The Rise of the Villains – Spoilers
The situation in Gotham escalates in Episode 2 with Batman and Bruce Wayne beginning to feel the pressure weighing down on both personas. Though it would be a fairly dull episode if Batman solves it all and has tea in the Batcave. Why? Because he’s Batman! Sorry, I had to do that at least once…
Children of Arkham deals with the revelation that Bruce’s parents weren’t the people he thought they might have been. This lie was mainly bolstered by Alfred as he believed the truth may have damaged a young Bruce. I suppose that’s why he’s pretty game for the young playboy to run around Gotham as a giant bat and punch poor people. Guilt is a strong motivated but I won’t lie, I can’t stay mad at Alfred.
‘So… you gonna share that umbrella, buddy? I mean, you did lie about my parents.’
The moral compass modeled on what he believed his parents to be is skewed for Bruce leading to a question of who Batman should be. As a dark knight of justice, can he continue to fund this project with the money his parents took from the unfortunates of Gotham? Bruce begins to question what happened the night of his parents deaths, taking the player through an interactive retelling of the night in question. Though commonly thought to be a mugging gone wrong in traditional Batman lore, Bruce begins to suspect someone close to his parents had them assassinated.
The first episode offered us two distinct characters within the same person’s body, having the player decide what Bruce would do and what Batman’s choices would be. With Bruce haunted by the ghosts of his past, the line in between the two personas has begun to blur. The conversations in which influences how the characters will react since Batman is faced with his parents murderers fueled by the emotions of a nine year old who watched them die. It doesn’t help that anyone who has information on the Wayne’s seems to kick the bucket whenever the player gets close to the truth. I feel like the game wants to keep me guessing for answers.
‘On one hand, I could punch him as Bruce. On the other as Batman.’
The story balances out Bruce and Batman, giving the player the option to play as either to see how it will shape the narrative. It also focuses on Bruce’s former childhood friend, Oswald Cobblepot aka Penguin and his descend into criminal anarchy. Angry at the world and the elite who destroyed his parents, Penguin is determined to return the favour. I found myself intrigued at this development in character as Oz has reason to behave the way he does. He is traditionally shown as a rich, middle aged man who commits crimes for his own amusement. This redevelopment casts Oswald in a sympathetic light, though his actions prove circumstances does not make a noble man.
However, another masked villain seems to be playing puppet master to the young man, taking advantage of Oswald’s bitter attitude towards Gotham’s elite. I’m glad another villain has been added to seemingly be behind the scenes as Oswald’s form of revolution involves a lot of pointless violence which achieves nothing. With the introduction of a more focused antagonist, it is clear to see Oswald merely plays the part of a hired lackey with a grudge. There appears to be a bigger plan unfolding behind the scenes and Batman must find it before everything is destroyed.
‘You may be bigger and stronger but I’m prettier.’
I suppose my main criticism would be the trouble of tailoring story around the established lore of the DC Batman DC universe. As an avid Batman fan, there were moments in which I was shocked by certain character actions and interested by the reinvention of beloved characters. There were references in the episode which speak to a fan of Batman. However, moments like these to those who might be new or not to knowledgeable of the series might go over people’s heads.
Speaking of heads, the quick timed events are pretty much the same with a lot of button mashing to make you don’t get your skull caved in by Penguins blue lackey. Yes, I got Batman’s head popped like a zit after accidentally pressing the wrong button. Though gruesome, Telltale make sure not to turn it into a gore-fest with implied horrible bone crushing sounds. I also ended up in a bar brawl with Catwoman with what seemed to be the hipster versions of Peaky Blinders.
The impact of the choices made in the previous episode isn’t really evident apart from how certain people treat you as both Bruce and Batman. I found choice making pretty hard during this episode since the other characters kept wanting things without giving anything back. It might sound impatient but I wanted a some sort of evident pay off. The thought of having to wait until the end of the series annoys me slightly since the story is made by choices. Without evidence that something might be going right leaves the players in the dark.
Each episode ends with a big decision which must be made. In the previous episode, Bruce makes it whilst the second has Batman do it. Of course, only one character truly knows who Batman is under the cowl, Catwoman, and can choose to be pissed at both personas. Other characters are influenced by which person they see so the player as to tailor responses to what you hope they approve of. Jim Gordon is already on the Bat-bandwagon but flagging behind when it comes to Bruce Wayne. If you prove to share a justice boner as both personas then Gordon seems to like both a bit more than most.
All in all I found Children of Arkham another episode littered with hints for the players to follow with a promise of a small resolution in the third episode. I think if the next episode does the same as the last two, I won’t be too impressed. This story-line focused on the Wayne’s involvement in the criminal world and their assassination. I hope the next part of the story will develop on what is happening in current Gotham with the Big Bads plan set in motion. As long as it doesn’t focus on the Wayne’s murders repeatedly when isn’t relevant unlike a certain movie *coughbatmanvssupermansuckedcough*