Review

Batman - The Telltale Series: New World Order - Episode 3 Review

  • First Released Aug 2, 2016
    released
  • PC

Bruce wane.

Batman is no stranger to failures; they are the catalyst for his greatest triumphs. For that victorious moment where the Dark Knight rises, he must first be brought to his knees. Episode 3 of Batman: The Telltale Series does just this, but this time it's Bruce Wayne that's put through the wringer.

In "A New World Order," Gotham's golden boy is dragged through the mud by The Children of Arkham. At the end of Episode 2, the group's mysterious leader revealed that the Wayne empire was built on criminal activity. Bruce's father, Thomas Wayne, was not the saintly philanthropist everyone believed him to be.

Bruce Wayne on the back foot has ramifications for Batman's effectiveness
Bruce Wayne on the back foot has ramifications for Batman's effectiveness
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With these revelations, Bruce's legacy is tarnished and the anarchic Children of Arkham have turned the city against him. By the end of Episode 3, Telltale has all the pieces in place for a compelling comeback arc. However, it also becomes clear that the player is more of an onlooker than a participant in this story.

Asking players to make a choice between two options carries an innate tension, even more so when you're mindful that Telltale likes to hit players with consequences down the line. Instead of pushing the narrative down new paths, however, the Batman series' decisions only branch briefly before reconnecting at predefined moments, shattering the illusion that the player has a hand in guiding the story.

During the climax of Episode 2, Batman was forced to make a choice that should have had a lasting impact on the world and fallout on his relationships. It was a moment in which the player is empowered to drastically change the course of events, but in Episode 3, this decision is completely voided. Instead, events play out as if you had no involvement at all. On the one hand, certain character arcs and plot points are pillars of the Batman mythos and thus can't be altered, But on the other, the fact that Telltale motions towards subverting these long-standing tropes before pulling a bait and switch is disappointing.

The dynamic between Bruce and Selina Kyle should be noticeably different in the aftermath of that decision, but in Episode 3 their relationship has barely changed. Sure, Selina Kyle is a strong, independent character that doesn't mope or complain about being snubbed, but the consequences of Batman's decision as they relate to her are quite severe, and it's not brought up as an issue, which further diminishes the player's agency.

The fact that Telltale motions towards subverting long-standing tropes but then pulls a bait and switch is disappointing.

The feeling that player input was inconsequential lingers, which is a shame because it can preclude enjoyment of other interesting decision-making moments in Episode 3. With Bruce Wayne's reputation in tatters, the Wayne Enterprises' board of directors decides to replace him. The player is placed in situations where they can choose to be diplomatic and secure an ally on the inside or act rashly to discredit his replacement. These moments are ultimatums filled with drama, but it can be difficult shake the feeling that it doesn't matter how you respond to them since the narrative course corrects.

It also feels like the deeper exploration of Bruce Wayne that Telltale began in Episode 1 has fallen by the wayside. He's still the focus of the series, but it feels like he's a bystander in his own story. Things happen around him and he acts in the moment, but there's no emotional connection between them. The events of each episode have no lasting effect on his characterization. Sure, this is classic Bruce Wayne stoicism, but he's been portrayed that way for years and there's very little value in seeing that again.

To its credit, Telltale makes a bold decision with its villain, the leader of the Children of Arkham, whose identity is finally revealed in Episode 3. It's an unexpected twist, but at the same time, the game didn't lay the foundations for it. As a result, it lands somewhere between shocking and bemusing. But perhaps this is casting judgment prematurely, given that two episodes remain in the series. That’s ample time to make good on the reveal. I'm ready and willing to be won over.

The player's input feels diminished at a time when choices are critical to Bruce's future
The player's input feels diminished at a time when choices are critical to Bruce's future
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Although most of Episode 3 is spent in the shoes of Bruce Wayne, you also get to do some detective work as Batman. Investigation makes its return in Episode 3, having been omitted from the second episode. As in the first episode, the opportunity to comb through an environment and find clues to piece a story together is a welcome. It's an aspect of the character often diminished in the Caped Crusader's video games that is realised here in a faithful way. Having said that, the puzzles Telltale has constructed offer almost no challenge as the solutions are very obvious. Combat sequences are brief but enjoyable, leveraging drama between characters to create tension in nailing the timing of quick-time events. On PC, I did encounter some frame rate drops during these sequences, but it didn't have a big impact on my success.

Telltale's Batman series has passed the halfway point--and, unfortunately, Episode 3 fails to raise the stakes, present a fresh take on Bruce Wayne, or take the narrative in an interesting new direction. What started off as a series that had the potential to tell a more personal Bruce Wayne story is starting to feel like a missed opportunity. Nevertheless, Episode 3's twist does just enough to warrant seeing the series through to the end.

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The Good
Harvey Dent's performance is compelling to watch
Investigating crime scenes is satisfying
The Bad
Inconsistencies in the plot
Decisions lack impact
Exploration of Bruce Wayne lacks nuance
6
Fair
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About the Author

Tamoor played through Episode 3 multiple times to explore as many branches of the story as possible, but found there's not much different between them. Sad Batman.
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wookietim

I've finished the entire games and this is a spoiler free review, for what it is worth :

1. Let's discuss opening screens for games first. This one has a nice one - I liked the comic book panels falling into the batman logo. I liked it... the first time. After you see it the third time (And you will see it at least 10 times since you enter the game and then have to exit the game to download a episode and then reenter for 5 episodes) it starts to get grating. I don't like things that get between you and the game - the menu system performs that function quite well as is, it doesn't need an extra 30 seconds of something you have seen before.

2. Story consistency. Harvey Dent becomes Two Face in episode two (You've gotten that far as is if you are on ep 3 so that ain't a spoiler). He remains that way in ep 3, using a mask to cover half his face. In a slight spoiler but not really, apparently Telltale forgot about that graphics change in eps 4 and 5. That's just amateur hour guys.

3. Gameplay. This is a telltale game and so gameplay takes a backseat to story. That's okay. But I do expect a tad more input than this one gave me. Out of a 7 hour game I think I might have spent a total of... 30 minutes? Less?... providing input. Wow... that is just sad. But I did like the mechanism for piecing clues together... Batman is a detective as much as he is a Ninja, and this is one of the few times a game tried to combine those two sides.

4. Story. It's good. I enjoyed the twists and turns and I liked the characters growth over the game. It rarely went where I expected it to and that is a good thing. I especially like how the story intertwined both Bruce Wayne and Batman - it's sometimes fun to act as Bruce and see that side of his life in a game.

5. Graphics. Hmmm... Mostly this is good. Not great but good enough. I did have a few points where the frame rate became choppy and a few instances where the characters didn't look very great. Overall it's acceptable but not anything above that.

Here's the bottomline : I have a rule that says I am willing to pay roughly $2 per hour of gameplay. This game costs, in total, $25. It provides about 7 or 8 hours of game. That means it is over priced. If you can grab the first episode for free then it becomes a bit more reasonable. It's worth playing and it's fun enough... but it isn't in the top tier of telltale games.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Good grief, Episode 4 and 5 are just full of plot gaps and deus ex machina.

For one, a regular-ass GCPD police officer is somehow capable of recognizing a high-tech device behind a statue, and also mention the function of the device. Now, this GCPD officer might coincidentally happen to know her electronic stuff (and somehow became a GCPD officer anyway), but the writers have injected a peculiarly knowledgeable cop just to make the set-up for a scene.

Another worse example is that Cobblepot just cannot seem to figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman despite having obvious clues when he rummaged through Wayne Enterprises.

In fact, I will just say this now: this series debuted with a surprising take on Cobblepot, but it messes this twist up by just having him turn out to be a typical two-bit skilled but terribly unwise villain - just like the original Cobblepot.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

No kidding about the lack of significance in the decisions.

The most illustrative example (pun not intended) of this is the decision to save Harvey or not. One would think that the disfigurement would have accelerated Harvey's slide downwards, but preventing the disfigurement does not appear to do much of anything anyway.

The differences are just cosmetic - pun much intended.

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tsuingosuto1985

Personally I enjoyed it, I mean its still all choice based so alot of the problems people seem to have with it stem down to the choices they make taking batman down an illogical path, making him not feel like batman but I think it literally is about the choices made, enjoyed this episode more than the previous in all honesty. I think gamespot though is getting the game spot on, despite a few criticisms about them jumping on the bandwagon, i really dont think thats the case at all.

Heres my run of the latest episode number 4 too for anyone interested, what did you choose the same and what did you choose differently? https://youtu.be/s0APFyt1Nzs

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wookietim

@tsuingosuto1985: A lot of the time, these telltale games (for me at least) aren't really about choices being reflected in the game's story but in me thinking about the choices. I always refer back to TWD season one where there were some really tough choices. Not all of them were reflected in the game but all of them had me stop and think about myself a bit. Am I a person that'd steal supplies from a car and thereby condemn what might be a family to a ugly death... or not? Who do I side with when push comes to shove? Things like that...

It wasn't so much (in that game) about whether the character saw repercussions, it was about what the decisions said about me, the player.

Thing is... TWD season 1 was about a character I could project myself into. Batman is an established character who I am roleplaying. In TWD I was asking what I'd do... in Batman I am saying what Batman would do.

Which made this game a bit less in my eyes... if you see my gist.

Avatar image for timthegem
timthegem

This isn't the first Telltale game where choices don't seem to make any difference yet it seems like the first time Gamespot is outright acknowledging it. I appreciate the progress but at this point it seems like they're just jumping on the bandwagon.

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sakaiXx

@timthegem: no wrong in admitting something.

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Gamer_4_Fun

They should really start re-learning this craft from the Life is Strange developers. Telltale games these days are sometimes a hit but mostly a miss.

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Cl0ud

@Gamer_4_Fun: tales from the borderlands is amazing, my favorite. of the era of walking dead forward. minecraft and goT are the only 2 series i think are very average. batman, i need to think on for a while. it's cool but i find myself disappointed at times

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C0v3rtUnis0l

@Gamer_4_Fun: Not sure about that. The wolf among us was written and executed so well!

Avatar image for Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

@C0v3rtUnis0l: Hence 'sometimes', Batman games are ***

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Yams1980

i played the first game in this series but haven't felt like trying the others. Its crazy how short each game is, it feels like a waste of time to even install it.

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catsimboy

Batman seems to be like it's being made by Telltale's B-team or even their C-team. I've been playing Minecraft Story Mode and Tales from the Borderlands and their episodes are sooooo much longer than Batman's episodes and they have nice features like chapter select. And then episode 3 was a technical mess too, with lag during the driving.

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mousland

After playing other Batman games I find this game to be boring. You spend a huge percentage of your time watching a comic bookish animation play out with interaction points where you choose how the dialogue will maybe influence the game outcome. After that you have about 10% of the game dedicated to actual game play that requires no real skill. It's an interesting concept but not well executed.

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Pierce_Sparrow

I haven't been hearing much about this series for Telltale and I can kind of see why now. This series sounds like it has more in common with BTTF and Jurassic Park than Walking Dead and GoT. I'll still pick it up when all episodes are released as I love Batman, but my expectations are tamed.

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texasgoldrush

Telltale has a problem and its showing. On Steam batman is just not selling well, and each new game has sold less than the last.

Once Walking Dead sold 2 million on Steam in the first season (and Life is Strange at 2.8 million), Batman has 80,000 right now

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ACMC85

@texasgoldrush Not much of a game, but Walking Dead was entertaining. I watched it more than played. Still have to finish it after buying it 3 something years ago.

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Gordon_Shock

@texasgoldrush: Where did you get those figures as Steam doesn't release their sale numbers?

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texasgoldrush

@Gordon_Shock: Steamspy

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@texasgoldrush: I would say here that there are factors other than Telltale's formulaic story-telling. There may be Batman fatigue for one - the rich angry orphan is an all-too-well-known quantity by now.

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p1p3dream

@Gelugon_baat: I have to agree with you on the point that we may be experiencing batman fatigue. Even before the middle of the road reviews were brought to my attention, I really can't say I was moved to have interest in playing this series... I've enjoyed the other Batman video games- but they were never new purchases for me... If I was playing a Batman game it was because I had already played everything else I was interested in available at the time. I just can't say I'm super enthralled with the exploits of a dude who runs around in a cape. Call me Batman'd out.

Avatar image for mousland
mousland

@p1p3dream: I would agree with the Batman fatigue syndrome from the poor rich angry orphan standpoint, but the Batman games have been really solid (with the exception of this current Telltale version). I also think that the games appeal to certain player types. I prefer the game play of the Batman series over a shooter type game.

Avatar image for efshavin
efshavin

Looks like I will hold off on buying - not necessarily that put off with decisions not having impact if the story is worth it but so far doesn't seem like it's doing enough.

Batman: The Telltale Series More Info

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  • First Released Aug 2, 2016
    released
    • Android
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    • PC
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    Enter the fractured pysche of Bruce Wayne in this dark and violent new story from the award-winning creators of The Walking Dead - A Telltale Games Series. Batman - The Telltale Series comes to retail as a Season Pass Disc, which includes Episode One, and grants access to the remaining four episodes in the season as they become available to download. The Season Pass Disc will give you access to a total of 5 episodes as they become available.
    7.4
    Average Rating151 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Telltale Games
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    Telltale Games, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
    Genre(s):
    Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
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