GAME NAME: Batman – Children of Arkham
DEVELOPER(S): Telltale Games
PUBLISHER(S): Telltale Games
PLATFORM(S): PC, PS4, XBox One, PS3, XBox 360, Mac, iOS, Android
RELEASE DATE(S): September 20, 2016
Episode two, entitled “Children of Arkham”, is a great example of a plot thickening. The ambiguity of right and wrong, good and evil, friend or foe, are all shaded ever more grey as our hero is forced to face a past both his brain and his trusted assistant, Alfred, so effectively buried… until now. With Gotham’s biggest mob boss captured and a newfound link between he and Bruce’s presumably deceased parents unearthed, Bruce (at times in Bat form) sets out to piece together the puzzle and learn the truth about his parents, whom he naturally held in high esteem. What he discovers, however, is less exonerating and more damning than expected.
Technically, the game ran significantly smoother in episode two and that may have something to do with the fact the action takes a considerable backseat (is there even a backseat in the batmobile?) to the drama. Some may call that a contrast to their hopes, but being a person who considers the conversations and decision-making the gold in a game like this, I see it as a step in the right direction toward an exceptionally satisfying gameplay experience. The episode is not without its fist flying, leg swinging, gadget-friendly, “you messed with the wrong guy” goodness, though. One such highlight comes in the form of a bar room brawl with Selina Kyle at your back. She is, of course, an ally you know you probably shouldn’t align with, but honestly, who could do otherwise? Logically, she and Batman work well together and their odds seem far greater to defeat their common enemy as a duo than they do going the lone bat/cat route. Illogically, she’s dangerous, alluring and voiced by my favorite voice over actress in the business. I chose to team up.
Story-wise, Harvey Dent’s campaign continues to play a major role in seemingly everything you do as the richest man in Gotham. Whether you’re trying to play low key to avoid making waves that could damage Dent’s political aspirations or deciding whether or not to pull funding from your string-pulling friend (who has an annoying habit of complaining every time he returns the favor), Dent is consistently central to the plot. Add the fact a so-called revolution threatens the election and the situation couldn’t be much more dicey. Oh and with the leading (as far as we know) revolutionary being none other than your quip-happy, apparently wronged childhood friend by the name of Oswald Cobblepot, this is one motley crew of a cast list, with a considerable web of varying interests. The result produces a particularly Film Noir feel (The Wolf Among Us anyone?) through which you try to balance the pursuit of personal goals with that of Gotham’s greater good and somehow manage to maintain and/or cultivate relationships along the way.
The sounds and music continue to be solid aspects of the series, whether in the form of voices, luxurious cars, gunshots, flying gadgets, or as an effective tool to build intensity and elicit emotion (a fact my wife even complimented in passing). Lighting, too, effectively set each scene with the desired feeling to match. One such shining example comes as Bruce explores the alley where his parents were murdered, with flashing memories recollecting the event and dream-like audio/visuals that guide us as said fateful night is revealed.
The shortcomings of episode two are far fewer than those of episode one. Being deeper in the thick of Gotham’s corruption, even in some ways at its center, the decisions we make and the allies with whom we decide to align seem much more important this time around. That said, the game and the episodes can suffer from old-hat syndrome, a la particular decisions can be sniffed out far in advance if you’ve played this type of game before, thus forgoing would-be spontaneity. All the while, the need to read and click fast is still somewhat compromised on my computer, specifically hindering the flow of the adventure. And finally, the only other gripe I could put forth is a minor identity crisis the game falls slightly victim to (hello, parallel to Bruce’s sitch’). At times you’re a 40’s detective, while others you’re Van Damme-ing and James Bond-ing your way through foes, then the playing of Godfather politics, and yet still getting friendly with fire on the romance front; a hodge-podge of activity that when I write it out, actually sounds more like a positive than a negative. But still, yeah. Identity crisis.
I was on the fence after episode one, so episode two could easily have been the episode that cast my interest aside altogether or reeled me in for the long haul. I’m happy to report it did the latter. I look forward to seeing where the story takes me from here… even if there are still no SPLATS or POWS on my screen.
The PC version of this game was provided by the publisher for review.