The finale of Batman: The Telltale Series is finally here, and it’s time to take a look at how the studio’s first take on the Caped Crusader wraps itself up. While I tried to keep reviews of the early episodes spoiler-free, I’m taking a more in-depth look at the narrative as we come to the conclusion — so consider yourself warned on the spoiler front.
At the end of Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham, I opted to rescue Alfred from the threat of Harvey Dent rather than trying to stop Penguin from taking over all of Wayne Tech’s equipment. I mention this because Episode 5: City of Light specifically comes with a disclaimer stating that players’ choices will lead them to begin the episode in different places. And to be perfectly honest, considering how my final choice had completely stacked the odds in Oswald Cobblepot’s favor, I was pretty disappointed by how easily that issue was resolved in the final act.
Just to backtrack a little, both Episode 3 and 4 were absolutely jam-packed with issues for both Bruce Wayne and Batman to contend with: Harvey’s transformation into a violent, unhinged mayor; Oswald’s complete takeover of Bruce’s company; and of course, Lady Arkham’s revelations about the Wayne family turning the entire city against him. Strangely, I felt like the horrifying sense that the whole world was against me simply disappeared as City of Light began. As the first indicator of that, the confrontation with Cobblepot, which comes down to dismantling a trap he sets for Batman in the middle of the park, feels like a letdown after the buildup leading up to it.
It’s also hard to feel the tension of the climax when the pacing gets bogged down by unnecessary interludes. Selina Kyle’s story was pretty much resolved in the last episode, so her reappearance here after Penguin’s demise seemed like a ludicrous waste of time. The reason Bruce chases her down in the first place is flimsy and out-of-step with the rest of the episode, but even worse, does he really have time to be having a conversation about their sex life when terrorists are running rampant across Gotham?
A similar issue crops up once the final showdown between Batman and Lady Arkham begins. A call from a frantic Alfred reveals the Children of Arkham have broken into Wayne Manor. Once Bruce gets there, though, he has to participate in a particularly slow and uninteresting investigation (especially when compared with the gruesome murder case in the last episode). What does the investigation reveal? The Children of Arkham broke in, fought with Alfred, and kidnapped him. I may not be “The World’s Greatest Detective,” but even I could figure that out without participating in the game’s clunky connect-the-dots mechanics.
In the process of tracking Alfred down, Bruce inadvertently discovers something about Lady Arkham’s past — one that presumably explains why she turned out to be a supervillain. And I suppose this “twist” is in line with many of the others in this series, which have done their best to unravel what we think we know about Gotham. But there’s just something hilariously off about the way it’s presented here, almost as a minor detail while Bruce is investigating Alfred’s kidnapping. It’s kind of like, “Oh yeah, by the way, the Vales were psychopaths who tortured their foster children in a specially-built concrete chamber. Anyway, where did that crazy old butler get to?”
I’m being a bit harsh here, but only because the series has had so much promise. I’m mostly disappointed that certain ideas and themes were never fully developed. This is a series where the central variation is Thomas Wayne’s past as an evil crook, but I felt like the details of his heinous crimes, as well as Bruce’s emotions on the subject, should have been explored more. Batman is such a psychological series in its darker incarnations that I was hoping Lady Arkham would be more of a Scarecrow-esque villain, playing with Bruce’s guilt rather than trying to destroy the city with brute force.
In the end, though, I have to review what was created — and I do think there’s enough good in this conclusion to recommend it. Having the choice to reveal Bruce’s identity in the final battle with Vicki is ingenious; it’s the perfect way to show her that she’s had him pegged wrong the entire time. Likewise, I’ve begun to grasp that two of Bruce’s central relationships across the whole series are fascinating, and come to interesting junctions by the end credits here: specifically, these incarnations of Alfred and Gordon are very strong in terms of writing, and I want to replay the series to explore how the player’s actions shape Bruce and Batman’s relationships with both of them.
Perhaps the best part of Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 5: City of Light was feeling a warmth at Bruce’s vows to make amends for his father’s actions during the final scene. That bit is unfortunately upended by a final twist teasing the series’ future and its next villain — leaving a gaping plothole in its wake — but while it lasts, seeing Bruce come to terms with his family’s past in such a selfless way was really quite moving. Given that these versions of Bruce and Batman are bound to reappear, I’m hoping the next seasons further explore the fascinating themes initiated by Telltale’s first take on the Dark Knight.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Batman's final Telltale outing — well, for this season, anyway — is a mostly-satisfying conclusion to a fascinating, dark and unusual take on Gotham. It doesn't quite fulfill all the narrative promise of its intriguing themes, but it does wrap things up in an effective enough way.