Episode 2: Children of Arkaham
By Nick Schifani
This episode starts to explore the seeds that the first planted. We are beginning to understand Bruce Wayne’s struggle of having to live a double life. As much I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode, this episode really brought something different to the series - a certain darkness to the game.
-WARNING MASSIVE SPOILERS!-
Bruce is trying to piece together who is parents truly were. Were they deeply rooted in the mob world as Falcone said in the previous episode? That brings us back to their murder scene, where Bruce has to relive that awful day. You walk around with Bruce finding different spots that trigger flashbacks. You see the murderer, Joe Chill. This is when that darker tone really starts to stand out. Bruce relives his parents’ death, in probably the most brutal and tragic way we have ever seen Thomas and Martha Wayne die. We were always told that it was a mugging gone wrong, but TellTale gives it a little twist. It was never a mugging. It was an execution. I'll never forget, that scene. Bruce's parents are brutally gunned down in front of him, and if my memory serves me, we've never seen them killed in such a manner. This leads Bruce to think that Falcone hired the gunman to murder his parents.
Next we find ourselves in the hospital where Falcone is after his run-in with Batman from the last episode. After a quick conversation with Harvey Dent, Bruce is alone with Falcone. This scene quickly turns into one of my favorite parts of the two episodes so far. It is extremely interesting to hear Falcone talk which such intimacy about the Wayne family. It does a number on the BatLore. Any pre-existing knowledge you thought you knew about the Wayne family is thrown out the window. In typically Batman fashion, when Bruce's past comes up things go wrong. Sure enough that happens here with Falcone. Now you must set out to find answers again, without any true guidance.
You eventually get to a point where you discover your former friend, Oswald Cobblepot, seems to be the one putting a "revolution" in motion. He is even after Catwoman for not holding up her end of a deal. This leads to a fantastic bar scene with Selina Kyle. It's the moments like this that brings to light TellTale's incredible writing. For games like this, it's all about character development. The writing team does a fantastic job to make us feel that Selina is going to be an important person to us. It even highlights Bruce’s ongoing infatuation for Selina.
What would a bar scene be without…well a bar fight? Of course, trouble shows up. Cobblepot's "boys" arrive to take out Selina. Too bad for them, these low level thugs don’t realize who they are messing with. Oops. A fun fight begins as Bruce and Selina double up on these would-be attackers. Thanks to some QTE (quick time events), you make short work of the goons. Get all the indicators correct, and you get a cool double team sequence to end the fight. TellTale is one of the best companies that includes a great story, but doubles down on great action as well.
The most compelling part of this episode comes straight from the title, the Children of Arkham. Which side note, I keep saying Children of Atom in my head, of course from X-Men lore. Maybe one day TellTale…wink wink. I digress, back to the Arkham children. These "children" are going to be a thorn is Batman's side.
Lead by Cobblepot, these are the kids of all the people that Thomas Wayne sent away to Arkham. Now they are back, and they want to shed the light on the so called "perfect" Wayne family. Their goal is to tarnish the name. With a little help from Cobblepot, now going by his Penguin name, that won't be hard to do. I'm fully invested in this group, especially when we see that there is one more person to worry about. He behaves like the Scarecrow has in the past. Could the Scarecrow possibly be the main villain? Of course only time will tell. But for now he is letting Penguin and the other goons do his dirty work. Believe me when I say, this group is scary. Not to mention, they aren't above killing, which only makes them more dangerous.
Here is the most impressive point about this series. So far it’s been more Bruce Wayne centered than any other modern Batman story. We have always seen that it's Batman wearing a Bruce Wayne mask. This game lets you shed that mask, and act as Bruce Wayne sometimes. There comes a point where you have to choose to confront someone as the Batman or Bruce Wayne. It's one of the intriguing parts of this game. It comes up more times than not. Including a certain turning point towards the end of the episode. Again, you are making a decision that will not only effect Batman, but more importantly could affect Bruce Wayne. We have never seen this in a Batman game. It forces you to make a decision based not only on your brain, but your heart. A decision that is most certainly going to make you question your every step.
Finally, this game, as many Batman stories, brings up the ghosts of Bruce Wayne's past. Ghosts that will haunt him forever. Learning about his father possibly being part of the mob, slowly cuts into Bruce. But, seeing some of the awful things his father once did, breaks his heart. It’s a totally different spin on Thomas Wayne, one that will dig at the player too. The dark tone in this game not only affects Bruce, but it can affect everything we used to know about Batman and his family. And if I'm being honest, I kind of dig it. I can't wait to get deeper in this story. This new approach to everyone's favorite Caped Crusader is welcome on my behalf. I look forward to witnessing how my choices affect future play in the upcoming weeks.