Game - Batman: The Telltale Series Episode 4 Guardian of Gotham
Release Date - November 22nd 2016
Platform - Xbox One
Developer/Publisher - Telltale Games
Episode 4 of Batman: The Telltale Series came with a message warning you of the impact your choices would have on the rest of the series, especially those made in the third act. This was anything but a lie as the two endings couldn't be more different.
Guardian of Gotham continues after the end of episode 3, and sees Bruce in Arkham Asylum as a result of his "actions". It starts off with one of those "ok, deep breath. Now exhale" beginnings and slows things down a bit after the flipped upside down ending of episode 3.
Of course, no one believes he was drugged and Bruce needs to rely on wit and an unlikely ally inside Arkham in the Joker. As shown in the pre release trailer, the Joker makes his first appearance as sort of a guide for Bruce and eludes to a more pivotal role later on. Joker's role itself was minimal, but important as it helped tie up the loose ends Bruce needed to bring down the Children of Arkham. We all know the Joker is one of those characters you always have to keep an eye on, and his quick 20 minute role plays into the game brilliantly.
It becomes clear that Harvey and Oswald are the series' main villains. This is a change from the norm, especially when the Joker is involved. Since the Joker, known only as John Doe, is an origin story and unknown to Bruce at this point, Telltale plays right into our hands by teasing him only briefly. It let's our imagination think "what's his angle? What can he be up to?" all while trying to make sense of the new story. Telltale's writers are some of the best around, and this take on Batman is the best I've seen across all mediums in its 76 year history.
The two endings couldn't more different, and it's going to be an intense scene to say the least in episode 5. Harvey is one breakdown away from going full on Two-face and ironically is more dangerous than the Children of Arkham he's trying to eliminate. It's turned into a personal battle against Bruce Wayne himself as Harvey, as usual, isn't aware of his identity. Oswald is also trying to ruin Bruce but from a very different perspective. The choice you make at the episode's conclusion can't be rationalized. If you play it with a mentality of "Well, if I choose this, I can always figure that this will happen" you will be absolutely dead wrong. Both endings stay true to the series so far, and rev up anticipation in its final scene.
Technically speaking, this episode was the worst one as far as glitches are concerned. A few times in a fight the game did not recognize my button presses. This didn't impact the overall result of the fight, but it's still frustrating to see it happen repeatedly even on their new engine. In addition, some of the audio was out of sync with the mouth movements. In a game that relies so heavily on the captured emotion of facial movements and body language, these made it a bit if a pain to stay in the groove.
Nonetheless, the voice acting in this episode was stellar. The Joker lends is proverbial laugh, Harvey has his sarcastic tone with half cocked comments and you can truly hear the lain in Bruce's voice. The emotional turmoil is getting to him and Troy Baker does a great job at bringing that home to players.
I've said it in past episodes, but the manner in which Telltale has created this Batman series is incredible. It's amazing that after 76 years there is still some originality in Bruce Wayne's story, and even more amazing that this version is the best I've ever experienced across all mediums.