Last time, I did a rundown of the overall game with a specific dive into episode 1. When you’re releasing a game in episodes the burning question is always about consistency. Episode 1 earned high marks, does Telltale keep it up with Batman Episode 2?
Developed by: Telltale Games
Published by: Telltale Games
Release date: Episodic release from August 2nd through December 13th, 2016
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed on PC)
Price at time of review: $24.99 USD for the full series, Episode 1 FREE, so give it a whirl
Story & Setting
Episode 2 begins with a “last time, in Batman – The Telltale Series” style recap of Episode 1. This provides an excellent refresher and reinforces their concept of “episodes.” And I do mean excellent. I hinted last time that I can’t precisely give you the story because it reacts to your choices. The recap included some of these choices and still presents as a fluid cinematic experience.
Following this, we’re in Bruce’s shoes having a trademark heart to heart with Alfred. Except in Telltale’s world, Alfred has a shocking revelation. I won’t go into any specifics, but I will make Batman fans a near promise. I highlighted last time the fact that the story is not intended to be canon. I don’t mean to say that there’s some crazy badass villain they unveil. The type of game likely wouldn’t do that justice. A primary allure for Batman is the underlying psychology of Bruce Wayne. Telltale mostly sticks to the script. That “mostly” is important. We’re used to the dark recesses and “on the fence” morality of the Dark Knight. Here’s my near promise to Batman fans though:
If you enjoy the inner workings of the Bat-Mind, you will be fascinated…nay…hypnotized…by the subtle tweaks to the story that Telltale makes. For many of us, the Dark Knight is almost like a comfortable pair of pajamas and we will slip right into the game and start living as Bruce/Bats. Now try to imagine you’re invested in being Bruce as Alfred tells you a dark family secret…
For any Batman fan, the chance to live that moment (as well as many others) in the life of Bruce Wayne is deliciously agonizing.
As Episode 2 progresses, Bruce’s relationships with several key characters start to take a more definitive shape, ultimately leading to a major decision. This episode has our first encounter where we get to choose to handle it via the persona of our choice. The intimidating presence of Bats, or the Guile and charm of Bruce Wayne?
I hate having to constantly qualify this, but I feel like I need to. This type of game focuses more on story and experience and there’s very little to highlight as far as gameplay. Bruce/Batman walk around just fine using the arrow keys. The cursor isn’t hard to figure out what to do with by any means, and is as precise as you’d expect…since it’s your settings and hardware it’s working with in the first place.
That’s not to say Telltale didn’t put out a polished product. It’s just that this isn’t a game for adrenaline laced combat. There’s puzzle elements and absolutely hallmarks of a “game,” but the allure is really more the story and experience. If you like reading comics, watching Batman movies, etc. this will feel like participating in those forms of media. If you like the idea of being Bruce Wayne for a change, or running the mental operations of Batman more so than his fists; the gameplay supports these things very well.
A “for instance” is in order. I noted last time that the combat is done primarily with QTE style “push this button now and the game does the rest.” That still holds up. But on occasion Telltale asks us to come up with a strategy first. In a room full of thugs, should I smash the first guy with this bludgeoning tool, or toss his sorry ass into the big screen? After coming up with a strategy to take out everyone in the room, Batman leaps into action to carry out the operations you decided on (and of course there’s QTE button pressing). All in all, it makes for a much more cerebral Batman experience.
Visual & Audio
The voice acting in Episode 2 starts off exceeding even that of the first episode. It’s a narrow margin, but a somewhat more subdued Harvey Dent is a better Harvey Dent.
I was torn on which section to have this, as it could easily be in the story segment, but I wanted to discuss the actuality of a player driven narrative in this game. In episode 1, I noted how you’re told fairly often that “___ will remember that.” Theoretically, this should then lead to changes down the line. I decided to analyze this in the audio section, because the game’s dialogue trees are all fully voiced which necessitates convincing audio to pull off. It’s easy(ish) to make a branching set of dialogue based on previous responses. It’s selling it via the vocals that I feel many games fall short. Not here. I walked into a conversation early on in this episode and was quickly reminded of how I treated this person last time. Thanks in part to the timer placed on Bruce’s responses, the conversations flow exceedingly well. Choices I made last time (like; who should I give key evidence to?) are reflected in the story.
Visuals don’t have anything new to report without going into specific locations, but maintain their feel of a living comic book. Very early in the episode the game reminds us it’s not for kids with a pretty detailed front-row seat to gunshot wounds as they occur (at least that’s what happened in my game). This level of violence and gore is somewhat commonplace. While it reminds us that Batman isn’t always for the kids, it helps sell the experience of a dark world that borders on lawless.