Batman: The Telltale Series’ second episode is already upon us, but unfortunately with mixed results.
While the series’ debut managed to set some moderately high expectations, “Children of Arkham” is hampered by a rough performance, less worthwhile gameplay, and a noticeably shorter playtime.
Though a relatively smaller wait (by Telltale Games’ standards) between episodes is appreciated, it’s immediately apparent where the team cut corners in order to rush the episode out. Right from the episode’s very emotional opening scene, the mood and plot are severely hindered by significant stuttering and graphical glitches. For a moment with so little action, it’s shocking how badly it performs, and really starts the installment off on a sour note. While the rest of the episode manages to recover a bit from the horrendous performance it begins with, it’s hugely disappointing that Telltale still has not managed to fix these problems with their engine. For a studio as prolific as Telltale Games has become over the years, it’s embarrassing to still see this level of poor optimization.
The presentation was not the only aspect hurt by a shorter development cycle however. “Children of Arkham” will only last players about an hour or so, as one of the developer’s shortest episodes to date. Gameplay mechanics like the investigation sequences that I’d hoped would be further developed on are dropped entirely for this episode, in favour of more action-oriented sections, which is definitely not this series’ strong suit. While they are enjoyable enough to watch in their own right, the furthering decline of meaningful gameplay segments is worrying when nothing of substance takes its place.
On the upside, the writing and plot progression are still interesting and fun as expected, and dramatically save the episode from its hindrances. While the world this series sets itself up as initially seemed to be playing a little too safe, events are beginning to unfold that separate this series from its influences and take the Batman mythos in some intriguing new directions. Despite the length, the narrative helps to alleviate it with good pacing and solid twists, concluding in a satisfying and intense climax that leaves me excited to see where it goes next.
For a Bat-fan like myself, it’s still worth the price of admission to see the story progress with both new and familiar takes on established lore and characters, but it is nevertheless worrying to see Batman: The Telltale Series already slipping into lesser care taken to its technical and gameplay quality.