Your Standard Arkham Affair
Can we all just take a moment before this review begins to acknowledge Telltale’s punctuality in releasing Batman: Ep. 2? Usually, we have to wait 2-3 months in between every release; that’s the kind of time-frame that makes one forget about the story, lose interest in the characters, and generally begin to not care about the next release. That’s why I normally choose to wait and play the whole suite of episodes once the finale has released; However, reviewing the game forces me to keep up-to-date with the schedule. Luckily, Telltale Games was timely in their release this time around.
When Batman: Ep. 1 was released, I was a but a young lad enjoying my last days of summer. Flash forward to today, September 20th, and I am a college student who’s up to his neck in a myriad of schoolwork, extracurriculars, and life adjustments. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t had time to play video games at all, aside from the rare game of Overwatch. As such, I want to be clear with my opinion of this game: It was good to play a story-driven video game again. This episode had flaws, yes, but I enjoyed finally being able to put on a nice pair of headphones and ignore the real world for a bit.
I will keep this review spoiler-free for Episode 2, but I may venture into spoilers for Episode 1. If you would like to check out my opinions of anything new that Batman brings to the table (such as multi-touch or the new engine), check out my review of Batman: Ep. 1. Otherwise, onward to my opinion of Batman: Ep 2.
My initial opinion is that Children of Arkham is your standard Telltale affair. It’s quick (it clocked in at about 1 hour and 30 minutes), it’s bare of too much gameplay, and it’s still able to surprise you with it’s twists and turns. Seriously, other than story, this episode didn’t really do too much to further any sort of advancement. Whereas Episode 1 provided a good mix of story, new gameplay, and light puzzles, Episode 2 feels like a barebones entry in the series. I didn’t get anything out of this episode that was particularly unique or exciting, but I wasn’t disappointed, either. It was your standard Telltale affair.
While the episode was a quick one, it didn’t fail to entertain me. Many plot seeds planted in Episode 1 sprouted into baby plot plants, and it was a joy to see some of them play out. Ozzie Cobblepot’s intentions became clearer, Catwoman continued to wobble on the metaphorical fence of ethics, Bruce learns more about his family’s seedy past, and Gotham reacts to how Batman handled the end of Episode 1. That last part specifically seemed to play a large role in the story of Episode 2; There were multiple times when my Batman was applauded for leaving Falcone to be handled by the police. It was nice to see a direct correlation from my choices in Episode 1 to Episode 2; it caused my choices to feel validated.
I’m particularly interested in how my Batman’s relationship will be furthered with Catwoman. When the first episode, ahem, let the cat out of the bag about Batman’s identity to Catwoman, I applauded Telltale for changing up the usual Batman formula. There are two scenes in particular that are instrumental to Selina and Bruce’s relationship- the way you play them out can make for some drastically different consequences. The ending choice in particular was a hair-pulling moment for me; Telltale pulled me in two different directions, as they do so well. That’s the power of Telltale: While the gameplay didn’t provide much fun, the story legitimately grabbed me. That’s the strength of Batman, and that’s what makes Batman Ep. 2 worthwhile.
Overall, Children of Arkham was a very enjoyable, if short, experience. The quick-time events grew tired, the “detective” elements were dumbed down from Batman: Ep 1, and the story was much shorter than the first time around. That said, what we got was a quality addition in terms of a default “Act 2”. This is why I prefer to play Telltale games in one go; a complete experience is more conducive to having a cohesive experience. Ah well, Telltale entertained me with the “rising action” portion of their Batman story. Plus, the title put a controller in my hand- I think we can all agree that that’s what’s truly important, right?
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, Android, IOS; Publisher: Telltale Games ; Developer: Telltale Games; Players: 1 ; Released: September 20, 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $4.99 (Episode 1 only), $24.99 (Full Season)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Batman: The Telltale Series Episode 1: Realm of Shadows given to HeyPoorPlayer by Telltale Games.