Batman The Telltale Series Ep. 3: New World Order Review – Hostile Takeover (PS4)
The hardest part of being a superhero would be the decisions of who to save and what dangers to take on. No matter their super abilities, heroes can’t be everywhere at once, especially dealing with things in both their personal and heroic lives. New World Order begins shortly after the climactic events of episode 2. Penguin and the mysterious leader of the Children of Arkham have dragged Bruce Wayne’s family name through the mud, revealing to the whole city that his father was complicit in some atrocious acts, particularly one involving the Cobblepot family.
Now Oswald Cobblepot wants his revenge, both as Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend, and as the callous Penguin, ruthlessly culling Gotham’s financial and political elite. Penguin takes a backseat in New World Order as his non-criminal alter ego manipulates a takeover of Wayne Enterprises. While it makes for an interesting dramatic shift — stripping Bruce Wayne of the power and money that allows him to be most effectively be Batman — it’s not an entirely unique idea, having been previously explored in many DC comic adaptations of billionaire vigilante heroes. The tension between Cobblepot and Bruce is delightful though, throwing away a childhood friendship for a family grudge, and putting the decision of how Bruce handles the situation into the players’ hands made me feel solidified in keeping my cool, or justified in punching the bastard in the face.
There’s precious little Batman in this episode, most of the masked hero’s moments revolving around taking on the Children of Arkham in some form or another. Will I save Harvey Dent or will I provide backup to the Gotham City police? I’ve been trying to make sure that I am as friendly as possible to the man that is destined to become Two-Face, hoping that Telltale’s decision-branching story structure might give me the option to keep him the honest and good friend of Bruce Wayne. I should know better by now that course correction always wins, and that this Batman tale isn’t quite as unique as Telltale wanted to sell it.
The Other Boot Drops
After the major decision at the end of the last episode to save either Harvey or Catwoman, I expected the fallout of that choice to impact who remained an ally and who became an enemy. Spitting in the face of preventing irreparable damage to Dent’s face, he still goes all Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, letting his more destructive half out with or without the mangled face. My story just ended up having a far more boring version of Two-Face, where one side of his visage was slightly bruised instead of horridly scarred. While choice did give me a significant aesthetic difference, my choices should prevent him from becoming Two-Face entirely, not just from looking like him, because ultimately it means they have very little bearing on the actual story. My Harvey Dent never looked like this, but he was still Two-Face.
Likewise, on the romance front, continuing to push Catwoman away does not tip the scales on which side of the line she stands. She is still an opportunistic thief who insists on playing both sides and pursuing flirtation with Bruce. It’s disappointing that Telltale has the opportunity to tell a truly unique Batman story by allowing the player to control who their friends and allies are, and who becomes their enemy, but instead we’re hustled into a lot more of the same, at least until the end of the episode
The final scene of the episode is quite the reveal of this new player, the leader of the Children of Arkham. It’s not Scarecrow, but their methods are quite similar, using chemical compounds to incite neurological chaos on the whole of Gotham. It’s Batman Begins all over again. As much as the major differences and reveals strive to be unique and have unique hooks, they are mere flashes in the pan, fizzling back into invariable Batman and DC mythos that really doesn’t make a significant footprint. Sure, it’s an interesting incarnation of Penguin. The Waynes being criminals is a bit of an intriguing twist, though it technically has been done before. I mean, Martha Wayne has been portrayed as the Joker in the Flashpoint paradox, so involving Thomas Wayne in Gotham’s seedy underbelly isn’t that shocking.
The worst part of falling into these expected patterns is that there is so much potential to really turn the momentary successes into brilliant plot lines, but they have yet to manifest outright. It’s possible the final two episodes will take that turn to ignite the abeyant narrative that is just waiting, and it’s ironic that most interesting part of this third episode is the “next time on Batman” bit at the end, showing Bruce locked up in Arkham as a madman due to the events of the end of New World Order. This twist could be exactly what I am looking for Telltale to do. Take the characters, the conventions, and the known of Batman and tell their own dark story without falling into drudgery. It’s just sad that it’s taken three episodes of political drivel and conventional Batman to tell an actually interesting story.
Bucket of Building Blocks
Coupled with the slow exposition is some relatively dull gameplay. There’s a few ho-hum fight scenes and a whole lot of sensational dialogue that set up Bruce’s relationships with those around him, but over the course of the 90 minutes or so that it takes to complete the episode, nothing really happens. There’s a lot of setup — the takeover of Wayne Enterprises, Dent’s weakening mental state, the reveal of the leader of the Children of Arkham — but very little payoff considering this is a mid season episode. Like a pile of LEGOs, there are some interesting pieces, I’m just hoping they build into a foundation of something greater, ending the series on a high note.
New World Order continues the slow burn of events that Batman: The Telltale Series has presented so far, only ramping up the intensity in the final half of the episode. It’s got a few bright spots that don’t fully light the room on a unique Batman story, bits of setup providing very little payoff among the political drama and typical Batman flak. Conceptually, Batman: The Telltale Series still has a lot going for it though, and it’s possible that these unique moments could bloom, but episode by episode this take on The World’s Greatest Detective isn’t living up to the Batman’s legacy. Or perhaps it’s merely that his legacy is getting a little played out and there’s just not much interesting left to do with it.
Batman: The Telltale Game Series Season Pass review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.