each other resulting in chaotic upheaval that ties in well with the central plot of the Children of Arkham plaguing Batman and Gotham. How these characters reveal hidden agendas or simply cause further strife for Bruce Wayne leaves the plot open for what looks to be an interesting, jeopardising situation for the central character. However, despite the interesting directions the story takes in New World Order, technical problems still persist that hamper the game’s ability to draw the gamer in on PS4.

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The series now has enough grounding and context that the directions the developers are taking feel exciting and unbelievable, and thrilling to take part in. While Telltale have woven an intricate plot about surreptitious elements undermining the central character, there is also a rich array of supporting characters, some of which have their own interesting stories and others, beginning as minor background characters now feel part of grand conspiracy heightening the tone of paranoia and mistrusts the game conveys with unexpected turns that are pleasantly surprising.

 

screenshot-88Episode 3 takes an apparent focus on Harvey Dent and his transition from candidate to mayor and from Harvey Dent to Two Face. The dynamism between Harvey Dent and the emerging Two Face is clearly apparent as the episode progresses and gets stronger as Harvey’s sanity reaches a precipice. This duality in characterisation is handled well with fitting writing as well as a strong performance given on the voice actor’s behalf. The element of choice in the gameplay and picking whether to focus on protecting Harvey as Batman and making considerate choices as Bruce makes the player feel more involved with the story and empathise with certain characters more. As well as this, it’s exciting for the player to feel like their input has some concrete influence on a story which responds aptly with sequences, interactions or scenes. Furthermore, it allows us to explore the personal relationships of the characters making it feel even more so personal to the player.

screenshot-85These relationships in New World Order never become overly sentimental or ‘soapy’ but rather feel fitting in the context of a gothic world of masked heroes and villains. It examines the personal relationship of the characters under the mask such as what we see between Bruce and Selina Kyle in this episode. There’s also a complicated triangle that the story shows how each person involved becomes affected, such as exacerbating  Harvey Dent’s particular personality traits or a continuing indifference from Selina. It’s left to the player to decide on how Bruce Wayne may approach this although all the choices involved seem fitting for the protagonist.

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This episode also makes some stirring revelations about the identity behind the leader of the Children of Arkham who was up to this point unknown. This character proves to be a dangerous antagonist for Batman as they finally face off in a confrontation which leaves Batman in considerable pain. Revealing journalist, Vicki Vale, as the masked leader known as Lady Arkham caps the episode off on a high point that is all more effective given the player’s previous interactions with her especially if the player makes choices that are favourable towards her. It’s exemplary of the game’s ability to make unpredictable revelations in the story that will surprise you and take the game in a direction you might not expect.

screenshot-87It’s also indicative of a story where the main player is left without agency and loses control as outside forces take such things from Bruce/Batman. It’s a recurring aspect throughout the series and this episode in particular, be it with Oswald taking over as CEO or Harvey Dent losing his mind. This displacement creates the conditions for further plot development in later episodes and will intrigue the player to continue onward with the game. While the game has some facts that the player will not be able to change or affect such as Harvey becoming Two Face, there still are some of the choices that you have to make which have a weighted impact on the story such as whether to choose to help Dent or the Gotham police officer gone rouge which will have consequences depending on choice. Another instance has the option of  whether keep Lucius Fox at Wayne Enterprises or have him work on Batgear which will probably play out in future episodes. New World Order has some of the best examples of impactful choices such as these and have their effects both in episode and no doubt in future episodes to come. The results of such choices often make the player feel a sense of involvement or perhaps accomplishment despite the fact for the majority of the time, neither option is better than the other.

 

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It feels repetitive to mention every time I review an episode, but the technical faults on PS4 are still problematic, although not as severe as I’ve previously experienced such as when the game crashed in the first ten minutes of Episode 2. During the course of the playthrough there were moments were the game would briefly load between scenes. It was a small, minimal amount of time yet it was noticeable and did impinge on the flow of the game especially one which emulates the momentum of well-edited television or cinema with seamless shot transitions. Other technical hiccups are not game-breaking and are minor like noticing that the background stopped moving while driving fast in the Batmobile or a sudden drop in the frame rate but they are easily discernible and distract the player from the experience.

Gameplay seems lacking in comparison to the previous episodes with more emphasis on dialogue choices than anything else. That said, there is also quick time events which have a good flow to them and make the action more visually stimulating with a sense of player interaction. There was a sense of a lag or a stutter between player input and choreographed action, however it was minimal and expected. The clues feature in one scene also featured beforehand in Episode One, but it lacks any real complexity and the only gameplay effect it really has is that the player could vicariously play the role as the detective aspect of Batman who is able to solve cases with ease and ability.

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Despite said inadequacies, the amount of twists and turns in this episode makes it thrilling from start to finish with excellent pacing and build up. Its gothic, noir atmosphere is fertile ground for interesting, unique characters and storylines that is quite evident in New World Order. Telltale Games have grasped the core aspects of Batman while its great writing and story is enjoyable to interact with while being provided with some surprising twists and turns that leave the series wide open for its next episode.

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