We’ve now hit the penultimate episode of Batman: The Telltale Series, which means a bit of a recap is in order when it comes to my thoughts on the previous ones. I felt Episode 1: Realm of Shadows offered a lot of tantalizing possibilities for the universe, and I especially liked the way the focus remained on Bruce Wayne as a character rather than the Caped Crusader. On the other hand, I wasn’t as big a fan of Episode 2: Children of Arkham, which I felt did little to advance the story and even less in the way of gameplay.
I hit a bit of a snag playing Episode 3: New World Order, experiencing some glitches that prevented me from getting a review up in time — but once I did get to play, suffice it to say I found it the strongest episode yet, making good on the promises of Episode 1 in even darker and more challenging ways than I expected. And so we find ourselves on Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham, with the question of whether or not this episode continues to follow the interesting threads established in the last one.
The short answer is, fortunately, a resounding “yes!” I’ll leave the “why” of it to the below paragraphs, but I do want to issue a word of caution first; while previous episode reviews have attempted to remain spoiler-free, the number of complicated plot developments make it difficult to critique the story without talking about it in detail. Needless to say, then, there are spoilers below — you have been warned!
Bruce Wayne has not had a great time since we last saw him. Over the course of Episode 3, he experiences a number of personal blows so devastating it’s hard to believe he’s able to bear getting up in the morning — the allegations about his father’s misdeeds have all been proven true, he’s had Wayne Enterprises wrested away from him by Oswald Cobblepot, he infuriates his friend Harvey by getting caught pants-less at Selina Kyle’s place… and that’s not even the worst part.
No, the worst part is — as you might imagine — discovering that his trusted “ally in the press,” Vicki Vale, is actually the villain that’s been behind the Children of Arkham from the beginning. After she stabs him with a syringe full of the psychoactive drugs, Bruce finds himself a patient in Arkham Asylum, having maimed Cobblepot at the press conference thanks to the power of the nerve agent.
It’s a gut-punch of a twist, to be sure, and I can’t deny how much I absolutely love the way Batman: The Telltale Series has recovered from the narrative wheel-spinning of Episode 2 to deliver challenge after crushing challenge for both Bruce Wayne and Batman. That trend continues in this episode, which sees him temporarily allying with a certain green-haired, pale-faced asylum inmate to escape.
Of course, you don’t have to ally yourself with “John Doe,” as he’s called throughout the chapter. You can make a few different choices. But, for me at least, there was something thematically satisfying about Bruce hesitantly opting to take his advice — it’s another bizarre role-reversal in a series currently chock-full of them. Harvey Dent, a good-natured friend for at least half the campaign? Thomas Wayne, a reprehensible scoundrel? Vicki Vale, a Big Bad? There was something about adding “The Joker, an ally???” to that list that just seemed right.
Of course, with things getting as bad as they were in the last episode, they’re only bound to get worse here — and they do, quickly. Even once he’s out of the asylum, Bruce finds himself in a police state created by Dent, who’s gone absolutely mad with power. He later discovers that Lady Arkham has gruesomely murdered her adoptive parents (the Vales), that the Penguin has successfully hacked into his tech, and that Selina — who had previously agreed to live with him — has chosen to flee. Oh yeah, and Dent personally decides to go to Wayne Manor to blow it up with Alfred inside.
This latter portion creates a desperate choice for Batman in the final act of the story: will he go to Wayne Enterprises to confront Cobblepot, ensuring his tech is ready for the inevitable final showdown? Or will he go to his manor to help Alfred stop his old friend from making a very bad decision? Personally, I opted for the latter route — not just because it seemed like what Bruce would do for Dent and Alfred, but because it seemed to follow everything that Telltale had been leading up to until now.
That is to say, I predicted taking the latter path would make Batman seem as vulnerable as he possibly could be going into the final episode. I was right — since he was unable to help Lucius Fox prevent Cobblepot’s hacking attempts, he’s forced to shut down all his compromised WayneTech-developed equipment, rendering Batman practically useless for the coming confrontation with Lady Arkham and Cobblepot. In a series that has relentlessly stripped both Bruce and Batman of everything that makes them powerful, this just feels like the ultimate challenge.
I won’t lie, though — exciting though the last two episodes have been, I can’t help but feel like they’re buckling a bit under the darkness of the story. It’s nice to see Bruce facing such steep challenges this time around, but the lack of levity is frankly exhausting. When Batman rescues the foster child of the murdered Vales, who helps him battle one of Cobblepot’s hacked drones, I couldn’t help but smile at the exchange afterward in which he comforts the child. Others might find this scene sort of cornball, but for me, it was a brief respite from the unrelenting unpleasantness.
With that said, Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham effectively follows the dark, fascinating threads woven in its predecessor. It’s a bit too late to ask for humor in a series that’s clearly attempting one of the darker and more depressing Batman narratives, and so all I can ask for is that the finale extinguishes the utter despair of these episodes with a little more hope and faith in humanity. Given its title, City of Light, I feel like that’s exactly what we’re headed for — and I can’t wait to help Bruce Wayne and Batman get there.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham follows up nicely on the plot twists and themes introduced in Episode 3, providing Batman with his darkest and most challenging video game story yet. The proceedings border on unpleasant at times, but then again, it's Gotham we're talking about here.