Batman - The Telltale Series Episode Five Review

By Mark Delaney, 2 years ago
The season finale of Telltale's first foray into seedy Gotham City has arrived and the closing episode neatly represents all that the studio got right and wrong with BATMAN – The Telltale Series over the past five months. It was an up and down affair, so it feels appropriate that the finale plays out unevenly. From the worst stuttering that I've ever seen to one of the best combat scenes that they've ever directed, Telltale's debut with the Dark Knight wraps up with an episode that leaves me with an odd mix of disappointment and hope.

You think you have it bad? Try playing through the jittery scene I just finished.You think you have it bad? Try playing through the jittery scene I just finished.

In the episode three review, I spoke of Telltale's familiar trajectory: open with some table-setting that ends with a bang, climb upward until a valley for a middle episode, then come back up in the second half of the season to end on a high note. Through the first half of "City of Light", it didn't feel like that high note could be achieved. The writers did well to wrap up at least one of its villain storylines last week, meaning that it had to close out two more in the finale. The first of these, the Cobblepot/Penguin arc, is mishandled within the first few scenes of the episode and felt rushed as a result of that. Of course, the Children of Arkham story always took center stage as all of the other pieces fell behind the motivations of Lady Arkham and her assailants, but to set up Cobblepot and Wayne's relationship so much only to end the way that it does in episode five was deflating.

It's also worth noting that through about two-thirds of this episode, there's nearly no time that is spent in the Batsuit. Maybe that doesn't come as much of a surprise since the team clearly stated their intentions on making the first ultra-Bruce-centric Batman story, but through four episodes his scenes had mostly been slower and dialogue-driven. You'd think that in the finale that the wealthy playboy who is hiding in plain sight would give way to his alter-ego who is more conducive to epic moments.

Laura Bailey has become my definitive Catwoman by season's end.Laura Bailey has become my definitive Catwoman by season's end.

That's not to say that the episode is without such excitement. The final battle is one of the best directed fight sequences that Telltale has produced and it goes off without a single hiccup. Great performance like that make me seriously question why the first ten minutes of this episode were stretched in a way that was worse than I've ever seen before, and that comes after I had said that episode four had just earned that distinction, too. From the opening credits until the first achievement popped, the entire episode stuttered so terribly that all fun was removed from the experience, which ended up amounting to about ten percent of the episode. I've mentioned these issues throughout the year, but I think that it deserves repeating once more as the season comes to a close. Telltale needs to fix this. It's inexcusable at this point. A game that measures all of its merits on its cinematic qualities can't survive when that cinema-feel ends up looking more like a scratched disc.

One thing that this episode gets right is to provide tough choices, even if they're not always in the form of standard superhero fare. The conclusion of the Bruce and Selina storyline is particularly memorable as even the moment to moment dialogue options had me second guessing myself. Once all characters but Lady Arkham have been dealt with, the last third of the episode is paced well and felt like a comic book that has come to life on screen more than ever. It all had a finality to it that felt special, even briefly making me forgive and forget the borderline drudgery that preceded it.

The whole season was inconsistent, but it does end with an awesome final battle that looks torn out of a comic book.The whole season was inconsistent, but it does end with an awesome final battle that looks torn out of a comic book.

Jared Emerson-Johnson's brilliant main theme was used to great effect once again, and if you're not tired of it, it'll certainly get your blood pumping as the genre appropriate climax approaches. As much as I enjoy the original music, one scene's impact was greatly enhanced by its choice to go without any at all, instead relying on the atmosphere that comes with a showdown between Batman and, well, anybody.

Thematically, this season ends up feeling a bit off-the-mark when you consider it in full. Rather than point out some grand lesson toward which the writers were building, "City of Light" and the rest of the season ends up feeling a bit disjointed. Gotham never quite rose to become the character that it typically does (and arguably needs to) in Batman lore, and while plenty of Telltale remixes were delivered, they didn't all pay off.

If you've come this far, you know you're just two hours from earning the full 1000 G. Just play the episode without worrying about your decisions. The last of the season's achievements will unlock all the same, which is the best way to approach a narrative-driven adventure game.

Summary

Batman's first season under the Telltale umbrella was not a waste of time. On the contrary it delivers several moments and story beats that are worth the time of any Batfans. However, looking back on the season as a whole, it feels like a lot of its appeal can be measured in such a way — moments and story beats, not a complete and excellent arc. Bruce Wayne got half of the screen time and that was always going to be a risk. It's one that mostly works, but across five episodes, it's not Two-Face, Penguin, or Lady Arkham but rather inconsistency that ultimately becomes Batman's greatest foe. Taking on Batman means that you aren't judged just as a video game but as a new tale in the decades-long Batman mythology. Judged against its peers, this version of the Dark Knight is only average; DC's best hero has seen far better stories but he's seen far worse, too.
3.5 / 5
Episode 5: City of Light in BATMAN – The Telltale Series
Positives
  • More excellent Selina and Bruce moments
  • Awesome final battle with a true comic book feel
  • Heavy choices and dialogue options
Negatives
  • Lacks the right urgency for two-thirds of the episode
  • Feels like it throws away one major plotline in a hurry
  • Opening scene was one long stuttering mess
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent two hours with this episode and ten hours total with Batman's first Telltale adventure. He thinks they can do better and hopes that they try. He collected all 1000 G across the season. A season pass was provided by Telltale for the purposes of this review.
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.