Friend or Foe?
Spoiler Free Section
Episode three of Telltale’s Batman series, New World Order, is a briskly-paced thrill ride packed with action, intrigue, and dramatic reveals. Although held back by a few weird audio glitches, the episode has a great presentation to it, and the narrative remains incredibly interesting as Telltale begins to reveal major elements of the Children of Arkham’s plan and leadership.
The narrative beats in this episode are superbly spread apart; you spend just the right amount of time exploring the psyches of different characters and being introduced to new ones, with plenty of hair-raising action sequences to keep you on your toes. Those action scenes never feel supplementary, however, instead helping push the narrative forward at a great pace. It’s certainly fun trying to navigate your way back into the public’s good graces as Bruce, but it’s far more satisfying disrupting the Children of Arkham’s plans as the Batman. Whomever you’re playing as, Telltale manages to make both Bruce’s and Batman’s storylines compelling and entertaining.
Thankfully, the framerate worked very well, if not perfectly, for this episode of Batman. It’s nice to see Telltale’s engine finally holding up for an entire episode, visually-speaking. Unfortunately, while the animations and environments are well-rendered, the audio has a few bugs. While not entirely dramatic, the few audio drops that are there are enough to catch your attention. They’re weird and take you out of the experience a bit, but they’re not altogether unforgivable.
From a narrative perspective, New World Order is full of character development and reveals. It’s great to see some classic Batman villains begin to go through their more familiar character arcs, and the big reveal at the end is certainly a surprise. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the reveal personally, but I admire Telltale’s creative freedom in crafting their own unique Batman tale. As I said before the pacing is great in this episode, and the detective scene is probably the most effective one yet. Here’s to hoping Telltale can keep up this level of narrative quality as we head to the back half of Batman’s first season.
All-in-all, this is the kind of experience I always want to see from Telltale Games. While the whole Batman series has been some of their best work so far, this episode is an example of how well they can craft not only a compelling narrative, but also an engaging and cinematic piece of interactive entertainment. Slight technical issues aside, New World Order delivers an impacting and intense experience, and one that makes players feel powerful as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. With the major twist at the episode’s conclusion, one can only wonder what fate is in store for Gotham.
As I approached the hospital to visit Harvey (and check out his nasty face wound, obviously), I was surprised to run into Selina. She was obviously here to do the same, flowers and all. We talked a bit in the hallways; I tried to play it cool, and empathized with her when she changed her mind about seeing Harvey. I feel a little bad about being into Harvey’s girl, but hey- it’s Catwoman.
As I walked into Harvey’s room, it was clear how broken up he was about what happened. With half his face in bandages, he could only wonder what the damage really looked like. With him in such an emotional state, I did my best to be a friend, a shoulder for him to lean on. I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s possible, even now, to keep Harvey from straying off into Two-Face.
After seeing the Bat Signal, I met with Gordon on a rooftop. He needed my help with Montoya, who went off on her own to investigate a chemical warehouse. I tracked her down, but also intercepted communique about an imminent attack on Harvey as he left the hospital. I opted to go after Montoya, figuring the police would be more helpful going after the closer target.
Upon arriving at the chemical warehouse, Montoya was already under fire from a group of mercenaries. I found the QTE here to be one of the most satisfying fights in the series so far, with Batman taking down each thug with swiftness and flair. After the last merc was unconscious, I scolded Montoya for her recklessness, reminding her that she needs backup before trying a stunt like this. Honestly, I was just glad she made it out alive. Montoya stayed behind to check out the warehouse, and I headed off towards Harvey.
After arriving at the scene of Harvey’s attack, I was a little disturbed to find out that Harvey had beaten one of his attackers to death with his bare hands. While I’m glad he’s alright, it’s definitely not a good omen for what’s to come, I’m sure. I remained silent in the face of police scrutiny in that back alley, and discovered that the GCPD’s communications have been compromised. I downloaded an encrypted signal and had it sent to Lucius Fox, the head of R&D at Wayne Industries. Fox said he could have it decrypted soon, and I headed for Wayne Tower.
Outside the tower, Bruce was met with dirty looks from both passerby and even his own tower’s security guards; it’s clear that the revelations of Thomas Wayne’s past are having deep impacts upon the public’s perception of Bruce. As he heads into his office, Bruce is met by Regina, the chairwoman of the Wayne Industries Board of Directors. She reveals that the board has called an emergency meeting to decide what Bruce’s future at the company will be. I reassured her that I’ve done nothing wrong, and she promised she’d fight for me in the meeting. It’s a worrying revelation, but there are more pressing matters at the moment.
Down in Bruce’s secret workshop, Fox was a little cagey about how the Children of Arkham managed to access the GCPD communications. Turns out he built a backdoor into the WayneTech communications system, so that Batman could piggyback off the channel in his efforts to monitor the city. While it seemed that the Children of Arkham hadn’t used that access to learn Batman’s identity, it will still take time to force them out of the system. I warned Alfred of the breach, and instructed him to tell Gordon to get rid of all of his WayneTech devices. With Regina heading back to my office, I turned to leave, but not before Fox gave me a drive with the added security measures for the Bat Computer, along with everything he found on the Children of Arkham within the system. Always nice to have a mechanical and software engineering mastermind hanging around.
Back in my office, it was bad news from Regina- the board decided that Wayne Industries was better off without a Wayne behind it. I thanked Regina for trying to help, but given the current PR crisis going on, I understood the board’s situation. While I’m sure I’ll be reinstated at some point, discovering my replacement would be Cobblepot made it all feel like a bit too much. As he walked into the office, I opted to embrace him, trying to show good face in front of the chairwoman while my mind raced with the possibilities of this encounter. The ensuing scene was more of a battle of wit, as I tried my best to convey my dissatisfaction with my replacement while withholding from calling out his criminal activities. I feared doing so in such context would only invite more mistrust towards me, making it look like I was clinging to false accusations in an effort to preserve my title as CEO. While doing my best to be professional in the face of this farce, I stood my ground and made Cobblepot pick up the gold watch that he dropped to the floor. I may be trying to keep my composure, but I’m not going to be so freely bullied by some punk like Penguin.
Outside the tower, I ran into Fox again. He was a little distraught over my being forced to step down, but I reassured him that the secret entrance was safe and that I’d be back in my position soon. While it’d be nice to have someone of his skillset working in the Bat Cave with Alfred, I decided it’d be smarter to have Fox stay at Wayne Industries. Having a pair of eyes watching Cobblepot’s every move will be invaluable in the future, but honestly it’s a bit worrisome to not have any more Bat Tech or suit repairs coming my way anytime soon.
Back at the Bat Cave, Batman uses the Bat Computer to read through the information that the Children of Arkham have been hacking into, all in an effort to learn their next move. I took the opportunity to bond with Alfred, reminding him how much he meant to me, particularly during this troubling time. As Bruce pulls up public records and audio recordings, he learns that not only was the tape of his father at the debate authentic, but also that Cobblepot’s ancestor was mysteriously killed just weeks before a mayoral election. This prompts Bruce to warn Harvey, as the Children of Arkham may be planning on “replacing” the new mayor with their own candidate. Bruce tells Alfred to work on the system security, and heads off to City Hall in his camouflaged Batmobile.
Once inside Harvey’s office, it’s immediately clear that something’s not right. Harvey is on the balcony, pacing and talking to himself, pleading to his own imagination to stop. I ask if everything is alright, and he panically reassures me that all is well. Once he reenters, Harvey makes note of how today is a big day, his official portrait for the Mayor’s office…
“And he looks like this.”
He removes his mask, revealing the grisly, mutilated remains of his left-side face, torn and burned from the attack at the debate. I remain silent as much as I can here, keen not to say anything that might upset Harvey while he’s in this incredibly fragile emotional state. It’s not long before his other side comes out, however; a dark and intimidating aggressor, lurking within the shadowy confines of Harvey’s psyche. I’m rather alarmed,not just at how quickly his personality flipped, but also by how much he still felt like Harvey. Two-Face isn’t just some polar opposite persona- he’s a sinister perspective within Harvey’s mind.
After Harvey regained composure, he quickly took his leave for his photo shoot. I was worried, as I now feared there might be no way to pull him out of his downward spiral. As Harvey exited, Bruce noticed a rather interesting story by Vicki Vale: an interview with the Children of Arkham’s leader. Even though she owes me a favor, Bruce decided to talk to her as Batman, and they set up a meet- Cobblepot Park, sundown.
At the park, she quickly entered journalist mode. Immediately started asking questions about my take on the Children of Arkham, their message, et cetera. She even went so far as turning on an audio recorder. I guess she hadn’t heard, but the Batman doesn’t exactly come out and make statements to the press. I waited until she turned it off. Once she got the message, the real conversation began. She tried to figure me out, clearly dodging my pursuit of the Children of Arkham in an effort to dig up her own answers. She wasn’t looking into who I am, but rather, why I hadn’t gone after Bruce Wayne.
Suddenly, it felt like the cat was about to be out of the bag. I played my cool as best I could, reminding her that lives are at stake and that Bruce would pay his debts in due time. She seemed to buy it, and didn’t really say much about my possible connection to Bruce. She eventually tried turning to leave, but I swooped in front of her, silent as a statue. She finally gave me the location of her meet with the Children of Arkham: Sky Train Depot, Highland Line. I headed off to investigate.
Once at the station, the episode’s investigation sequence commenced, with Batman trying to piece together what the Children of Arkham’s plan was. They had clearly taken over this station; a simple chemistry station was set up, with plenty of chemical barrels littering the floor. There was a dead body in the corner, his veins blue like all of the other victims of the Children of Arkham’s drug, but there was no injection site. It appeared they had been able to refine their drug’s chemical formula to make it more deadly. Match that with a modified train car equipped with an external sprinkler system and a bomb timer set for one of the busiest stations in Gotham, and you have the foundation for what’s sure to be a really bad day. I found the “drug dispersed with a train car delivery system” plan to be a little too Batman Begins, but with all else that’s going on in this story, I got over it pretty quickly.
It wasn’t long after I pieceed together their plan that a new train car showed up, with both the Children of Arkham’s leader and Catwoman walking out, along with a handful of goons. She was clearly in league with the Children of Arkham, but it didn’t look like she was in the best position with the masked leader, so I had a feeling she was doing her best to play both sides. She tried to leave, but the leader grabbed her and put a syringe to her neck- somehow, he knew I was there (classic). Rather than see what a critical dose looks like, I dropped down to meet them, choosing silence over a bold introduction.
Thus began the best QTE I have ever experienced in a Telltale game. The action was fluid, the moves were bold, and all of it made me feel like the master ninja badass that Batman is. Once I was done putting down some mercenaries for a nap, the leader got in the way, eager to protect his dastardly plans. I took an energy blast to the chest, sending me soaring backwards onto a horizontal support beam. The leader then levitated himself on to the other side of the beam (which was pretty neat) and started talking a bunch of supervillain smacktalk.
I got up, subtly place a remote bomb on a vertical support beam, and claimed that he talked too much. I threw some batarangs at him and ran to fight, but he’s good with that staff; he managed to knock me down, and went in for a finishing blow. Luckily, Catwoman showed up in the nick of time, and threw me her cat claw. I quickly scaled up the beam I was knocked against, pulled out an electric charge, and dropped on the leader like only Batman could. This shot instantly earned its rightful place in my heart as the single best moment in a Telltale game to date:
With the leader down, I placed another charge on the support beams and detonated the line, bringing the modified train car down with it. The leader watched as his plans (literally) fell apart in front of him, but he quickly charged up his staff and blew an exposed set of wires into the catwalk that I was standing on. I got electrocuted pretty badly and fell of the catwalk, only to be caught by Catwoman. As the Children of Arkham closed in, she helped me escape, and brought me to her place to lay low.
Back at her apartment, she took off my armor and started tending to my burns. It looked pretty bad, with most of Bruce’s upper torso burnt and raw. I thanked her for saving me, and played it light with our conversation. I met her cat; she didn’t seem to like me, but it turned out Selina did. After a self-loathing reveal of her character, I told her that it was her faults that I liked about her. Something about her personal brand of crime just doesn’t scream “evil” to me. She liked that, and cozied on up to me. Rather than do anything to ruin the mood, I kept quiet, letting her make the first move. She kissed me once, and I started kissing her back. It wasn’t long before we were in her bedroom. I felt proud for moment, being able to seduce Selina, but I had a feeling Telltale didn’t make it all that difficult.
The next morning, I was the one with breakfast duty, and I had free reign around her apartment. I took a look around, leaving her cat claw where it was but taking back my stolen grapple gun. I looked inside her fridge; I wasn’t exactly surprised to find it was mostly empty. As I took out some bagels and cream cheese (breakfast of champions), there was a knock at the door. I stealthily picked up the Batsuit and snuck into her bedroom, only to have my blood freeze when I realized who was at the door: Harvey. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing in his office- hiding out half-naked in his girlfriend’s bedroom was a tad more precarious.
Selina tried to get him to leave, but he pressed on about something. He couldn’t get out much before Selina’s damn cat freaked out next to me, running off and kicking the bedroom door open. Harvey got a clear view of me, and, understandably, was pissed. I admitted that I stayed the night here (you can’t really lie your way out of a situation like this), and he started to lose it. Two-Face quickly showed his hand, and although I tried to calm him down, soon enough there was a fight on our hands. He flipped a coin to decide who got it first, and it came up Selina. Luckily I was able to get in between them in time, forcing Harvey down. After a little more scuffle, he ended up with the kitchen knife in his hands. The tension rose quickly, and it was a miracle that Harvey managed to take over control long enough to throw the knife away.
It wasn’t too long after that Harvey managed to regain (almost) full control. He kept apologizing, and I told him that he needed to get help. He claimed that he would, but not before Two-Face popped out for one final word. It was clear that his more aggressive persona was beginning to take control of Harvey’s consciousness. I began to doubt as to whether I’d be able to save him from himself, and what’s worse was that my actions were most likely the final nail in Harvey’s metaphysical coffin.
With the whole affair over, Selina immediately began packing up. She didn’t want to stay somewhere that Harvey might come looking, so I offered for her to stay at Wayne Manor. She didn’t accept, but she didn’t decline, either- who can really resist the Manor, I mean honestly? After getting a text from Regina about my resignation announcement later that day, I started to get ready to leave. Selina told me to use the “live mic” opportunity to expose Cobblepot and the whole Children of Arkham plan; it wasn’t a bad idea, but I just wasn’t sure how the public would react. With public opinion of the Wayne name at an all-time low, anything but pomp and grace in the face of adversity might come across as a desperate bid to remain in power, and with Wayne Industries being the lifeline for Batman, losing that resource was completely unacceptable.
Outside Wayne Tower at the press event, Regina and Cobblepot were already waiting. Regina’s sympathies felt sincere, but I was about ready to sock Cobbeplot in the face with the way he ran his mouth. She told me that they had prepped a statement, and all I would need to do was read off the teleprompter; after pulling me aside, she pleaded with me to cooperate. If I could just keep face today, she’d be able to help me in the long run. I kept silent; it was a tough request to honor, but I understood the value in her perspective. Before I could take the podium, however, Cobblepot started going off about how he was winning, fulfilling his promise to me that night in the park about taking everything that was mine away from me. I kept my cool, though I was incredibly tempted to go with some of the more aggressive dialogue options.
Then suddenly, Cobblepot brought up how Mayor Hill had Bruce’s parents killed, and asks me if I want to know why. Though my heart ached for more information regarding that night in Crime Alley, I don’t want to give Cobblepot any more power over me, so I tell him that it doesn’t matter. He was a little surprised, and mentioned what my mother had to do with it all, but before I could inquire anything about it I was called to the podium.
As I took the stage, the teleprompter ran in front of me. I read the first excerpt, explaining that I was “voluntarily” stepping down as CEO. When the second excerpt mentioned my father, I went off on my own accord, citing that I’m nothing like my father and had nothing to do with his actions. I realigned with Regina’s script for the third excerpt, but used the fourth and final moment to expose Cobblepot as a member of the Children of Arkham. After that I was removed by security, and Regina mentioned that it was quite a show, but that I could have done a lot worse (and better, in her opinion). I was proud of how I handled the situation, as I managed to read the important parts of the script to the press, but allowed my own voice to ring out when I found ample opportunity.
As I entered the crowd, amidst dirty looks came Vicki Vale. She was covering the event, and told me that the press was going to eat up my stunt, not that it was going to change anything. I just wanted to do what I felt was right. She was impressed by that, then leaned down to pick up the pen I had dropped…
Except I didn’t drop a pen.
Vicki stabbed me in the hand with a pen-like syringe, a haze quickly overcoming my senses. I suddenly realized she was a member of the Children of Arkham, but she was satisfied to correct me- Vicki Vale is the Children of Arkham. She introduced herself as Lady Arkham, and I was shocked, as this revelation came out of nowhere. I’m honestly still not sure if I liked Telltale’s decision, as it felt sort of arbitrary. Regardless, she whispered in my ear as the drug began to take hold, influencing my actions. I tried to stop it, claiming I didn’t want to fight him, but the compulsion was too much. Without thinking, Bruce charged the stage, and headed straight for Cobblepot.
I don’t think the public is going to like this very much.