After a flat third entry, What Ails You ratchets up the excitement and, more importantly, the variety. The fog surrounding The Pact’s scheme finally dissipates and John Doe’s personal journey hits a major climax.
What Ails You focuses on paying off choices. Primarily, the consequences of the player’s interactions with John Doe culminate in an intense and well-executed confrontation. Many of the conversations player had with John resurface in surprising, mostly logical ways, making his turn feel developed and nuanced. An element of inconsistency remains; John still admired Batman despite choosing to totally shun him in the previous episode. Overall, though, Telltale does a good job of making you feel greatly responsible for whichever man John chooses to be. During the episode’s explosive climax I found myself thinking “What have I done?”
Everything hits the fan as the scope of The Pact’s goals, along with grander schemes involving the Agency, begin to crystallize. A good thing too, as the overall plot suffered from a lack of direction in the last episode. Their surprisingly personal motivations add a layer of humanity to the cast of rogues (save for Mr. Freeze who’s always had that) even if the more villainous aspect of the plan remains somewhat nebulous. Subplots like Alfred’s mental anguish and the Tiffany Fox saga receive some screen time but still don’t contribute much to the big picture as of yet.
Decisions weave several divergent paths. The exciting opening chapter plays out in two very different ways depending on how players chose to conclude Fractured Mask. Seeing my actions result in such substantial differences excited and relieved me after the second episode’s final choice went nowhere. The same applies to the final chapter, with two equally exciting outcomes that I can’t wait to follow up on.
Unfortunately, the prolonged delay between episodes has made it tough to remember the finer points of the story. Though a problem with this season as a whole, that came to a head here where players receive answers to questions I’d forgotten were asked. I also have a particular bone to pick with the story: what’s up with so many people learning Batman’s identity? If this keeps up, Bruce may as well out himself like Tony Stark did. We thankfully learn how Amanda Waller became privy to that knowledge, though Bruce still refuses to logically delve deeper into the matter.
A couple of new wrinkles to gameplay offer welcomed freshness, like pouncing atop Bane and using the shoulder buttons to pummel him in first-person. Ultimately, the amount of interactivity remains the same: the occasional light puzzle and timed-button action sequence without any standouts.
What Ails You serves as a good penultimate episode and probably the most memorable installment since Episode 1. The episode flies by thanks to eye-widening surprises, some much-needed clarity, and high-stakes drama. John Doe undoubtedly steals the show and his transformation looks to set up a thrilling season finale. If only we didn’t have to wait so long to play it.