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access_time December 21, 2016 at 3:42 PM in Reviews by David Poole

Review | Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode Five: City of Light

Closing off the season of Batman: The Telltale Series, episode five wraps up several plot points while still leaving room for new ones to start. Telltale managed to successfully establish a new universe for these familiar characters, creating a divide that keeps it from the general status quo. Compared to the previous episode, the pacing of the finale works a lot better, and while some elements of the story take a predictable route, it was still an engaging thrill ride. As with previous episode reviews, there are minor spoilers ahead, so proceed with caution.

Starting off with what makes this episode stand out from the rest is the way it begins. Depending on which villain the player chose to tackle in the previous episode, either the Penguin or Harvey Dent (AKA Two-Face), this episode will begin in a different situation. This is perhaps one of the biggest changes a decision makes throughout the whole season, as it dramatically changes how the episode plays out in the beginning. It was great to see Telltale take a risk like this so late in the season, and it managed to work out in their favor. If players made certain choices, they might even get a few extra scenes that come into play later in the episode, but like most choices, this is up to player discretion.

The choice of taking on Harvey at the end of episode four means challenging the Penguin without any of Batman’s gadgets, so this means doing what Oswald wouldn’t expect: going as Bruce Wayne. This plays out as a rather fun dialogue sequence and it was great to see more of the sympathetic part of this Penguin. Penguin gets to show a bit more of his ruthlessness and we even get to dig a little deeper into his character, including a flashback to when he was a child with Bruce. It really helps establish this version of the character and truly makes him stand out among the others, and I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.

The other option also involves engaging the villain as Bruce Wayne, as Harvey has just finished burning Wayne Manor and is now holding hostages. This scene is a bit more on the tense side, which works well since it doesn’t give the player a lot of time to choose certain choices. Regardless, this gives Bruce the opportunity to reach out to his friend and make him understand that he isn’t in control. Unlike the Penguin, Harvey is more of a victim to his own mental issues, and it really adds some gravity to the situation. This version of the episode also opens with a flashback that adds more depth to the friendship between Bruce and Harvey, which is another nice touch to build these characters. Both of these characters were once friends to Bruce, and it really helps add some difficulty to how to handle the situation.

Regardless of the choice the player makes in chapter four, the beginning of the episode allows the player to take out one more villain before tackling the main threat of the season, Lady Arkham. It’s been a long road to this result, and after the major twist in episode three, it was great to learn more about the motivations of Lady Arkham and how she was also a victim in her own way. This is where the episode probably suffers the most with the gameplay, as we are given a pretty extensive back-to-back sequence for detective mode challenges. While it is a good way to translate the detective work to this type of game, sometimes the conclusions would be best left to a cutscene, as some of the clues seem pretty obvious. Hopefully Telltale finds a way to reinvent these moments, as they do add some variety to the gameplay, but they need to be more creative than just “connect the dots”.

Getting to the final portion of the game, we have some of the most compelling fight scenes in the season. The final battle between Batman and Lady Arkham really feels like a final fight. The stakes get raised, the threat is constant, and the action is nonstop and well choreographed. It even comes down to one important choice that asks the player what kind of Batman they wish to be. That decision may come at a cost to someone else, though how high that cost is will be made clearer in a second season. Even if that important decision doesn’t change the overall result, the player will still live with the consequences, making it more a matter of pride.

Once the final battle is over, the game tries to set things right in the story and though the immediate threat no longer looms over Bruce’s shoulders, this is still the world of Batman. There are more villains, more opportunities, and surely more secrets to be explored. The episode gives a few final teases, and that helps build hype for an inevitable second season. Hopefully it will come soon, as there is one major player that needs more time to shine, and it would be great to see more variations of the iconic characters that make the Batman legacy so well known.

Getting onto a technical level for this episode, there are some ups and downs. While this episode has some of the best looking set pieces and visuals, there are still some problems that come up. Over the course of the season, some of the episodes suffered some problems more than others, but this one actually suffered the most in my playthroughs. Not only did the frame rate have repeated issues, but there was a moment when a character model just didn’t generate into the world, leaving only some eyeballs and a mouth. It actually made a big riot scene pretty hilarious, watching a floating set of eyes and a mouth holding a weapon and being chased around in the background. Regardless of the laughs, it was still a notable issue. This is also another episode where the game just simply crashed, requiring a restart of the game to try again. It’s unfortunate that some of the Telltale games suffer from these issues, and though part of it is based on the procedural generation of the engine, it does make one desire a more consistent quality to match up with the superb storytelling.

It may not be the strongest episode, but City of Light still worked as a fantastic conclusion to a great season. Telltale did great with these characters and while most of the game plays itself, there are still some epic moments for players to take part in. The ending, while somewhat predictable, still caps off a thrilling journey of player-based decisions with heart. If Telltale can continue to find new ways to introduce classic characters, which isn’t exactly impossible given the large cast of characters to pull from, then they can easily support this series for a long time. I heavily look forward to seeing more of this universe, and I hope to continue building my Batman for years to come.

Final Score: 8 out of 10


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