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‘Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 4: Guardian of Gotham’ Review

This is a review for the fourth episode of Telltale’s Batman. For a review of the first episode, click here, click here for a review of the second and click here for a review of the third. From this point on I try my best to avoid spoilers for the fourth episode, but know that if you’re already sold on the game, it’s best to play it blind.

****

After the exciting cliffhanger that capped off episode 3, the latest offering – Guardian of Gotham – has decided to take all of that drama and tension and throw it right out the window. After a series of increasingly exciting episodes, it’s disappointing to hit one that feels so lacklustre, especially this late in the season.

Episode 4 begins with Bruce Wayne at an all-time low, but then immediately decides to bail him out of it. Players are given the option to do something morally questionable to turn things around, but when Bruce takes the higher road, he’s bailed out anyway. Telltale games often employ the illusion of choice, but it’s rarely so transparently shallow as it is here.

The biggest issue with the fourth episode is that it feels almost entirely inconsequential. There’s a single tough decision near the end that seems as though it will have a big impact on the finale, but otherwise the entire episode is sitting comfortably in a holding pattern. It’s as though Telltale wrote a season that was four episodes long, then decided they could squeeze the fifth one in for good measure. Except for the ending, it simply feels like the entire episode could be ignored without missing a beat.

15123286_10211014538656440_8836812337014683557_oIt’s not all bad – there’s some fun banter between characters, some tense moments and a couple of interesting decisions to make. This is all fine earlier in a story, but now that we’re closing in on the ending it feels like a waste of time. There’s no significant character development or memorable scenes outside of the last few minutes.

This makes another negative point almost feel like a mercy, as this is by far the shortest episode yet. It clocked in at just under two hours on my initial run through, then slightly quicker on another.

The action is as stylish as ever but still suffers from a lack of feedback and consequence. Missing a button prompt will often result in Batman successfully taking the action anyway, which diminishes the tension entirely. There’s also a brand new puzzle element, though it’s clearly been designed to be solvable by anyone and feels more like a strange time waster than anything that requires a logical process.

15129493_10211014536856395_1979625711673011705_oDetective mode is back as Bats investigates the most brutal crime scene yet, but it still basically completes itself. At this point in the series, it’s clear that this potentially interesting mechanic is going to be squandered. If pieces of evidence weren’t necessary to complete an investigation or if players could simply make an incorrect assessment, this mechanic would become infinitely more interesting. As it is, players can make like the GCPD and simply fumble around until Batman solves their problems for them.

This is the worst episode in a great season, but it doesn’t seem as though it’ll tarnish the entire package too much. It’s inoffensive at best but feels very much like a way to artificially extend the story without any real substance. Because the final minutes are so important it’s hard to recommend skipping it to those who have been enjoying the series so far, and it’s far from being a bad enough episode to turn people away from the series as a whole. Still, it’s a disappointing development after increasingly interesting chapters, so we’ll have to wait and see how the finale wraps everything up.

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