It took just five months for Telltale to debut and finish the first season of Batman’s story. And as much as it is a tale about the Caped Crusader, it’s even more about the man behind the mask.
There weren’t many occasions in video games to focus on Bruce Wayne. In many stories his name is just an additional persona for the Batman – the one being not only human, but also a symbol. Batman: The Telltale Series takes a different approach – Wayne’s family is more in the focus and it’s up to us which side of this hero will be exposed.
Talking about each episode in detail in not required as I’ve felt they are not that different as with other Telltale’s series. Realm of Shadows (E1) is a great start for the season. Most importantly, just when we think that it’s another origin story, some revelations occur and we are left with a twist – Bruce’s parents were involved in some shady things and it becomes a motive for the whole series. Children of Arkham (E2) further explores the backstory, while introducing the titular faction.
For me it was New World Order (E3) when I fully fell in love with the series. This episode contains easily the biggest twist of this season and it sets the tone for the events to come. Because of that Guardian of Gotham (E4) feels action-packed and short as a result. There’s an interesting choice in the finale that totally changes the beginning of City of Light (E5).
After The Walking Dead: Michonne I was a bit worried – with a character as reticent as Michonne it was hard to create a surprising story. With Bruce Wayne and a decades-long history it seemed impossible. You will be surprised more than once here – as was I. Batman: The Telltale Series is a good example what the studio does well: it’s not about changing the plot but your attitude when faced up against those plot points. We all know who does Harvey Dent transform into. We’ll tell the story of what happened to Bruce during that transformation.
There are various villains in this season, some of which I don’t want to spoil. It’s a pity that while we are having a lot of scenes with Harvey and we have a lot of impact on him, that’s not the case with Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot a.k.a. the Penguin. What I loved is the changed mythos of many of the appearing characters. Some changes are small touches, others are resulting in different origins, looks or even fates.
I was surprised how much Telltale’s style suits the Batman. This game is one of the first using studio’s updated engine and you’ll quickly notice many scenes that ar as great as pages taken directly from a graphic novel. I liked the general design of the game with nice ideas for both the Batman’s armor and his gadgets.
And about that… Each episode includes some great action sequences. There’s a surprising feel of urgency in Quick Time Events, which results in intense, dynamic scenes. There are some occasions to plan actions beforehand and it’s really satisfying to see how our idea becomes live action.
More than with other Telltale’s games there are items used for the gameplay. It’s a small nod to old adventure games and I only wish that equipment will be used more frequently in their future games. What is interesting, is that story decisions may result with some gadgets being unavailable.
Many times the Batman has been referred to as “The World’s Greatest Detective”. As this series works as a form of origin story, we have a few examples of his detective work. Unfortunately, they aren’t that good – these scenes are the moments where the pacing is slowed down, often too much. They are based on “connecting the dots” – linking elements of crime scene to recreate the past events. As an idea it’s great to have them here, but there’s a lot of work for the developers in season two.
I’ve had a chance to finish the game on PS4 and check some different outcomes on PC. Only minor problems with framerate occurred, but there were some animation skips. Generally the updated engine works well, but each episode contained some scenes with an ugly texture or some other small graphical problem. Earlier games from the studio had those problems too so I should say “it’s as always”.
I do have some general notes here: the first is a great use of music. The score suits well the dynamic between Wayne’s dual personalities. What’s important is the fact that the team behind the game surely knew when they are free to expose the soundtrack and build a momentum, and when to opt out a bit. Secondly, voice acting is generally good, but I would have wished for more memorable performances, especially with that ONE character whose backstory is otherwise interesting. And thirdly, some QTEs work strangely keyboard – I preferred playing the game with a gamepad.
If you are fan of the Caped Crusader, you surely don’t need being convinced. Batman: The Talltale Series is an interesting start to another series from Telltale. There are some fields for improvement, but in general it’s a likeable experience with some great additions. I’m hoping for more in the future.