There have been many attempts at Batman video games, going all the way back to 1986. There have been ups and downs over the years but most would say we have been experiencing the best of Batman lately with the recent Arkham series of games. Batman is in theaters and on TV – to an extent – so it’s time to see yet another variation of the Caped Crusader, this time presented by the masters at Telltale.
Telltale’s take on Batman naturally focuses much more on story than basically any previous Batman game. In fact, based on the first episode, it might be fairer to call this game Bruce Wayne, as you actually spend more time wearing a tuxedo than Bruce’s other suit. There is still plenty of Batman action to be had, but the split feels closer to 60% Bruce, 40% Bat.
In this inaugural episode, Realm of Shadows, we visit Gotham in the early days of Batman. People are still referring to this masked vigilante as “the Bat,” Jim Gordon is only a Lieutenant and has yet to really start teaming up with Batman. There are also few true villains at this point. In the first couple of minutes we witness Batman and Catwoman meeting for the first time, while other notable faces are seen before their turn to crime, such as Harvey Dent and Oswald Cobblepot. Instead the main baddie in this episode is mafia boss Carmine Falcone.
The way that Telltale’s Batman starts feels like a mix between Batman Begins and the Gotham TV show. Like the show, Oswald Cobblepot looks to be a major player, although this time he is portrayed as a childhood friend of Bruce, except the death of Oswald’s parents caused their fortune to be loss. Surely he doesn’t hold any ill will towards Bruce for that, right? Dent is here as well, parading around town as District Attorney and campaigning to become Mayor of Gotham. Naturally that makes Bruce an ally with his great resources and influence.
Realm of Shadows spends a good deal of time setting up Telltale’s Gotham and characters within. There is a good mix of Bruce Wayne story stuff and Batman fighting and detective stuff. There is some basic investigation with Batman finding clues at a crime scene and linking them to other clues to decipher what happened. The gem of this episode, however, is the final sequence where Batman attacks Falcone’s headquarters. You scan the area, planning ahead how you are going to take out each guard in your way, leading up a confrontation with Falcone himself. It’s a really cool idea that showcases both Batman’s brain and brawn.
Of course this wouldn’t be a Telltale game if there wasn’t a heavy emphasis on choice. Sometimes that just means how you respond in dialog options while other times it is literally making you decide how far you are going to go as Batman. Telltale’s Batman is definitely a gritty world – the game opens to a security guard getting shot in the face – and Telltale lets you decide what type of Batman you want to be. You can be the Batman who is breaking arms and brutalizing criminals to get information, or you can choose restraint. No doubt these choices will shape the story over time and Gotham’s reaction to this vigilante.
No review of Telltale’s Batman can be complete without discussing the mess that is the PC version. Early days of the game’s release were plagued with horribly low framerates and crashes. A patch seems to have fixed many of those problems but a new one has cropped up where players can simply not make it to the main menu, instead getting stuck on a black screen after launching the game. I was forced to delete and reinstall the game just to be able to finish up my playthrough while others are still having problems. Telltale is usually pretty good on PC so this is certainly surprising, although it could just be because it’s a Batman game. We all know how well Batman and PC games go together these days.
If you have played any of Telltale’s previous games, you have a basic idea of what to expect from their Batman series. Luckily, this game seems much closer to the quality seen in their better titles like Tales from the Borderlands and The Walking Dead. It’s a solid and interesting take on Batman that is taking time to focus more on the billionaire behind the mask, which feels refreshing, especially in the video game space. Introducing Batman to Telltale’s gameplay style does give them time to play with some interesting new mechanics but it’s still very much a game about dialog choices and quick time events. You come here for the story, characters and unique sequences and Batman delivers on all three of these aspects in Realm of Shadows. Unfortunately, like Arkham Knight before it, that does depend on whether you can actually get the game to run.
SCORE: 7.5 out of 10
A code for the Season Pass of Batman: The Telltale Series was provided to Pixel Related for review.