By Jonathan Falu / January 5th, 2017
|Title||Batman: The Telltale Series|
|Release Date||August 2, 2016|
|Genre||Adventure, Narrative, Episodic|
|Platform||Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS|
|Age Rating||M for Mature|
Long ago during the earliest age of video game consoles, a good Batman game was rare. To see one was like finding a talking dragon that was a vegetarian. It wasn’t until Batman: Arkham Asylum came out that a good Batman game finally emerged, along with a string of interesting and fun games. It even helped inspire the combat engine for some games like Sleeping Dogs with the counter system. However, it also helped make Batman appear everywhere, and I was starting to feel the fatigue as I wanted other superheroes to have their moment to shine. And yet after hearing second hand information regarding TellTale’s Batman, I found myself curious and eager to play this title. Does it still hold up despite my old man ramblings? Let’s find out!
Before I get into the story, I want to talk about some performance issues. Due to an update, the game will automatically detect the best settings for your computer. It was a good idea on paper, yet even the lowest settings left me with some lag I could not fix. There was even a point at which the game kept giving me a white screen, but there is fortunately a fix for that thanks to the help of this YouTuber. The lag was never so horrendously bad that I failed every section, but it was incredibly annoying and likely helped drag out my playtime.
Now as for the story, you control the actions of Bruce Wayne/Batman during the earliest part of his career, when he was just working with Jim Gordon and lacked the reputation seen in the Arkham games. The main plot begins with balancing the life of Bruce and Batman, trying to do the most good and stopping the villains. You are not restricted to just being purely nice or following Batman’s rules, like punching someone for breaking your things or going so far as to injure people for information. You can even choose to remain silent if you aren’t sure of what to do. Not every choice is important, but some can have an impact on your relationship with the character. However, other choices lack impact, as some things are destined to go down a predetermined path, especially if you are aware of who the characters really are within their comic counterparts.
But it’s also important to remember something: the Telltale continuity is new, not strictly following any previous stories with Batman’s comic, animated series, or video game counterparts. This is made apparent the moment you spot a few different things, such as Batman having a device to change his voice, Penguin being much taller and lacking certain weapons, and a few more things. Because of that, Telltale isn’t limited in what they can do with Batman, and can craft a mostly original story featuring the dark knight. Add to the fact that this is starting when Batman was just getting into crime-fighting, this game is very approachable to those that never saw or read any other Batman continuity.
More attention being brought to Bruce’s character is a good thing. As Bruce, there were many things that needed to be done that Batman could not accomplish, such as trying to get Harvey as mayor and making sure the people of Gotham trusted Wayne Enterprises. Then there’s the relationship between Alfred as his confidant, helping him as not just Batman but as sort of a moral compass too, given Alfred also raised Bruce. Seeing the relationship more in-depth was a nice touch to his life. My time with the story was positive, especially as the first episode does a very good job in introducing some of the main characters. It’s hard to really discuss the story without going into too many spoilers. And there are legitimate twists that I did not see coming, and spoiling those would be a bad idea. I can say however by the time episode four shows off the Joker, while a bit of a star in his own right, he never steals away attention to what is going in the story. So for those worried that this would be another Joker-centered story like the Arkham games, you don’t need to panic.
My only complaint would be the handling of Penguin, though only to an extent. His plan is fairly solid, and he does pose as a large threat to Batman, but the relationship between him and Bruce as friends never felt important beyond the first episode. It’s a glaring flaw when comparing Bruce’s relationship with Harvey/Two-Face, which does feel more tragic despite certain story moments that put the characters at odds. All the villains present do their job well, and it was probably best to go with these guys over, say, Mr. Freeze or Poison Ivy, given Batman’s current status in the game. With the exception of Penguin most of the time, they all do well in their roles. Other than that, the story was an enjoyable ride with plenty of character interactions, and lasted me about 10 hours, with each episode rounding out to about two hours. It’s ultimately up to subjective taste for the story to grab you or not, to try and either force yourself to be the shining example of humanity or give in to those urges to do what you would want to do.
The story is presented in a mature manner as well, and not just with the dialogue. There is quite a lot of violence, sometimes even gore in some places. There are no cutaways when someone is shot or stabbed unless a cliffhanger happens. The gore isn’t frequent but there are some surprises, like Batman’s batarangs actually piercing flesh; I’m too used to them knocking thugs out or their guns away. And naturally, Two-Face’s face when burned does have a lot of detail. A bit cringe worthy, but that’s to be expected and it’s used to great effect to show the damage done to Harvey, as well as the “second” voice he adopts. Thankfully, the game never makes Batman seem far too violent with all of this imagery, unless you take the rare chance to pick such a choice. The music is also used well, though only really noticeable when the drama is cranked up from a twist or a fight is about to begin.
Gameplay is limited to mostly quick-time events, but it never felt stale or unwelcome in a Telltale game. You won’t automatically lose from failing each individual quick time event. Despite my computer’s problems, they never felt infuriating or too fast, or even come out of nowhere. That being said, you can’t afford to be too lazy either, as failing a number of times in a row, or at certain specific moments will lead to a ‘game over’, such as failing to save Catwoman early on, getting your butt kicked by a goon, or even having another goon german-suplexing you through a door; apparently Brock Lesnar made a cameo in this game. One of the only times I really failed was during one segment when Batman was pressed into a corner and needed his drone to deal with the machine gun. Because I took too long, Batman ended up with a shot through the head; doesn’t look as painful as his emotional shots to the heart throughout this game though. Fortunately, if you do fail, you don’t have to restart the chapter.
Another part of gameplay is trying to piece together crime scenes. By using Batman’s technology, you can link examined objects and people to one another and try to figure out what happened to cause these events. Then there’s trying to plan out attacks before going to fight some thugs. This is done extremely similar to the crime scenes, though much simpler as all that needs to be done is pick where a thug will be thrown, or what object to hit them with. Both are simple mechanics, and do help in making you feel like Batman. But there is no challenge to these either, nor any real pressure, save for maybe one fight in episode 5 as time is slowing down for you to plan and save people from being killed. One neat thing, outside of seeing how Batman operates, is that you can change the color of the tech. For example, in the Arkham series, Batman usually has a thing called Detective Mode that is very similar to what is present here, and the default color there is blue. In this game, you can choose from four colors: blue, red, yellow, or purple, and all of Batman’s tech will be represented by that color.
There is a bit of replayability present in the game, mainly in trying to figure out what would happen by making different choices. For example, I chose to save another person’s life over Harvey, and that brought out Two-Face sooner, but by choosing to save him, it only gradually grew over time and helped change the relationship between Bruce and Harvey. Or maybe you can just find out what would happen with different conversations, or to see how Batman would hit a goon’s head on a table versus throwing them into a folding screen. Other extras also include some talks regarding the episodes, but not all of them are currently released at the time of this review. There is also the option to enable group play, where you can have friends on their phones vote to dictate actions for Batman, and the more votes an action gets, it will be chosen, even if you disagree with it.
Telltale certainly did a good job with Batman, and it makes me eager to see what other series they plan to do in the future. It’s a shame that the PC port sadly doesn’t hold up too well on lower-end computers. I do recommend, unless you have a better laptop than mine, that you experience this game through a home console. Were it not for performance issues, this game would earn a higher score. But despite that problem, I still enjoyed myself and I’m glad Telltale helped make me care even more for Batman when I thought I would be sick of him.
Review copy provided by publisher.
AdventurebatmanBatman - The Telltale SeriesTelltale Games