- Posted by Carl Lyon
- On August 9, 2016
- 0 Comments
- batman, Batman: A Telltale Game Series, PC, Playstation 4, telltale, video games, xbox one
With Batman: Arkham Knight barely in our Batmobile’s rearview mirrors and Batman: Arkham VR not due to drop until October, there is a period of months…months…during which we can’t get our fix of Dark Knighting. Painful, I know. Thankfully, the incredibly-busy team at Telltale Games (The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead) has given us a stooge-stomping stopgap with Batman: The Telltale Series, which drops the Caped Crusader into Telltale’s usual new-school adventure game engine for an experience that starts out as woefully familiar, but quickly becomes something much, much greater.
The first episode, “Realm of Shadows,” follows a well-worn path of Batman tropes. We’re introduced to a rookie Batman who’s trying to clean up the mean streets of Gotham while under the scrutiny of the press and the GCPD. His loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth is concerned for his safety and is constantly chiding the bat-cosplaying Bruce like a British mother hen. There’s even the usual smoldering sexual tension between Batman/Bruce Wayne and Catwoman/Selina Kyle. It’s good, but it all feels so familiar to the point of almost becoming a caped cliché.
I should’ve had more faith in the folks at Telltale, because once we take our introductory steps down a well-worn path, the game’s story quickly veers into undiscovered territory. In Telltale’s take, Bruce Wayne is helping DA Harvey Dent with a bid for city hall and reconnecting with his childhood friend Oswald Cobblepot (here portrayed as a slim, Cockney tough, blending together the Arkham version of the character with the Gotham portrayal), all while dealing with a devastating revelation that breaks new emotional ground for Batman.
The dialogue is a joy, especially from Lieutenant Jim Gordon (guess he’s still waiting on that promotion), who snarls through hard-boiled dialogue that gives the game a beautifully anachronistic feel. Yes, this is a high-tech Batman who uses drones as his mechanical muscle, but the graft and corruption of Gotham feels like the serpentine slithering of a classic pulp novel. In fact, the real meat of this first episode is more based around Bruce Wayne and the political machinations of Dent, Mayor Hill, and crime boss Carmine Falconi than Batman…but I guess Bruce Wayne: The Telltale Series wouldn’t push as many copies. I’m not complaining, however, as the writing helps keep everything deliciously intriguing, even when you’ve swapped the cowl for the cummerbund.
When you do become Batman, however, it’s easily the best portrayal of the character since the Arkham games. Telltale parades out their usual quicktime events for combat, and everything is carefully choreographed and viciously violent. This is Batman at his best: a horror-movie monster that drags criminals into the shadows and preys on fears as an urban legend. The slower, more cerebral pacing of Telltale’s usual adventure game style lends itself perfectly to the detective work that is so often left on the cutting-room floor. You’ll link together clues to deduce events, plan out an attack on a palatial penthouse, and just do all of the awesome things Batman does in the comics.
Helping out the comic book feel is Telltale’s gorgeous graphics, which use cel-shading, bold lines, and a high-contrast palette to make the game feel like a living, breathing graphic novel. Yes, this is an aesthetic that is firmly in Telltale’s wheelhouse, but it never fails to impress. However, there were some baffling performance issues on the Xbox One version of the game that I played, ranging from choppy performance to audio channels dropping out inexplicably. It’s nothing new (all of Telltale’s games have these issues, or at least all of the ones I have played), but it still sours the experience slightly. But not enough that it won’t make the waiting game for the next episode any less painful. Yup, Batman: The Telltale Series is following the usual episodic format, so be prepared for cliffhangers aplenty!
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Batman: The Telltale Series’ first episode is available now on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC