With a pair of episodes now behind us that mostly set the table for what is to come, Episode 3 of Telltale’s Batman is ready to move the story into a sprint. Bruce’s relationships have serious personal, financial, romantic, and political implications on the line with our decisions, and everybody he deals with feels well-developed with their own motivations. What this episode lacks in action and painful choices it more than makes up for with the elaborate plot that is a joy to watch unfold.
TRAGEDY AND TWISTS
At this point the plot is less about telling us what’s going on as it is allowing us to explore the relationships between characters. Batman can choose to assist Gordon’s request for help, or decide to prioritize Harvey’s well being, potentially at the expense of a police officer’s life. Batman meets with a reporter and his answers to questions may affect how Bruce is written about.
No matter who I was interacting with, I could always tell they had their own motivations and that speaks towards how well written New World Order is. This is also aided by great voice acting in all of the roles.
Try as you might, you can’t save everyone. Bruce’s personal and business relationships are frequently strained, leaving me futilely searching for win-win outcomes that just aren’t possible. Bruce is facing potential exile from his family’s company, and his reaction to that could further harm public perception of the Waynes. He seemingly has a friend on the board, but can she be trusted? Even when asking you to do things you don’t want to and say things you know are not true?
The new takes on Batman lore have been one of the best things going for Telltale’s series, and New World Order ends on a huge cliffhanger that may be the biggest twist of all. I never saw it coming, but I’m not completely sure how I feel about it. While shocking, it doesn’t feel earned. Thinking back, looking for little hints along the way, I couldn’t find any. As of right now, it comes off more as a “gotcha!” moment rather than narrative driven, and that is disappointing. I’ve loved the story up until this point, so I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt, but I do have to say this was the first moment of reservation I’ve felt from a story perspective.
Missing from this episode was any truly excruciating choices. Though still usually interesting, I never felt deeply conflicted over which option to choose, which is a letdown compared to the juicier moments of Episode 2. Choosing to go off-script during a speech is nowhere near as exciting as saving only one of Harvey or Catwoman. Last episode I wanted to restart immediately to see how it would play out the other way, but at the end of New World Order I was content to let my choices stand.
The action sequences were much more sparse, but the ones present were great. The first face to face encounter with Lady Arkham, the apparent big-bad of this series, showed off fresh choreography to deal with the Arkham’s electricity shooting weapon. It’s capped with a quintessential Batman shot as he drops down to finish the fight. Telltale is just nailing the look and feel of Batman in every way.
Last episode I wrote of massive technical problems, from huge framerate drops to complete crashes. New World Order ran nearly flawlessly for me. I noticed occasional dips in framerate when transitioning to new scenes, and some pop-in from character models in those same places. None of it ever approached the levels of Episode 2. Hopefully the rest of the series can continue this trend of better performance.
New World Order is starting to deliver on the setups made in the first two episodes. The story is moving full speed ahead, straight to a cliffhanger of dubious quality. The relationships are really driving the plot and are executed wonderfully. All of the characters feel layered and developed, and more than anything that’s what I’m looking forward to getting back to. Though I’m playing for the story, performance-wise this was the best episode of the series, and I’m happy to say that has renewed my optimism in this series. I’m all in on Telltale’s Batman and can’t wait to get Episode 4 in my hands.