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Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 3 Review

Embracing The Downward Spiral
by Andrew Reiner on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:18 AM
Reviewed on PlayStation 4
Publisher Telltale Games
Developer Telltale Games
Rating Mature

What would happen if Bruce Wayne lost everything? His company, the people around him, even his sanity – all gone. Telltale Games explores this dark scenario in New World Order, the third chapter of its episodic Batman series. Little time is wasted in destroying Bruce’s life, and that downward spiral is embraced in this slower paced episode. Few bullets are fired and shocking revelations are kept to a minimum, but we get to know Bruce more intimately, and the payoff is sizable. I felt like I had a hand in determining if he was sympathetic or ignorant, frail or strong, romantic or emotionally drained.

The mysterious faction called the Children of Arkham are responsible for the upheaval in Bruce’s life. We still don’t know why they are doing this to him or what their endgame is; we just know they want Bruce to pay for the crimes his father committed decades ago. This episode repeatedly beats the drum that there is no way out for Bruce, no matter how the player reacts to a scenario – they all end poorly. The thumping of the drum just gets louder and more violent as the plot unravels.

Seeing such a prominent hero beaten down is a powerful thing to experience, but the player isn’t given much time to let it soak in. Attention is frequently diverted to Harvey Dent. No matter what choice you made in a critical moment in the previous episode, Harvey becomes unhinged. Yes, it’s disappointing that another key Telltale plot point that originally looked like it would offer two distinct plot lines, ends up leading to the same result, just with a character looking more like a monster than human. This one moment in particular plays out strangely if Harvey isn’t scarred. It just doesn’t fit the character evolution.

Bruce cares deeply about Harvey, who was just sworn in as mayor from his hospital bed. The dark juxtaposition of Bruce and Harvey is intentional on Telltale’s part, making the player question who will become more of a monster.

The episode ends with that question dangling precariously, and in a way that again makes it look like things are only going to get worse for both characters. Just don’t think too much about some of the logic; a character who steps in for Bruce is a stretch (the biggest one Telltale could make), but it works in building drama and a hell of a conflict for future episodes.

The only levity in this episode comes from an intimate moment shared between Bruce and Selina Kyle. The player is given the choice to become romantic, a scenario Telltale fumbles both in the actions offered (which make Bruce look like his libido is running on overdrive) and in the graphics. Telltale’s animations have always been a little crude, but seeing Selina and Bruce kiss might be the most awkward visual this company has produced. The lips don’t move much, and the two character models instead intersect in a way to make it look like the game glitched out. This moment is supposed to be touching, but ends up being hysterical for all of the wrong reasons.

Outside of one great fight, New World Order is light on Batman action, and hints that we may not see the Caped Crusader at all in the next episode. It ends on a shocking cliffhanger (something Telltale continues to do well) with two huge reveals that should get Batman fans talking. The twist behind Children of Arkham is a good one that I didn’t see coming. If you thought it had ties to the comic book storyline Court of Owls, keep guessing. I like where this is going.

The destruction of Bruce Wayne’s life intertwines with the rise of Two-Face
Witness the horror of two characters kissing in a Telltale game. Rather than animating the lips, the character models instead intersect, making it look like something out of a horror movie
I’m still not sold on Harvey Dent’s voice, but the tones used for Two-Face are better
Interaction is mostly tied to narrative moments. The choices are great, but don't expect much in terms of action
Telltale’s series has settled into a nice groove, and has established itself as a unique (and dark) take on Batman

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Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 3cover

Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 3

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