WARNING: Lots of spoilers for the series are present in this review. Avoid reading if you don’t want anything from Episodes 1-3 ruined for yourself.
As the credits rolled on Episode 3 for me, I began to realize that this series is just not panning out like I hoped it would. The third episode of Batman: The Telltale Series begins to complicate the plot more than it needs to while making some strange decisions in terms of villains. Before I get too negative in this review though, I’ll try to be positive. Let’s start off with what I liked.
After the events in Episode 2, I was intrigued to see what would become of Harvey Dent. At the end of the previous episode in my playthrough, Penguin had scarred Harvey’s face. It was obvious to me that we were heading in the direction of Harvey eventually becoming his alter-ego Two Face. However, the way Telltale has gone about it in this episode is much more subtle and nuanced that I expected. You begin to realize in this episode that Harvey has some serious mental issues that he needs to get taken care of. What I liked about it, though, was that his struggles aren’t brought about purely because he is now disfigured. You can tell that this is something he has dealt with for awhile.
In one pivotal scene later in the episode, Harvey begins referring to himself in the third person and his attitude begins to become volatile. When he comes to realize what is happening to himself, he refers to a “him” that is taking control of his actions. It’s apparent that he knows he is being taken over by his other half and it scares him. The scene then ends with Harvey in tears as he exits, fearful of what is happening to him. Telltale has really written Harvey incredibly well and you end up feeling a lot of empathy for what he’s going through. At this point, Harvey Dent is more of a loose canon than an actual antagonist and I’m excited to see his evolution continue going forward.
I also have really started to enjoy the relationship in this game between Bruce and Selina. There’s some great characterization moments later in the episode where the two of them talk and it was one of my favorite scenes from this episode. They both are able to identify with one another because they know what it’s like to don tights. This common ground leads to a possible romance, which I enjoyed. The romancing of Selina in this game didn’t feel forced, which I appreciate. Their relationship has continued to grow and deepen every episode to the point where this potential fling feels natural.
Lastly, I wanted to say how happy I was to hear Dave Fennoy return to a Telltale game. The voice actor who most famously played Lee in The Walking Dead appears in this episode as Lucius Fox. Lucius isn’t in Episode 3 a whole lot, but it was great to hear the warm and sultry voice of Fennoy once again.
Now to touch on what I disliked which, unfortunately, is almost everything associated with the driving narrative. After the climax of Episode 2 which featured the death of Mayor Hill at the hands of Penguin, I expected Episode 3 to involve Bruce chasing down Penguin. Instead, most of this episode is spent focusing on what the Children of Arkham are up to. Having the Children of Arkham involved is fine but what I don’t understand at all is why Bruce would not pursue Oswald. While the public isn’t aware that Oswald is Penguin, Bruce does know this, so then why wouldn’t he begin to hunt him down? As Batman, shouldn’t that be his responsibility? A terror attack has just taken place in Gotham and Bruce knows who the culprit is but decides to do nothing about it. It just didn’t make sense to me.
I think this leads in to one of my larger issues with the series as a whole — the villains. Episode 1 saw Carmine Falcone appear as an antagonist only later to be killed at the beginning of the second episode. Episode 2 saw Penguin assert himself as the villain only to then be much less present in this episode. In the third episode, the Children of Arkham leader was the primary villain. Plus, we know that Harvey is continuing on his path to potentially becoming Two Face. So far, I think there’s just too much going on in the story and not enough consistency with the bad guys. I really would have liked to instead see one or two main villains who become incredibly fleshed out throughout the game’s five episodes. Instead, I feel like there are 3-4 antagonists who thus far have been poorly characterized.
Let’s start to touch on the Children of Arkham. I mentioned in my last review that I was incredibly interested in this group predominantly because I didn’t know what to expect from them. They haven’t been in Batman canon up until this point and I wanted to see how Telltale would utilize them. Unfortunately, I’ve been underwhelmed. I wanted them to have the same depth as a group like the Court of Owls but so far, they seem like just a bunch of thugs who work for a masked leader.
My biggest question in the series so far has centered around the masked figure’s identity. I had some theories of my own and I was incredibly excited for the reveal. In this episode’s final moments you learn who this masked leader is and oh man, was I upset. I won’t say who it ends up being but I will say that I was incredibly disappointed. This reveal ends up being the massive twist ending but it mainly left me frustrated and confused. I think the reason that I hated this twist so much is because the character who ends up becoming this Children of Arkham leader is a famous personality from Batman canon who typically doesn’t fill a role like this. Maybe I’m too much of a comic book purist to appreciate the move. I’ve mentioned in past reviews that I like how Telltale has decided to make this universe their own but this action just feels wrong. I assume we will get an explanation in Episode 4 as to why this character has decided to become a villain, but right now, I have no clue why Telltale made the decision that they did. I hope they end up proving me wrong.
I always touch on the issues I have with the game’s engine in my reviews for this series, but this time I will make it much more brief. Once again, the game stuttered for and the frame rate would drop. More specifically though, every fight scene that occurred in Episode 3 saw its frame rate drop drastically. The fight between Batman and the Children of Arkham leader near the game’s conclusion was laughably bad for me. At this point it doesn’t come as a surprise to me, but its a continued negative I have with the series.
I’ve continued to hope that this series would turn a corner narratively at some point but unfortunately that did not occur in Episode 3. While there are some great characterization moments with Bruce, Selina, and Harvey in this episode, I think the overall plot has started to lose its focus. I’m hoping the narrative can tighten back up when the fourth episode is released but at this point, we are running out of time. I really wanted to like this series but its just been a let down thus far.