Wednesday
Mar222017

QCF: Batman: A Telltale Series Episode 3: A New World Order

fter two roller-coaster paced episodes in, the story of the Dark Knight fight against the Children of Arkham finally begins to hit familiar territory for the character, and how Telltale handles that is certainly, interesting; Episode 3 starts to hit the kind of story beats you’d expect out of Batman, but the shakeups are beginning to stumble a bit.

Bruce Wayne’s more prominent role in the story has definitely made the premise of Telltale’s spin on Batman more intriguing, but Episode 3 of the series works to unfold the unyielding glamour of the hero into something more human than normally associated with the figure that is Batman; it’s a little jarring, but nonetheless, still interesting.

The aftermath of the last episode’s conclusion is still fresh as the opening to Episode 3: A New World Order unfurls, with the inevitable “Beginning of the end” to Harvey Dent, but it’s also not the descent that anyone would expect. Telltale continues to skirt the hero’s plot conventions once more in favor of delivering a more gripping story that isn’t limited by tropes or canon, and the most effective spin they’ve applied at this point isn’t Bruce Wayne or Oswald Cobblepot, but Gotham’s former District attorney, and the new role he has over the city.

Depending on the Bruce’s demeanor and key moments that previously transpired to this point, Harvey will begin to show cracks in his armor, but they won’t necessarily be the trademarks flaws that we’ve come to know of from the character—they’ll be ones that will truly reflect the choices that the player has made. Granted, the possibilities aren’t that deep as Dent is still destined to fall from grace in some way, but the writing and direction makes it to where the potential curiosity it offers is almost engaging enough to merit a second play through of the series, and that credit alone is one worth giving to the game.

Aside from the displays of mania from the soon-to-be antagonist however, the third entry is where the series starts to stray away from what made the narrative so compelling up until now with weird character direction, and direction that strays a bit too far away from established characterization that’s expected out of the Batman cast to an unfortunate fault.

While the story hints that it takes place within the Bruce’s early days of the cape and cowl to justify the circumstances that only a rookie Batman find himself in, there are points where the story makes Wayne vulnerable to a degree of ludonarrative dissonance. It’s hard to justify that the naiveté on display by “The World’s Greatest Detective” is a necessary McGuffin to compromise for the challenges of its choice driven gameplay when the end-result dilutes the iconic character into someone you have difficulty recognizing.

Listen, I’m not saying that the writing takes a dive here, because it’s still rather good; it’s just being done at the concession of its source material at this point.  A lot of the appeal stems from the familiarity to the Dark Knight’s universe, and when the plot begins to get too liberal with conventions that’re universally acclaimed by its fans, it ultimately just ended up hurting the experience I was having. Tell me a fresh story, but do so in a way that doesn’t entirely forsake of the conceit of the universe that it takes place within.

There’s a payoff at the end of this chapter that makes the awkward trip there worth it, but it goes without saying that New World Order is easily the weakest entry within the series thus far. Any excitement I had toward the next episode was not because of what lied ahead, but more so because I was in a hurry to just leave the third episode behind as quickly as I could.

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