Telltale Games has been on quite the hot streak of games lately. Starting with The Walking Dead Season 1, this studio has been the authority on not only story based episodic gaming, but also when it comes to giving me a reason to increase my Prozac intake. Their latest incarnation brings us their third overall comic book adaptation in the form of Batman: The Telltale Series (I see what they did there).
Recently released on all major consoles, this game is yet again being done in a full episodic format. As a result, I will be reviewing each episode as they come out. And since the remaining release dates have yet to be announced, there is no real timetable for future reviews. For now, let’s take a look at episode one: Realm of Shadows.
WARNING: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD. I WILL TRY TO AVOID MAJOR PLOT REVEALS BUT SOME CHARACTERS WILL BE TOUCHED UPON. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
In terms of presentation, Telltale has retained the Cell-shaded style it has been using for quite some time now. Though one of the first cool things/choice you see is deciding what LED colors you want displayed on all of Batman’s equipment. This includes all of his gadgets and computer screens. It’s a nice subtle touch. However, tone wise, Gotham City just feels depressing, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. If you have seen/read anything Batman ever, then you know that Gotham is very dark, dangerous, and corrupt place (with the exception of ’66 Batman…and probably Batman & Robin…damn you Joel Schumacher). And they show this feel in different ways, when Batman is on Patrol, in a park at 6 A.M., or even in the home of Wayne Manor during a fund raiser for Harvey Dent. Which brings me to one of the standout parts of this episode, Bruce Wayne.
Typically, when it comes to Batman, what’s going on in the life of Bruce Wayne tends to take a back seat to the adventures of The Dark Knight. But things are a bit different in this game, while you still play suited up as Batman, a majority of this story and its decisions revolve around the interactions that Bruce Wayne has with a lot of people in this game. This ranges from other wealthy people in Gotham, to Harvey Dent, and all the way up to crime boss Carmine Falcone. This is a big change for a Batman game. In the Arkham series, you played as Bruce Wayne for maybe about 20 minutes total across all 3 games. In Batman TTS, in the first episode alone you play as Bruce for approximately 60-70% of the game. It’s a perception shift that helps add a fresh take to a story that has been told thousands of times.
As far as any timelines are concerned, Batman TTS takes place early in Batman’s career. Gordon is still just a lieutenant and Harvey Dent still has his face entirely intact, however there are still some subtle changes from standard Batman lore. First off, we get to see a different version of Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a The Penguin. Instead of the short lumpy criminal that was a pseudo-aristocrat, he’s a man with a chip on his shoulder, who is a very competent fighter, and more importantly a former childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. Again, I’ll save the spoilers but obviously it is important. We also get an added perspective when it comes to Catwoman, but again, spoilers. (Geez did someone let River Song in here?)
The gameplay is a combination of the Telltale Standard mix of dialogue options and quick time events alongside doing actual detective work. The combat parts are fine, and it is cool that if pulled off correctly you can do a neat finisher at the end of the sequence. However, the detective work is really intuitive. You have to examine the scenes and link together pieces of evidence in order to fully reconstruct the crime scene. Admittedly it isn’t brain wrecking to figure out, but it is still an integral part of being The World’s Greatest Detective. And it even goes a step further by merging the detective aspect with combat. This happens in the final chapter of Episode 1, where you have to plan out a raid on a certain thug’s HQ…..ok fine it’s Falcone, but it is a really cool sequence that you carry out.
In spite of all of the praise there is one glaring issue that needs to be brought up, and it is a problem that has plagued Telltale for a long time now. When it comes to the actual technological aspect of the game, there are still many times where the game can get a little choppy and laggy. I have no idea why this is still an issue that appears in their games, and it’s an issue that can has caused me some serious issues in the past. For example, in the final episode of Tales From The Borderlands, the choppiness got so bad it was hard to tell what was even happening in the final battle. In fact, there was so much glitching that literally half of the audio was gone during the last scenes. This is something I definitely do not want to happen during Batman. I am already a huge Batman fan, so my investment in this series has been made up front. Granted this hasn’t been a huge issue, yet. But its presence is noticeable. And it does appear to be happening on multiple platforms. I played on the Xbox One, but I watched TeamFourStar play using a copy on Steam and they seemed to have worse lag. It’s a very valid concern.
As a first outing with the Dark Knight, Telltale did a very good job. It was well presented and genuinely fun to play (though I do still wonder why Harvey Dent is so much bigger than Bruce). However, as good as it is, it’s not perfect either. Aside from the previously mentioned technical issues, there is a slight drawback story wise. The new aspect of more Bruce Wayne is intriguing, and I do like where the story appears to be going, unfortunately the first episode is lacking in a bit of shock value, and that first episode is always your most crucial one. When the first episode of The Wolf Among Us finished, you knew just how real everything was about to get and it told you just how dark this rabbit hole really was. With Batman TTS, there is the obvious set up that something much bigger is going on, and it is made very clear there is a true mystery at hand, but if you’ve been paying attention, none of that should come as a shock to the player.
This is a solid title and definitely worth a pick up, it shows a very promising future. While it does have its slight flaws, I did have a great time with it. Overall, I would give BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES a rating of: