Power Struggle – “Batman – Episode Three” Review

The third installment in TellTale’s Batman series, New World Order, sees Bruce Wayne struggling to maintain his place in Gotham.

Struggling to maintain his position as Wayne Industries CEO, balancing romance and friendship and the fate of Gotham all weigh heavily on Bruce Wayne’s shoulders in New World Order. After episode two’s explosive conclusion, players will find themselves in a tight bind between Selina Kyle, Harvey Dent and the relationship Bruce Wayne (and Batman) has with them.

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Maintaining relationships are only part of New World Order. The rest of the time will see Wayne trying right the wrongs of his parents while also maintaining order in Gotham. In my playthrough, Wayne looked to Harvey Dent, the new mayor, for support. Now crumbling under mounting pressure, Dent has shown himself to be more of a liability than an asset. Dent’s instability is exacerbated by the Children of Arkham’s rising popularity amongst the citizens of Gotham who want to root out corruption, and the city is on the brink of civil war. While some people still believe in the Wayne family name, half the city is out for the billionaire’s blood.

New World Order continues to display almost constant performance hiccups that get in the way of great dialogue and plot development. The framerate randomly drops to what must be somewhere around 15 frames per second, and the game’s audio and animations occasionally get out of sync leading to some irritating moments. Although TellTale continues to be the pinnacle of episodic storytelling in games, poor performance has now come to be expected from the developer. Releasing episodes frequently is a boon for all, but further optimization could remove ugly blemishes from what’s otherwise a great game.

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Somewhat surprisingly, the performance issues plaguing TellTale’s Batman series are nowhere to be found during combat sequences. Instead, fighting feels tight and even more brutal than the Batman combat we’ve seen in Rocksteady’s open-world games. Utilizing gadgets fans know and love as well as packing a few of their own designs, TellTale manages to make each fight feel unique and responsive. Donning the cape and cowl in brawling sequences makes the player feel smart and looks badass.

Although it’s scaled back in episode three, there’s a brief crime scene investigation where the player uncovers the Children of Arkham’s plan for Gotham. It’s not as elaborate as previous detective sequences with only a handful of pieces to put together, but watching the scene unfold after you connect everything is still rewarding.

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Continuing their impressive narrative, New World Order features plenty of sequences where it feels like the story could branch out substantially based on player decisions. While the fruits of these decisions don’t all unfold in episode three, the illusion of an elaborate “choose your own adventure” Batman game makes decision-making as thrilling as it is stressful. I can’t guarantee your episode three conclusion will be exactly like mine, but players should make some serious discoveries by the time the credits roll.

The Verdict

Like the first two installments, TellTale’s series continues to impress with fantastic narrative design and polished combat. It’s clear that the developer could use more time optimizing these episodes, but now past the halfway point in the series, it seems TellTale isn’t going to make that time investment. The visuals are more detailed than ever, but the stutter players deal with isn’t a great trade-off.

TellTale’s rendition of Batman storytelling is the best that exists in the gaming medium, but the developer needs to focus on polish for this game to receive the top marks it deserves.

4:5

Batman was reviewed on a Xbox One press copy courtesy of TellTale.

Interested in Bear Claw Gaming’s review process? Check out the official scoring FAQ!

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