Batman - The Telltale Series Episode Four Review

By Mark Delaney, 2 years ago
There's a certain formula television -- and for that matter, Telltale, who cribs a lot from the medium -- follows for a penultimate episode of a season. I don't know if any series has led into its season finale without a major cliffhanger. It works, though, and I'm not knocking it. The events of the second to last episode of BATMAN – The Telltale Series are more than just a cliffhanger, though. "Guardian of Gotham" is paced very well, begins to tie up the season's many loose ends, and will leave anyone invested clamoring for the finale.

A Serious House on Serious EarthA Serious House on Serious Earth


After the events of the prior episode, Bruce finds himself locked up in Gotham's "serious house", Arkham Asylum. This depiction of Arkham isn't nearly as dark as Morrison's or even Rocksteady's, which is a bit of a letdown. Fans historically have identified the asylum as an unequivocal hellhole. That sort of imagery is countered with Telltale's version that is desolate, sure, but also somewhat lax. Having several patients running freely about the institution and even sharing a common room with TV and games access is something to which Arkham has never played host.

It's here where the writers pile on some fan service with several nods to the greater Batman universe. Several familiar faces previously employed in the comics, animated series, and Rocksteady's games make cameos and at least one of them feels like a setup for more of Telltale's Batman down the line. Of the three main villain cameos shown in Arkham, one works very well, one is a mixed bag, and one misses the mark. It's consistently fun to see these references be made, however, even if the end result sometimes disappoints.

There are several cameos to be seen within the padded walls of Arkham Asylum.There are several cameos to be seen within the padded walls of Arkham Asylum.


One of the complaints I had with the low point of the season, episode three, was how the main villain had an interesting look and formidable training but sorely lacked any interesting motivation. They had kept it behind wraps for the duration of the episode and it became a distraction. Thankfully, "Guardian of Gotham" goes to great lengths to reveal and explain those motivations and the end result is something no other story focused on The Bat has ever done. It's refreshing, and like several times previously, it cements this version of Batman as one that uniquely belongs to Telltale Games.

It's then maybe a bit hypocritical of me to praise the series' change-ups when they so blatantly mishandle the asylum, but that example is the exception. For the most part, the Telltale reimagining of characters, locations, and backstories has worked very well. These alterations haven't felt like cheap ploys to find uncharted waters in the decades-long history of the character, either. They work much more often than not and fit together as part of the thematic whole for the season.

Both Batman and Bruce are running out of allies.Both Batman and Bruce are running out of allies.


There were a lot of loose ends to tie up coming into the fourth episode, so many that I didn't really quantify them all until "Guardian of Gotham" skillfully jumps around to each of them. This episode is paced very well, up there with the second episode as the series' best so far. A creeping start gives way to an exciting middle portion before delivering the classic "see you next time" moment that will excite anyone who has made it this far. It also features the game's best action sequence to date, thankfully not bogged down by the lag for which the developer is unfortunately known.

Several other parts of this episode did experience some of this signature lag, however. Worse, immersion-breaking lip sync problems take place more than once. Like watching a YouTube video where the audio and video are misaligned, it's very frustrating to have it happen with Batman, especially when weighty dialogue is being delivered. I feel I've always been more forgiving than most with regard to this legacy issue of Telltale's and even I shook my head threw up my hands in frustration when two different scenes paused for annoyingly long periods of time.

This scene in particular pulls no punches.This scene in particular pulls no punches.


The decision moments gave me more pause than any episode so far, though, which is often a sign of a memorable two hours. I was thankful when one of them didn't give me a timer and panicked when another unforgiving tree demanded I choose a branch quickly. I just wish some of these legacy concerns could be corrected. It's clear at this point we need to expect them for the finale, too, and maybe all their future work until they really revamp whatever is causing these issues behind the scenes.

Like always, just playing the game will net you all six achievements for all 200 gamerscore.

Summary

"Guardian of Gotham" is some of Telltale's best writing to date. It masterfully paces several dangling story threads into one tightly delivered penultimate episode while also seeming to build the greater Bat-verse for future seasons. It's exciting and uniquely theirs at this point. It's just a shame this episode also comes with the worst performance issues the season has seen so far. Forgive those, or at least push through them, and what remains is a runner-up that will have you desperate to see how it all turns out in the finale.
4 / 5
Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham in BATMAN – The Telltale Series
Positives
  • Heavy and pause-worthy choices
  • Best action sequences yet
  • Nods to the IP's long history
  • Cements the story as unique to Telltale more than ever before
Negatives
  • Surprise! Lip syncing and framerate issues continue
  • Some familiar faces miss their marks
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent two hours playing the fourth episode of the season, including a few moments to reflect on some difficult decision making and a few others waiting for the game to unfreeze. A season pass was provided by the publisher for the purposes of season-long reviews.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.