Telltale is back with the fourth entry into Batman, Guardian of Gotham. The pace has picked up, the stakes have been raised, and the stage is set for the finale that is the next episode. A major opportunity for a unique look into Arkham Asylum was almost entirely wasted, but this is still a fresh take on Bruce and Batman that is worth checking out.
Lack of control
Harvey places Bruce into the custody of Arkham Asylum following the events of Episode 3, regardless of your earlier interactions. While Harvey’s character may have always been fated to become a villain in Batman lore, it’s the latest example of removing player agency in a series supposedly all about giving you the choices over how things turn out. Another example of this on the opposite end of story importance can be seen early on inside the Asylum. Bruce is walking through a hallway full of cells, and veering uncomfortably close to the cells. I could feel he was going to be grabbed if he continued on that path, so I attempted to move him to the center of the hall. Attempted. The script said Bruce was to be grabbed by an inmate, no matter what I did, so that’s what happened. That kind of instance, while not impactful to the story, just makes me feel less like I’m playing a game and more like I’m holding a button to watch an animated movie.
Sticking Bruce inside of Arkham had tons of potential for a unique perspective on the place from within. It’s all for naught, as we’re quickly freed from imprisonment and things go back to normal without missing a beat. Understandably, the bigger plot needed to be positioned for the next episode, the season finale, but the quick detour through Arkham served little purpose other than to say “we have a Joker!” If his presence is a surprise to you, you’ve missed all of the marketing leading up to Guardian of Gotham. A true surprise appearance would have been much more satisfying. It was unclear to me whether or not Bruce has crossed paths with this Joker previously, so his iconic status in the Batman rogues gallery was relied upon to make this chance encounter more impactful than it earned for itself.
The decision points in Episode 4 are the best thing going for it. They’re tough calls, and the post episode results showed a fairly even split on which choices were made. Ultimately either Bruce’s or Batman’s world is about to be turned upside down. I got a glimpse of the consequences of my choice before the episode abruptly ended, and it looks to have raised the stakes going into the finale. It’s another turning point that made me want to go back and make another save for the other way things could play out. Disappointingly, the only way to do this is to play the episode over from the very beginning. In past Telltale games there would be numerous checkpoints throughout episodes. I want to let the end of episode decision go in both directions, but don’t want to replay through most of two hours when all I really want to see changed is the final minutes.
Guardian of Gotham increased to pace of Batman’s storytelling and significantly raised the stakes. The brief side tour through Arkham Asylum was little more than an excuse to stick Joker into the game. Decisions left to the player were really hard to make this time around, and that’s one of the biggest draws to Telltale’s titles for me. Those tough calls are still fun to make despite the times they end up feeling as legitimate as a magician asking you to pick a card from the deck. The magician knows what’s coming next and how it’s all going to end up, no matter what you do. Here that is Telltale, and though it can be frustrating to see the impact of my choices not matter as much as I’d like, or not have freedom of movement in specific sections, they are continuing to create a story that I want to continue.