One way or another, Batman- The Telltale Series has established a clear pattern in its first three episodes. Though not going as far as to mix up the developer’s now tried and true formula with changes to the combat or a greater emphasis on puzzles, Telltale’s Batman has an engrossing and unique story worthy of the Dark Knight. New World Order continues that trend, introducing villains, exploring consequences, and generally making Bruce Wayne’s life worse by the day.
The gameplay here is the same as the previous episodes. Once more, you have the opportunity to act the detective by connecting different pieces of evidence around a crime scene. Meanwhile, though the episode does feature a couple great fights, one in particular packing a hearty emotional punch, none of them ever reach the level of hectic fun seen in Episode 2’s barroom brawl. Along with the gameplay, the same technical issues return as well, complete with the occasional animation glitch, and the rare stutter or piece of misaligned audio. All that said however, New World Order is well worth the price of admission due to the story and characters at play.
The previous episode, Children of Arkham, ended with quite the bang. Did you help Harvey, or did you help Selina? Either way, a large part of Episode 3 is rightfully devoted to dealing with the fallout. Telltale doesn’t shrink away from putting the consequences front and center, managing to weave a complicated web of results for both Batman and Bruce Wayne.
While it’s worth noting that the overall course of the narrative isn’t that drastically different depending on the choices you made, the player’s relationships with both Harvey and Selina, and their relationship with each other, do take on distinctly different flavors. It is a testament to not only the writing in New World Order, but also the previous two episodes, that both major outcomes still feel natural for the characters. Admittedly, one choice does begin to look like it was the “right” one in the end, but that said, there is still room for even further consequences down the road.
Laura Bailey continues to steal every scene she is in as Selina Kyle, her chemistry with Bruce a highlight throughout. But New World Order also finally gives Travis Willingham much more to work with as Harvey Dent. I’ll admit that I wasn’t wild about Willingham’s Dent during the first two episodes, but it turns out it was more the reserved politician that I had a problem with. Regardless of the mayoral debate’s outcome at the end of Episode 2, Harvey is traumatized, meaning plenty of cracks begin to appear in his cool demeanor. It’s among the ruins of that crumbling politician façade that Willingham absolutely shines.
While there are plenty of excellent Two-Face stories out there, many never fully embrace the tragedy at the heart of Harvey Dent’s character. Even in comics, only a few writers have ever tackled it head on, the most common interpretations instead being that of the coin-flipping mad man we saw in The Dark Knight, or the duality-focused mobster players ran across in the Arkham games. Not only is Telltale’s visual representation of Two-Face’s deformity haunting and grotesque, the developer digs much deeper into the character’s mental state. The immediate results are well worth the slow set up from the first two episodes. More than that, it also points to plenty of promising ramifications for the final half of the season.
Though Harvey’s new status quo is the main through-line for much of the episode, New World Order also delivers more heavily on the Penguin and the newly unveiled Children of Arkham. Telltale’s complete reworking of the Penguin is just as delightful and surprising now as it was in the premiere. Playing Bruce’s knowledge that Cobblepot is the Penguin, against the fact that no one else does, sets up numerous tense situations, all serving to highlight the slimy strength of the villain. Even though we learned at the end of Episode 2 that Cobblepot is a pawn for someone else, his charisma is infectious and his dialogue slithers it’s way under your skin.
Batman- The Telltale Series has proven to be at its strongest when forcing you to deny your basic emotional impulses for some sort of greater good. Do you get angry, or stay levelheaded? Some aspects have accomplished this better than others, but New World Order shows Cobblepot to be one of Telltale’s best tools for pushing the player’s buttons, a task they dole out to him with relish.
The gameplay, structure, and technical issues all continue to make Batman- The Telltale Series come off as familiar fare for anyone that’s played one of the developer’s games before. But it’s impossible to deny the strengths of the narrative Telltale is presenting, constantly raising the stakes, and anticipation, for the next episode.