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Review: Batman Episode 5 - City of Light


Marcus Stewart

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Telltale’s Batman kicked off with a promising, but so-so, pilot and goes home with a triumphant bang. City of Light combines dramatic storytelling with an increased focus on gameplay to conclude Bruce Wayne’s struggle on an overall high note.

The final episode impresses right out of the gate by presenting two vastly different opening chapters (determined by the player’s final choice in Guardian of Gotham). Both introductions kick things off in high gear with tense conversations and high-octane action. I also enjoyed seeing how the effects of the previous episode’s ending ripple throughout City of Light. These differences chiefly affect Batman’s tech and provide worthwhile differences in gameplay, including a neat little costume makeover midway through. After playing every chapter in the series twice, City of Light’s playthroughs feel the most unique from one another.

Villain arcs wrap up in satisfying, if bittersweet, fashion. It feels liberating to finally knock off adversaries after being pressed under their thumbs for so long. I especially enjoyed the dark revelation to Catwoman’s story, which manages to surprise even a wised-up fan like myself. Lady Arkham, however, left me wanting a bit more in terms of development. Although City of Light illuminates her shadowy origin in a chilling segment, key questions I’ve been pondering in regards to her rise to power remain shrouded in mystery and feel like plot holes. On a positive front, Telltale succeeds at hammering the idea that she’s ultimately a disturbing, twisted reflection of the type of person Bruce Wayne could have potentially become. In a tale centered on Bruce’s identity crisis – both as a Wayne and under the cowl– Lady Arkham stacks up as an appropriate foil. Her climatic encounter with the Bat ends in spectacular fashion as well.

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Witnessing the strained bond between Alfred and Batman has been a highlight throughout the series and comes to an emotional head. Their relationship has been severely tested; Alfred blames his lack of honesty regarding the Wayne family’s sinister past for causing many of Bruce’s current woes. He’s not completely wrong, but I always did my best to mend that crumbling bridge. That love endures nerve-wracking trials in the third act that, while ultimately leading to the same outcome regardless of making a pivotal choice, leads to one of the series’ more touching scenes.

Speaking of choices, do yours matter in the end? Yes and no. In traditional Telltale fashion, the story wraps up largely the same with notable differences peppered about to highlight your decision-making. However, City of Light’s final decision, as well as an ominous favor promised to a certain character, are seemingly poised to pay off in a potential second season. If a sequel comes to pass – and I expect/hope it will – I don’t mind Telltale leaving these enticing threads dangling as they’ve already got me itching to see more from this universe. If not, then they’ve left some large narrative holes, to say the least.

A lack of engaging gameplay hindered previous entries in the series. That’s not the case in episode five. City of Light showcases everything Telltale’s Batman has to offer with the most interactive sequences yet. The latest detective puzzles require increased deductive effort making them more fun to unravel. Even a fresh (albeit simple) spin on the concept appears when Batman must locate a missing ally. Unlike certain previous gameplay activities, nothing here feels uninspired or tacked on. Fast-paced and frequently occurring fight sequences entertain more so than in any other episode.  

Frustratingly, enduring technical flaws occasionally mar the fun. A stuttering frame rate and hard crashes to the home screen make the experience feel like it’s held together by bat guano at times. One especially bizarre (and humorous) bug caused an NPC to become invisible save for his floating eyes and teeth, sucking much of the gravity from an otherwise violent combat segment.

Conclusion

Technical flaws and a strange, underwhelming final scene aside, City of Light closes the book on Telltale’s captivating Batman saga in good form. A wonderful balance of high drama and interactive thrills kept me glued to the screen in a way that hadn’t happened since the stellar Children of Arkham. It’s been a lot of fun watching Telltale successfully shake-up Batman’s mythos while simultaneously making a Bruce Wayne-focused experience genuinely enjoyable. City of Light is a fine conclusion that inspires hope for a sequel.

Batman: Episode 5 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is available for Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android

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