Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 5: City of Light picks up right where Guardian of Gotham left off: Batman is given the decision of going either to the GCPD to help out with the Children of Arkham’s takeover or to deal with Two-Face burning down the Wayne family home. This final chapter was emotional, dark, and filled with ambiguous decisions players must choose for a brighter or darker future for Gotham City.
To recap: Batman feels responsible for the chaos that’s going on in Gotham City. Harvey Dent has finally morphed into Two-Face after fully descending into madness. Even with the Wayne family home burned down, Bruce has to make the decision to either save his family legacy or to help out the GCPD.
In Guardian of Gotham I chose for Bruce to help out the GCPD rather than head to his house, not knowing what lay in store with Two Face. What follows is an intense action sequence of Batman fighting his way through the Children of Arkham, but despite his best efforts Police Commissioner Grogan dies from a brutal gunshot to the stomach.
Once Batman has insured the GCPD are in control once more, a call comes in that Two-Face is demanding that Bruce Wayne show up at the mansion, otherwise Harvey is threatening to kill hostages. It’s up to Bruce to stall him long enough for the drones to come in and disarm the crazy mayor’s guards.
During these negotiations Batman can choose to be compassionate to Harvey or further fuel his hatred towards his old friend. There’s even a flashback of Bruce and Harvey where he’s encouraging his friend to run for mayor. Harvey admits he wants to make a safer Gotham, but not sure he’s up to the task. Bruce promises to fully fund his campaign and even tells Harvey he believes in him running for mayor.
During this point, things becomes progressively darker and deeper as it races toward the finale. I won’t give away too much, but from this point forward it soon becomes clear there are disturbing elements that come into play. Alfred is kidnapped at one point by the Children of Arkham and is even tortured by his kidnappers. Child abuse is even mentioned, and even the true concepts of “revenge versus justice” are brought forward.
Players also face curve-balls when it comes to choices presented here that feel morally ambiguous. Unlike last episode, there’s not always a clear right or wrong answer. Consequences are vague, but when they are clear it can leave the player wondering if they made the right decision or not. When Bruce has to talk Harvey down by either relying on their friendship or becoming harsh, it felt real the entire time. How Harvey Dent reacted relied entirely on how Bruce responded to the situation and was played out beautifully from beginning to end.
While the detective aspect of Batman has been on point throughout the series, here it felt truly polished. Players get to sort through documents, uncover hidden pieces of Lady Arkham’s puzzle, and even spend some time tracking down a kidnapped Alfred. The bigger emphasis on detective sleuthing felt well fleshed out, acting as an excellent way to start tying loose strings together pertaining to the story. (Fun Fact: Batman has his own version of the VR headset. Come to think of it, I wonder if he played his own Batman VR game…?)
Technically, Telltale Games has made vast improvements, especially to the PC version, with noticeable increases in framerates and silkier quick-time action events. Even better, the combat system felt more forgiving than previous episodes. During one intense battle, I missed a few prompts, yet Batman still landed his punches without missing a beat. I’m not sure if this change was intentional or not, but having such a flexible way to manage combat was a welcome improvement considering the difficulties faced in the past.
The voice-acting was phenomenal as always, often making it hard to pull myself away during key moments. There’s an organic feel to every exchange between the characters as conversations flow well with each interaction making this iteration of Batman’s world feel real and authentic. Troy Baker, voicing Bruce Wayne/Batman, brings real emotion to the character. Those choosing the compassionate route with Bruce interacts with Harvey Dent (Travis Willingham) can believe the two men share years of trust and friendship. Bruce’s emotion is genuine, wanting his friend to get better and overcome his demons.
The ambiance and atmosphere are also excellent, too, with washed out colors and shades of grey to show Gotham City as a place of lost hope and broken dreams. The news reporting on how Harvey’s actions have killed innocent people and how everyone is losing faith in the people that run their city, with a real sense of desperation and anger. The people of Gotham City want and need a hero, but are unwilling to place their faith in officials who have failed them time and again.
Even the environments were used to tell a story and in certain cases were downright disturbing. There’s one scene where Bruce has to work out a message left behind by Alfred. Batman does eventually say what happened, but through simple sound effects and key placement in the scene the small environment tells a story of hurt and abuse, hinting it went on for years and justifies the death of characters encountered earlier in the series. This small attention to detail felt brilliant in the moment, but also sobering when compared to the grand scheme of things in Gotham City.
Batman: Episode 5 City of Light is an emotionally driven finale to what’s been a rocky series for Telltale games, but couldn’t have ended on a better note. The climatic ending paid perfect homage to past incarnations of Batman and Bruce Wayne. There’s great use of source material and history of the Dark Knight mixed in that makes for a dark, but believable tale. The final decision Batman has to make feels symbolic of what he represents as a person and the sacrifices he has to make each day as the hero of Gotham City.