The best part of any Batman story, or any other superhero story for that matter, is when it all comes down to the wire. Everything is on the line, and the stakes are as deeply personal as they are far-reaching. City of Light tops off the first season of Batman- The Telltale Series in fine fashion, doing just that. Pushed into a corner, based on your decisions in Episode 4, Batman and Bruce Wayne are down, but not out. What follows is an excellent finale, packed with action and tension, elevating it above the technical issues that weigh down Telltale’s latest to the very end.
For all it struggled with, Episode 4 left off with a couple massive choices for players to make. Which part of Bruce Wayne’s life do you sacrifice, which villain do you take off the board? Depending on your choice, the first two major scenes of Episode 5, roughly the first half hour of the finale’s 90-minute run time, play out entirely different. Either way, whether it is Harvey’s Enforcers for Oswald’s Children of Arkham goons terrorizing the streets, things are going poorly. City of Light quickly establishes itself as appropriately dire.
In either case however, you end up with a powerful, character driven scene that delves into the personal relationship Bruce shares with one of the now villainous men. Penguin’s psychology and Two-Face’s tragic duality become the central focus for the conflicts instead of just a physical altercation like in Episode 4. While it is a shame that most people will only play through one of these scenes, and Telltale does little to explore the consequences of your Episode 4 decision beyond which villain is still at large, the different starting points are a nice touch overall. Kicking off the episode on such a personal note sets the stage for the rest of episode to follow suit.
Gameplay-wise, there are no surprises here. Linear, step-by-step batcave investigations return, alongside evidence-linking at a crime scene. Instead, it is through the strength of the episode’s dialogue and fight scenes that the finale succeeds. Dialogue-based puzzles make an appearance, building out the excellent foundation of characters throughout the episode.
Be it an outstanding, well-written scene between Bruce and Selina, a poignant scene between Bruce and Alfred, or even the powerful confrontation of wills between Bruce and Lady Arkham that the entire series has been building to, there is a lot to enjoy in City of Light. Each character is complex and interesting to interact with, those very interactions becoming the core of episode’s narrative.
At the same time, Episode 5 also manages to weave in enough action to become likely the most action-packed, visually intense episode of the series. The fight scenes are large and bombastic, capturing the superhero flair in a way the rest of the series has only hinted at. Using a variety of unique locations, shining a gothic light on Arkham Asylum that was sorely missing from Episode 4, and making each scene standout from the next, City of Light is simply more artistically interesting than many of the previous episodes. Ranging from horrifying to stunning, the environments and action add just the right amount of flavor to the episode to make it feel like a worthy finale.
Unfortunately, that is where Telltale’s reoccurring technical problems hold this episode in particular back. Most obvious is the issue that during my three hours with the episode, it froze once, and crashed once. Likewise, in combination with multiple audio glitches, there is the fact that, during both of my playthroughs, a certain character did not render in the game, leaving only a floating set of eyeballs and teeth in his stead. Gamers will likely remember a similar, and equally disturbing, glitch made famous by its appearance in Assassin’s Creed Unity.
Less obvious, but detrimental to the episode as a whole, are the loading times and saving-caused screen stuttering. Neither is anything new for Telltale games, let alone Batman, but the issue stems from how visually rich the episode is. The fight scenes and action, especially in the finale’s climax, are stunning. Eventually showcasing an intricate, multi-stage, running fight scene, the episode builds to a heart pounding, emotionally charged rhythm. But that rhythm screeches to a halt every time Batman runs into the next hallway. The fast-paced action stutters in place for a second as the game saves. Worse are the multiple times the screen goes black while the next area is loading.
Again, neither of these issues is new, but it is the first time in recent memory that they feel to be in direct opposition to an episode tackling a longer, more ambitious cadence of events. If anything, Batman Episode 5 is just one more representation of the fact that the artistic and storytelling talents at Telltale have surpassed what the underlying technology of their games can handle.
City of Light excels in many ways. The consequences from the hefty decisions players were forced to make at the end of Episode 4 start the finale off on a particularly emotional foot. While it’s sad the consequences are largely forgotten after the first two scenes, playing little role in the remainder of the episode, seeing the consequences play out at all produces a strong opening.
Overall, leaps in logic from the previous episode, mostly surrounding how a crazed Harvey Dent could get a significant number of people to become his murderous Enforcers, haunt the status quo of Episode 5. But taking the episode for what it is, City of Light shines. Tense character interactions, mixed with slick action and great locations, Episode 5 is a fitting finale, despite the game’s technical limitations and hiccups along the way.
This game was reviewed on PS4 console, with a copy purchased by the reviewer.
- An emotional finale
- Strong, interesting characters
- Visually striking, intense action
- Continued technical problems
- No clear, lasting consequences
- Stuttering and loading interfere with the big climax