Game Review | Batman: The Telltale Series | Season 1, Episode 2 | "Children of Arkham"
Game Summary: An old friend becomes a new adversary as Bruce learns more about the Wayne family legacy and Batman escalates the fight against crime and corruption throughout Gotham.
This is a definite step-up in almost every aspect from the first episode in what could potentially be the best Telltale series yet, but it’s still lacking that certain special something that made The Wolf Among Us so much better than the sum of its parts.
To start with the improvements: there are less glitches this time. A lot less. In fact, there was one graphical glitch and that was it. It’s weird that the second episode is less buggy than the one that is going to be the first impression of the series as a whole for players.
Also, the visuals seem to be improved too, with the quirks of the art style either not occurring or simply being better hidden by animation and posing. The animation is still nothing amazing, but is certainly good enough to get across the flow of fight scenes.
However, one criticism of the visuals that carries over is the game’s lack of its own style – while the angles and framing do enough to clearly communicate what is happening, that’s about all it does. With so many Batman appearances across multiple media, it’s a shame that it looks decidedly non-cinematic and more like something for television.
Getting back to the positives, the story felt a lot more focused and the episode flew along from one scene to the next, constantly demanding the player keeps up. Again, it’s strange this is happening in the second episode and could’ve been annoying to see if waiting for each episode to come out individually – having them all to play at once negates this.
Again, the only real issue is the way the game and story railroad events into happening regardless of internal logic. As an example, there are yet more deaths in this episode that should have been easily preventable for someone as capable as Batman is depicted as being here.
This is growing to be quite an issue with the writing in Telltale games over the past couple of years and I sorely hope that this trend dies out sooner rather than later. If there are certain things that need to happen to propel the plot, don’t have a character who would otherwise be able to affect these events suddenly turn into a simpleton who allows them to happen.
Once again though, the positives are still coming: the voice work remains stellar and the cast all feel like they are at least better written this time. In “Realm of Shadows”, it could feel at times like the voice actors were doing their best with bad work, but this time around everything comes together so nothing stood out as sub-par this time.
Story-wise, things continue to ramp up for Bruce Wayne, who remains the centre of this particular tale rather than his masked alter-ego. I did appreciate being given the option to choose between playing one section as Bruce or Bats though; this is something I hope is repeated later on.
However, choosing to play through as Batman leads to the invisible ‘violence-ometer’ to go screwy as it did with the sniper interrogation at the crime scene from the first episode: for some reason, a conversation with Lieutenant Gordon involves him telling Bats to cut down on the excessive violence despite having done nothing worth that particular rebuke.
It’s clear that there is some kind of broken mechanic in the background that is apparently swinging a little too harshly in either direction dependent on your actions, but if it continues to only result in a little bit of dialogue then that’s something I can live with.
“Children of Arkham” remains a promising continuation of the story and I am eagerly looking forward to the next chapter. A great example of how a second episode can take the set-up from the first and build momentum going forward.