[CAUTION: Some spoilers for Episode 1 ‘Realm of Shadows’ and episode 2 recap up ahead.]
Batman: The Telltale Series certainly started off with a suitable slow boil. We learned last episode that the Waynes might not have been the paragons of hope and goodness as Bruce consistently painted them to be.
Carmine Falcone was captured at the hands of Batman during a nasty ambush and told him that there was a far-reaching, unsettling conspiracy involving the billionaire family. Oswald Cobblepot returned to Gotham with a mission of a vague ‘revolution’ at hand. Bruce also met Catwoman and subsequently discovered her real-life identity of Selina Kyle (and vice versa), new girlfriend of his best bud Harvey Dent. To say things were a bit complicated is an understatement, but ‘Realm of Shadows’ set a lot of gears in motion. This was made all the better by the second episode ‘Children of Arkham,’ released on Tuesday, taking the ball and running with it.
In the latest episode, Bruce is faced with a dilemma of looking back into his parents’ past and trying to find threads leading to their supposed corruption. His investigations lead him further into the murder of his mother and father, now twenty some years past. As Bruce revisits that fateful night, he finds a small thread that indicates his parents’ deaths were less of a happenstance. He eventually questions Falcone but gets sidetracked by a supposed illegal drug being circulated in Gotham.
There are certainly a couple of items at play within Batman in this go round: his parents’ past, Harvey Dent’s campaign, Cobblepot’s ‘revolution,’ Vicki Vale’s digging for a story, and a series of crimes across Gotham involving some sort of super drug. While most of these threads seem well connected, the drug angle is the only one that’s hanging off. Telltale does its best to incorporate it at the beginning of this episode, but Bruce doesn’t get much farther in his investigation into it. It’s the only thing right now that seems to be a shortcoming in this full-fledged Batman mystery.
Probably most exciting in this episode is the amount of time given to Bruce and Selina together. The two meet up in a dive bar, where Bruce came to warn her of impending danger. Some thugs arrive to dispatch Selina, but obviously neither refuse to go down without a fight. Their punch-up is a fun sequence that plays clear homage to the characters’ comic book chemistry. The two eventually team up again, this time to rescue hostages being held by Cobblepot at the mayoral debate. Cobblepot reveals that he’s working with another mysterious leader on his ‘revolution’ whom dubs themselves one of the ‘Children of Arkham.’
What’s nice about this episode is that there is a very big choice to be made towards the end that appears to have an impact on the story. In past games these decisions never amounted to much, but this one in ‘Children of Arkham’ genuinely feels like it will affect how the rest of the episodes will play out. One hopes that Tellttale will actually make it worthwhile in the remaining chapters.
Again though, Telltale continues to have optimization problems with this game. The beginning of the episode played on Playstation 4 chugged with its own frame rate and locked up several times. It finally snapped out of it once the first major checkpoint was hit, but effectively drained any drama begotten from the introduction of the episode. It’s disappointing that this continues to be a problem for the series and really discourages from playing as each chapter releases.
Final Score: 4/5
This episode really took off in a good direction now that it didn’t have to be bogged down with exposition, but the technical glitches and frame rate problems continue to be a detraction.