We left Batman: A Telltale Series on a damp squib of an ending last time out, with the promise of story threads yet to be fully explored being the only salvation. In New World Order, the third episode, some of these threads begin to spin into the interesting places and character evolutions I’d hoped to see, but the results are not all positive.
There’s no denying that Telltale’s dual-wield story of Bruce Wayne’s fall in the public eye as Batman rises as a force for good is a tantalizing pitch on paper, and for all the series’ faults to date, it’s one that’s coming through very clear, but everything else beyond that has conspired to bring down the Batman’s episodic adventure.
As is seemingly a Telltale tradition, with every series suffering much the same in recent years, the third episode of Batman is a vast improvement on the limp mess that preceded it. Not too tough a job to be fair, as the second episode was a stuttering jumble of hit and miss game performance and structure. Still, New World Order ultimately suffers from build up to the future with little in the way of a satisfying payoff, despite ending with a surprising, underwhelming, twist.
The positives though! Harvey Dent gets to progress into something closer resembling the character in crisis fans are familiar with, and this complements the Bruce/Batman arc splendidly with Harvey’s personal life seeing him ride out the drama to find himself in a favorable position while his inner demons start to tear it all down again.
The portrayal of Selina Kyle/Catwoman remains the best seen in many a year, capturing the sultry side of the character without resorting to eyebrow-raising costume design and innuendo-laden dialogue. Here, she feels more like a person than the cliché we’ve seen in Rocksteady’s Arkham series. Selina is probably the most interesting character of this Telltale series so far, and a spinoff wouldn’t be out of the question.
Troy Baker continues to become more comfortable with this version of Batman/Bruce, his scenes with Bailey’s Selina/Catwoman bringing out the best in his performance, and he humanizes Bruce in a manner not usually seen in other versions. There’s also a better split between the player’s time as Bruce and Batman.
The out and out villains sadly are a bit of a letdown again. Penguin is a little more restrained in this episode after a risible over the top performance last time, but three episodes in, it’s hard to decipher which version of the Penguin is the correct one. This makes some sense given his relative mystery to Bruce, but so far it’s like three different characters over three different episodes.
Then there’s the big bad, and the eventual reveal of them. Beyond speculation of who this masked villain could be, there’s little that truly stands out about them. Introducing new villains into a universe chock-full of excellent established ones is risky, and credit to Telltale for giving it a go, but even the reveal doesn’t do a lot to sell this force of evil as a legitimate threat.
That’s mainly because despite some good teases for what may come, there’s still little in the way of closure in this episode. We find out who is behind this attack on the Wayne family name, yet more frustrating questions are left than answers. We get to see more potential in previously underused characters, yet again it’s merely setup rather than the full-blown curtain drop I’d wanted to see.
Mercifully technical issues are less intrusive for New World Order. Even if the usual quibbles are present with Telltale’s creaking engine, the overall look of Batman is definitely a step up from previous Telltale outings. It’s more frustrating than anything at this stage that Telltale are getting riskier with established properties, but remain largely hampered by the one thing they can’t leave behind.