– SPOILER WARNING –
Episode 3 was the standout success so far in the Batman Telltale Series with its gripping plot twists and the interesting directions of its storytelling that kept players interested. It left a lot of work for its follow up to continue the eventful story with intriguing details and twists while also come up with some answers as to how Bruce Wayne would get himself out of the perilous situation he found himself in after Lady Arkham’s identity reveal. The episode also features some interesting story choices that have some tangible consequences, new characters and some technical issues on PS4 that continue to plague the series. While some of these hamper the episode it still does enough to keep the player interested for the final confrontation between Batman and the Children of Arkham.
Guardian of Gotham has an opening that was referential for anyone somewhat familiar with Arkham Asylum and its hallowed inmates but offered little of the excitement and lacked that sense of threatening madness that Arkham Asylum usually evokes and felt more like a hushed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest than anything else. The introduction of the Joker (and to a certain extent some minor villains) opens the door for future possibilities for appearances and his role of instigating the chaos and spectacle the first act of Guardian of Gotham offers was mostly down to his performance. He offers the player a story choice that I’m sure will lead to some interesting remarks or outcomes at least in the future, while also offering us a little bit of backstory or lore to Telltale’s envisioning of the Batman mythos. He has his own way of getting to the heart of a story in his unique, deranged way as well as the characteristic relationship dynamic of getting under the skin of Batman in a way no other pair in fictional storytelling have.
One minor gripe I had was how the drugs Lady Arkham affected him with was dispatched a little too easy. The chemical concoction that Vicki Vale drugged him with leaved him vulnerable to other people’s suggestions and triggers the most guttural, depraved thoughts and we see a physically weaker, incapacitated Bruce Wayne. This part of the episode fizzles away conveniently however and the story quickly moves on without any consideration of this first act of Guardian of Gotham. Perhaps that may be considered as nitpicking but it would be interesting to see how a weakened Bruce/Batman actually affects the player through storytelling or gameplay. We can compare this to how Batman’s gadgets can be impaired by the Penguin’s hacking of Waynetech later on forces Batman to use alternative methods which provided a different sort of action and pacing players are used to seeing.
The second act were we explore the past of Lady Arkham a bit further offers some gameplay variety that we’ve seen in previous episodes. There was some bloody horror on show in the game as we explore the home of Vicki Vale’s foster parents. Combined with the puzzle solving elements of piecing together clues in order to determine the sequence of events that transpired, it does an interesting job of creating a profile of her life we hitherto did not realise. That segment also introduces a young foster brother of Vicki Vale that gets in on the action and it isn’t hard to see that they’re teeing him up to be a future Robin if the developers decide to go there in a future installment.
The gripping tension in the story as Bruce faces off against Harvey keeps the momentum going into the episode’s climax. His downward spiral and split into the maniacal Two-Face kept me interested in the last act of the episode. His inevitable transition as the Bad Guy works against the idea of player-made choices influencing outcomes as with most games that have branching paths which is not abnormal with divergent storytelling. What the player can decide in this episode were well-made choices that were almost all fifty/fifty based on statistics provided at the end of the episode on what options players picked.
The animation in the Telltale Series lacks polish and feels jarring when watching characters move or speak. It’s quite numerous in certain occasions, especially the beginning set in Arkham Asylum which overall feels bare and lacking the sense of threatening madness I’ve come to associate this institution. Loading times, weird animation glitches and poor lip-syncing have been consistent since the first episode and are something that won’t be solved by its final episode which is disappointing as it obstructs the fine presentation and storytelling of the series.
The episode overall ties up some loose story threads and leaves the main plot open for interpretation. While Guardian of Gotham will jump from one aspect of its world to another with various sub-plots, its highlight was the conclusive confrontation between Batman and Two Face. This series, particularly the last two episodes, explores the psyche of Harvey Dent and how it might turn evil in a way that is slightly different from the Batman canon that still managed to be convincing and interesting. Episode Four had a juggling act of mixing old elements with new that mostly worked and leaves ample time for its final episode to provide a fitting conclusion to the series.