NOTE: This review is spoiler free of plot details.
One of the reasons why I’ve fallen out of love with Batman lately, other than over saturation on DC’s part (he’s in the Justice League Dark animated movie?! WHY?!!), is that for a character who regularly fights crimes with near God-powered super beings, he’s often the most powerful person in the group despite having no super powers other than years of training and study. People poke fun at the Adam West Batman series from the 60’s about how Batman always has an oceanic Bat-Spray just in case he gets attacked by a shark, but that’s how I feel Batman is now to a lot of people.
I bring this up because we’re now four episodes in to Batman: The Telltale Series and what I find refreshing about the developers take on Batman is how they’ve managed to make Batman vulnerable again, and that’s most evident in Guardian of Gotham. The episode starts with Bruce Wayne now stripped of his gadgets, tech, support, and maybe even his own mind and locked up with some of the people who we’ll hopefully see him go up against should this series continue which I’ve no doubt it will. Even when you see Bruce suited up as Batman for the first time he’s not wearing some experimental new suit or even a back up, but the battle damaged suit from Episode Three.
Another strength of Telltale’s take on this source material is how they’ve managed to take familiar characters from Batman lore and then do unexpected things with them, however in Guardian of Gotham it’s perhaps when this has backfired for the first time. If you’ve seen the trailers, and I’ll keep this spoiler free if you haven’t, Episode Four introduces a well-known character into the already stuffed cast of characters and it adds little to the series and even takes away from the build up of other revelations from the other three episodes. The cliffhanger ending from New World Order isn’t addressed in any meaningful way, and once again the mystery that was set up in the series premiere once again takes a back seat. I feel that Telltale is holding back for the season finale for the real revelations, but introducing such a major character to excite people only to have them be handled not terribly, but not as scene stealing or memorable as they should be, was maybe not the best decision.
Introduced in Children of Arkham but sadly absent in New World Order is the return of the ability to handle a situation as either Bruce Wayne or his alter ego, but whereas in Children of Arkham I had to stop and think about it how I should handle the situation, it was almost painfully obvious what the best choice was in this chapter, and the same goes for the dramatic choice at the end. This will probably be the first Telltale series I play through twice to see how different things can be, and I want to see how the game changes depending on the opposite of what I did this first go around, but unlike Children of Arkham where I was left questioning if I indeed did the right thing, I had no doubt in my mind I was right in Guardian of Gotham.
Something I don’t like to address when talking about Telltale games is the tendency for bothersome bugs and glitches to appear. People have talked about how the first three chapters had technical problems that soured their experiences slightly, but personally there was none that stood out to me, that is until I played Guardian of Gotham. The chapter has yet another tension filled, superbly choreographed fight sequence but its impact is felt less when sound effects go missing and there’s a very awkward load screen right in the middle of a very important section where you wondered if your game crashed or froze.
Despite having problems with Guardian of Gotham that make it sound like a write off, I’m still very much invested in how this bold take on Batman from Telltale concludes. It’s difficult to talk about exactly what doesn’t hit the way it should without getting into spoilers, but even with the rough spots, there’s still a lot to keep you invested though I still wish that this felt like more of a standalone chapter and less like a tease for the finale that we’ll hopefully get before year’s end.