Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 2: Children of Arkham Review
The first episode of Telltale Series spin on the Batman franchise ended with a story reveal shocker. One whose implications, if true, would cause Bruce Wayne to question everything: his feelings about his parents, his life choices, and the false beliefs upon which he created the Batman.
These implications were so deep and fundamental that I expected Telltale Games to do a story telling tap dance at the start of episode two. A pull back away from the dramatic precipice that had been set up at the end of chapter one, if you will. But they did not. Episode Two – Children of Arkham – embraces besmirching the Wayne family to explore new story possibilities. It’s part of the challenge to mine new material in a franchise that has been plundered so many times over and over. It forces creators to wander outside the established lines of the world to tread in fictional fields that rile up fans. To Telltale’s credit, they manage this feat rather adroitly with only one fumble so far.
“The hook of the Batman Telltale Series is that the Wayne family is dirty.”
The hook of the Batman Telltale Series is that the Wayne family is dirty. Mobster Carmine Falcone, Mayor Hamilton Hill, and the deceased Thomas Wayne formed a triumvirate that split up Gotham City into three pie slices to which each pursued their own dreams. If such a scenario was covered already elsewhere in Batman lore, I wouldn’t be surprised. However baldy stately the Wayne family was dirty is something new I believe. Other stories that I am aware of played with such allegations for the Wayne family but never went over the line.
This story decision puts Bruce in the blender. His whole life is based on the misconception that his parents were the victims of a random event. So far in the game, how Bruce will process this information has yet to be explored. He is in a heads down mode, focusing on the immediate issues at hand. I certainly hope the game does mine Bruce’s head space about this because otherwise it could become a false piece of writing, used only to drive the story ahead. A bit of falsity has already surfaced with Alfred and his relationship with Bruce. Alfred’s reveal that he knew the Waynes were dirty and kept it from Bruce just doesn’t sit well. Nor does Bruce’s quick acceptance of Alfred’s confession and apology. Yes, the game can let you play those moments more angrily but that illusion of choice is compromised as the two still team up.
Whatever quibbles anyone may have with the story, it is very engrossing. Once you start playing it is nigh impossible to stop until you finish the episode. This demonstrates the game’s strengths and weaknesses. You’ll finish episode two in about two hours. You can extend your game playing time by replaying sections and choosing alternative paths but that is something that holds little appeal to me. You may differ and want to play out all the possible scenarios but I find doing so detracts rather than enhances from the story.
Much more noticeable than the first episode, this one has very little game play. The experience is much more an interactive graphic novel reading exercise. Your moments of action, or just plain interaction, are dialed back quite a bit.
Technically it seems, for me at least, most of the bugs have shaken out. On my PC rig, the game looks, sounds, and runs great. The artwork in this game is so sharp it almost pops off my screen with a near 3D presence at times. Players with less robust gaming rigs have complained of poor performance and lock ups so your experience will vary accordingly.
“The story is gripping, the game looks beautiful, the production values are excellent, but you don’t really get a lot to do.”
This is a hard one to rate because of how it plays. Or how little you get to play. The story is gripping, the game looks beautiful, the production values are excellent, but you don’t really get a lot to do. When I finished the episode, I had to sit back and weigh these factors and decide what kind of experience I want. Do I want to play a Batman game with a deep game mechanic or one with a good story? Knowing this is a Telltale game should be your guiding star.
All I know is I was thoroughly entertained playing Children of Arkham and am jazzed to play the next episode and see where the story goes next.
***A PC code was provided by the publisher***
- Thoroughly engrossing story
- Gorgeous production values
- Bruce stars in dramatic material
- More a story than a game
- Choices not that important
- Performance issues