Batman is a legend, but after three episodes in Telltale’s episodic game, he’s never been more human. Throughout “New World Order,” the latest chapter in Batman: The Telltale Series, Bruce Wayne shows vulnerability and warmth — or hostility and temper tantrums — that the Dark Knight has rarely exhibited throughout his 75-year history.
Of course Batman has feelings, he wouldn’t embark on a crusade against crime otherwise. But the character maintained in popular imagination has formed Batman to be almost otherworldly: He’s got genius-level detective skills, exceptional urban warfare tactics, and Oscar-worthy acting as an aloof billionaire in the public eye. But, in Telltale’s interpretation, the youthful voice-over work by Troy Baker — and its involving the Wayne Family’s reputation under attack — has been more pronounced in showing a Batman who could actually lose his cool.
“New World Order” begins with Bruce visiting Harvey Dent as he recuperates from devastating injuries sustained during the Penguin’s attack on the mayoral debate. Telltale’s dialogue options, as they always do, run the gamut between warm and comforting to “tough love” hostile. The range is meant to enable players to pursue their vision of who Bruce Wayne/Batman is, but because extremity is needed, it’s off-putting to see Bruce Wayne be either the Best Friend Ever in History to Self-Serving D-Bag Billionaire.
I personally think Bruce would have used his status and wealth altruistically even if his parents were never killed. So, the Bruce I’ve been playing has been warm and selfless, akin to a “Paragon” playstyle in Mass Effect. Also, given the storyline, it’s smart to foster loyalty among friendships since it might be all Bruce has to rely on.
Upon Thomas Wayne’s posthumous smearing, Bruce has been shaken and is forced to step down as CEO. On top of the fact, Wayne Enterprises unknowingly supports Batman (and makes his toys), and his replacement is Oswald Cobblepot. It’s a PR move to repair the Wayne name after the now-public knowledge the the Waynes exploited the Cobblepots for their own gain.
That the smug shit Oswald is sitting at Bruce’s desk allows several scenarios. Bruce can lash out (and even punch Cobblepot) or smile through his teeth. I chose to smile. Keep friends close, enemies closer, and all that. It didn’t make sense, at least to me, that Bruce would lose his temper, especially in front of a family friend like the chairwoman who ten minutes before said she’d fight for me. Even if an aloof playboy billionaire would be escorted by security, in this game, I didn’t want to add more mud to the Wayne reputation. I let myself out.
When it came to Harvey and Selina throughout the chapter, I also opted against brutality. I comforted Harvey in the hospital. I told Selina I cared for her, which inevitably led to Bruce and Selina getting intimate, all to the ire of Harvey the next morning. When Harvey snapped, I chose evasive maneuvers instead of knocking him out myself. Maybe I made things worse. But in the moment, I felt it was the right thing to do.
I admittedly slipped a little in the end. When given a live microphone during the press conference, I felt so tempted to make Bruce blurt out truths: Cobblepot is Penguin, the Children of Arkham are destroying the city, that Bruce was not voluntarily leaving. But Bruce Wayne isn’t CM Punk, the ex-wrestler who made his career going off-script on live TV, and it still wouldn’t be dignified if I left kicking and screaming. Bruce is pressured to stick to the script, which I did only once before screaming bloody murder. That’s when the mic cut off and I sauntered off-stage.
It’s these decisions in an inconsequential video game that have given players access to Batman like never before. Even in Rocksteady’s pitch-perfect Arkham games, Batman was still a stone-cold, ultra-cool detective. No matter how many hours I spent cleaning up Gotham in Arkham Knight, I still felt more like a witness than actually “becoming” Batman. I never had to think like him. Telltale’s Batman has given players access to not just his actions, but his soul.
Photos via Telltale Games, YouTube.com/Telltale Games