Batman’s seasonal adventure continues with episode two, titled Children of Arkham, a much more tightly directed and faster paced entry than the premiere. It’s also one of the shortest segments Telltale has ever put out. Regardless, it manages to pack a generous portion of character development and drama in its short run, shaking the very foundations on which the septuagenarian franchise rests upon.
Children of Arkham, starts out in the much maligned Crime Alley, the spot where Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered when he was a kid, also known as the birthplace of Batman. But instead of dredging up the same tired flashbacks of yells, gunshots, and broken pearl necklaces, Bruce’s presence at the scene makes for a strong opening for the episode, as he recalls more details in regards to the attack, tying more knots to the allegations of his father’s seemingly not so squeaky-clean past.
From there, the episode progresses at a very brisk pace, mixing in great action scenes and closing a few doors on what were apparently going to be main sources of conflict throughout the season, in true George R. R. Martin Song of Ice and Fire fashion. More traditional fans of the dark knight’s canon might shake their heads at the direction Telltale is taking the series in, but it’s commendable to see how much freedom they are seemingly getting from DC Comics to shake things up in some very interesting ways. Some of the themes are much akin to some of the more recent developments that came via the comic book itself, namely The Court of Owls saga by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, as well as a touch of two of the classic Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween.
For instance, there are two key choices in the episode of how the story might progress. One gives you the option of tackling a particularly hairy situation as Bruce Wayne or as Batman — depending on how you’ve been carrying out his alter-ego’s nightly excursions, it might be better to bring out the billionaire card to the table, but wouldn’t Batman be able to squeeze the necessary info out more efficiently? The second set of choices, however, is the one with the most potential of generating repercussions throughout the entire season. It involves two distinct paths based on the relationships further developed throughout the episode. It all culminates in a moment that almost had me stepping away from my computer in order to think it through. One of the possible outcomes is fairly predictable based on my limited knowledge of Batman lore, so I went with the opposite option in order to see where it leads.
It’ll be very interesting to see where Telltale will take things following the events of this episode. Considering the amount of possible branches that are seeded into the story, the hope is that this series will really pay off on the promise that your choices matter and the consequences are truly far-reaching and not just a change in the order of unavoidable events. Given that this series so far has really played with certain aspects of the DC’s canon, the stakes are extremely high at this point.
As with the previous episode, Children of Arkham still suffers from a few technical issues on the PC. During the hour and a half I spent finishing it, I had four crashes to desktop, all in a short time span after I started running the game on Steam. Thanks to the shorter scenes and more breaks for checkpoints, I didn’t have to replay a whole lot, but still, these random issues are especially annoying considering how good everything else about the game is. Hopefully Telltale will work on issuing more patches in order to iron out the rest of the bugs, which are admittedly fewer this time around.