The battle for Gotham reaches its climax as Bruce and Batman fight to their very limits in an engaging and affecting finale; though we came in with a healthy dose of scepticism, suffice to say, Telltale largely delivered the goods.
City of Light has a decidedly game-y feel.
One final encounter with the frustratingly flakey Selina Kyle and a tease from the maniacal John Doe at least hint we could see an established suite of characters return for a potential second season, which should help combat the issue by both allowing the time to further flourish and (in theory) any newcomers more screentime to grow.
When the World’s Greatest Detective inevitably cracks the case, he uncovers both the whereabouts of Lady Arkham’s captive and her plan to free the inmates of Arkham Asylum. Chances are a good portion of people will begin to roll their eyes at the thought of retreading this ground, perhaps even see it as an attempt to piggyback on the success of Rocksteady’s Arkham series, but Telltale seek to pay homage with a few sly references. It also feels like a declaration of intent, an indication that they can stand alongside the industry’s biggest and best.
You’ll carve a path through deranged inmates by utilising the returning attack planning phase, but while it illustrates Batman’s unparalleled powers of deduction, the fact it’s impossible to botch (and Bats manages to handle a vast majority of fights without you providing this input) makes the segment ultimately unfulfilling.
It leads, however, to perhaps the most satisfying QTE combat sequence ever conceived. The breakneck-paced showdown is beautifully choreographed, smoothly animated, and, importantly, runs without a hitch - it’s about as close as you’ll get to a boss battle in a Telltale game.
The encounter melds with the classic adventure game vibe, as well as a more prominent ability to move through scenes manually, dodging booby traps all the while, to give City of Light a decidedly game-y feel. It’s to the episode’s benefit, leaning on the medium’s strengths to maintain engaging and varied pacing throughout without any detriment to the central narrative.
With a few lazily executed episodes in the mix, Telltale went all out on ending their first Batman foray. City of Light certainly still has some shortcomings, but by providing a satisfying conclusion to one of the more unique Batman stories out there, while simultaneously improving gameplay to nail the pacing, there isn’t much more we could have asked for.
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The Last Guardian is a successful achievement in emotive and interactive storytelling, and my first few hours of playing were filled with wonderment. To observe how Trico, your half-bird/half-dog hybrid, animates and reacts to their environment is a beautiful moment to witness. The bond shared between these two companions is an accolade we haven't experienced since playing The Last of Us, in 2013.
Technically ambitious - its core mechanics are often neglected, and left as a second priority.
Where it excels visually and narratively, hinderance lies heavily on the game's controls. Clambering onto Trico's back during combat, being thrust in numerous directions in the process, needs the support of reliably stable camera controls, but they just aren't there. It often feels so technically ambitious that it comes at the cost of core mechanics, seeing them become a secondary citizen and the experience suffer for it.
Breathtaking moments were often sullied by lazy and inaccurate camera design, which inhibited our ability to focus on the action. One pivotal moment towards the end relied upon quick response times, but we were unfortunately met with bouts of terrible frame drop, resulting in some real frustration during an inopportune period. It was particularly disappointing considering the game had so far executed some fantastic cinematic set pieces without similar issues.
The Last Guardian strikes an interesting artistic merit as well, providing a unique mix of anime and Western 'triple-A' gaming. The world is shrouded in mystery and symbolism, and because of this, it feels compelling to discover its secrets, as well as uncover your own. The attention to detail on elements like the flicker of Trico's ears, which are receptive to his emotional responses, resemble that of a of real-life animal, and is a huge technical accomplishment. We cherished watching Trico bathe in pools, yawn and make himself comfortable, and use his claws to softly and playfully suggest the answer to the next part of a puzzle.
A marvel of interactive storytelling.
A treasurable experience.
It’s been a long 8 years of speculation, curiosity and excitement. After the 15 hours it took to complete its story, we're left feeling both profoundly moved and saddened at the thought that our time with Trico has reached its end. In The Last Guardian's greatest moments, it’s confident while sensitive approach to storytelling makes for an emotive and treasurable experience. At its weakest, sticky and lethargic camera controls disturb an otherwise beautiful story-driven experience.
Despite this, The Last Guardian is a game that should be experienced by all players. On a personal note; it's comfortably my personal Game of the Year.
VR is often at its best when coupled with horror, which The Brookhaven Experiment seems to understand, despite retaining issues from its original HTC Vive release and introducing new ones in the porting process.
Campaign is the meat of the experience, spanning ten locales as you journey to close the otherworldly rift that was opened when the titular experiment went awry.
As you collect new weapons and upgrades hidden around maps they become less of an issue, thankfully. Loadouts can significantly impact play, comfortably accommodating a range of gamers. All avenues of approach are satisfyingly empowering, whether you might choose to carefully pick enemies off at distance with a laser-sighted magnum, blast them Mad Max-style with a capacity-boosted sawn-off, or spray, without needing to pray, courtesy of a recoil-reduced submachine gun.
In these latter stages, scares somewhat give way to the power trip, though the age-old trope of limiting flashlight batteries and forcing you to face the dark unknown remains unnerving throughout. The same goes for taking your eyes off approaching enemies in favour of hunting bigger, badder alternatives first, inevitably leading to a slow turn back, filled with dread, to find them lurking within touching distance before filling your pants.
The Brookhaven Experiment won’t so readily fill your pockets, however, as it’s pretty light on content. Campaign is the meat of the experience, spanning ten locales as you journey to close the otherworldly rift that was opened when the titular experiment went awry. You’re guided by an involved scientist’s monotone narration, but you’ll probably phase it out - if not through disinterest, then pragmatism, as you focus instead on your surroundings - it’s total fluff, so there’s no real loss.
A Cloverfield-inspired behemoth makes recurring, obscured appearances throughout, menacing with its gaunt appearance and imposing size. The campaign culminates in an unsatisfying encounter with the creature, dragging on just long enough for you to begin wondering whether it’s actually taking damage.
Completing a game’s primary attraction is generally a graduation of sorts, leading into any secondary modes, but that’s somewhat backwards here. Survival poses very little challenge on normal difficulty when compared to the campaign - we exhausted the associated Trophies and continued to progress with no apparent end in sight on our first run. Definitely crank the difficulty up and opt for one of the later maps to get the most out of it.
You’ll take more from the game if you own a PlayStation 4 Pro console as well, thanks to a recent enhancement-enabling update. Having played both pre and post patch, resolution, lighting and colour depth seem improved, if not so much as to be immediately pronounced.
If you’ve played Until Dawn: Rush of Blood to death, then The Brookhaven Experiment is the next best thing. That’s not a knock; it’s an accurate and immersive horror shooter that transitioned to PlayStation VR surprisingly well, but, unfortunately, some irritating issues and a lack of content mean it just doesn’t have the legs that would otherwise make it essential.
Guardian of Gotham finds Bruce Wayne an inmate of the infamous Arkham Asylum, following a violent, drug-induced public outburst at the end of episode three. Still under the drug’s effect, Bruce’s addled mindset offers a true-to-life perspective on Gotham’s criminally insane.
Though pacing issues perpetuate the series’ alternating ups and downs, from an interactive perspective, Guardian of Gotham is on the stronger end of the spectrum.
While the busy narrative offshoots emphasise the desperation of Gotham’s plight, at this late stage, they should be meeting to form one gripping throughline. Steps are taken towards this goal, but not striding enough that we can fully shake the feeling that our last outing might be somewhat scattershot. The omission of a customary teaser for what’s to come further stokes the flames of uncertainty, but hopefully it’s to avoid spoiling what’s all killer no filler - laser-focused - rather than carrying a negative connotation.
Though pacing issues produce another slight lull and perpetuate the series’ alternating ups and downs, from an interactive perspective, Guardian of Gotham is on the stronger end of the spectrum. A gruesome crime scene maintains engagement, even if the links are blindingly obvious to draw, while a Scarface-inspired action sequence is the best one yet. Whether you actually see the latter depends on the decision you make in closing, which finally seems to make good on the promise of choice carrying significant consequence, though we won’t truly know until we see how the wider picture pans out.
Despite starting and ending strong, these moments simply bookend a mostly uneventful middle that comprises a majority share of the short episode. Guardian of Gotham has more redeeming qualities than episode two, but having been bitten then and nipped now, it’d be easy to become shy.