The penultimate chapter of Telltale’s Batman season 2 starts off with the most exciting brawl yet. The consequences, however, fell flat. Character resolutions do not go the way I, and presumably others, were hoping for. Not in terms of direction, but impact. There’s not much more that I can say without getting into spoilers, but suffice to say the payoff did not match the build-up.
The biggest problem that episode 4 has is the same problem that exists in all too many of Telltale’s narrative outings: railroading. The story clearly wants to go in one direction, and if you’re not on board with that choice, you can feel the game start to push back against you, trying to course correct. In season 1, fate conspired at every turn to scar up Harvey’s face, transforming him into the infamous Two-Face. However, the player can save the district attorney from the disfiguring outcome. Regardless of how many faces Harvey ends up with in the end, he still goes crazy and he’s still a threat. While I’m not certain the same thing is happening in this season, I’m starting to notice the writing on the walls.
What’s amusing this time around is that I can see, based on the post-chapter community stats, that others are fighting against the intended path as much as I am, whereas season 1 it was far more one-sided. Whether or not this speaks to a better experience is up to personal preference. What it does speak to is the writing and game design, which are sadly showing their weakness. Telltale had a story in mind, and the choices that could divert to and from it were decided on too late in the writing process.
That isn’t to say I had a bad time with episode 4, when it wasn’t jerking the steering wheel to the right when I wanted to go left. Assuming Telltale has something in mind for the consequences of all paths in episode 5, the payoff could be amazing.
The stand out performance once again goes to the lovable John Doe. Bruce is given every reason not to trust him, but the recent Arkham releasee fights to hard to preserve the friendship that it’s hard to turn against him in any way. Episode 4 certainly tests the limits of how much you’re willing to trust and forgive. And that’s what the season has all been about: trust. The difficult balance Bruce has to maintain in order to keep both his lives in check, while not alienating everyone he cares about.
While episode 4 did not stand up to the quality of the first three installments, it’ll be episode 5 that really determines the final opinion I’ll have for this season. The build-up from episodes 1-3, undercut by the narrowing of paths done by episode 4, means episode 5 has a lot of expectations to live up to and disappointments to correct. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see where Telltale takes John Doe. He’s clearly on two paths, but are they just two sides of the same coin?
|+ John Doe continues to captivate.||– Narrative fights to put player on intended path.|
|+ Some tough decisions regarding trusting John.|