Nanananana Batman: Telltale Series! This is the new episodic point and click series that explores lore within the Batman universe in a new timeline. Available across the current platforms of PS4 and Xbox1, Telltale promises the player a ‘gritty’ storyline to explore, though it maintains a lighter edge.
Batman Telltale takes the opportunity to balance the persona of Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego, Batman which many DC game have not done. Of course, a lot of people enjoy running around Gotham with detective mode burning out Bruce’s Retinas.
The first episode, Realm of Shadows, begins with a broken Gotham which is full of corruption and crime. Bruce Wayne (voiced by the ever smooth tones of Troy Baker) is attempting to save the city by backing a fully-faced Harvey Dent (Travis Willingham) as the next mayor. Whilst the public personality of Bruce tries to handle things diplomatically, Batman is out at night trying to stop crime with his fists. And Batgrapplehook. Seriously, I used that thing a lot in the combat stages of the game.
If only this could solve all my problems…
With equal share for both characters, the players snap decisions are based on what Batman might do in one scenario or what Bruce might do. However, the game questions where to draw the line between the two personalities. In some cases, Bruce’s actions may be driven by the Batman persona and vice versa. It is up to the player to decide which one will be more dominant and how their story will take form.
In this universe, Bruce is childhood friends with Oswald Cobblepot (not quite the Penguin. Voiced by Jason Spisak) who seems to be planning to take down the upper classes. It appears that Batman is also encountering Catwoman/Selina Kyle (Laura Bailey) for the first time, their relationship starting out with a rooftop fight. All three of them seem to connect with the criminal Carmine Falcone (Richard McGonagle) who casts doubt on the Wayne’s golden reputation as Gotham’s allies. In turn this begins to grind at Bruce’s psyche, blurring the lines between the Bat and the Man. Aided by his faithful friend, Alfred Pennyworth (Enn Reitel), both personalities are pushed between what is right and wrong.
You have something stuck in your teeth.
Like all Telltale games, the narrative is driven by player choice. Quick time events which will craft how the other characters will interact with Batman/Bruce. Of course, with every first episode, it leaves the player questioning what is the right choice. Telltale has masterfully instilled the fear of choice in its users, the unknown of what might happen nagging at them. In previous games such as the Wolf Among Us, the impact in the narrative isn’t present until the second episode.
First episodes are designed to hook into players and get set the story in motion. Realm of Shadows is a great start to set the foundations of the continuing story which compels player to what more. The episode allows players who are familiar in Batman lore to encounter a new take on the DC universe. At the same time, it doesn’t exclude those playing for the first time.
I enjoyed the opening as players hit the ground, rather than sit through the traditional Batman media opening. Usual (spoilers) Bruce’s parents are dead, Bruce finds a bat flying around somewhere and decides its a good idea to dress as one to fight crime. Throughout the episode its merely stated through dialogue what happened to Bruce’s parents rather than shown. Telltale episodes are usually a hour or two of gaming, so the writers used the time well to build the characters and plot. In a first episode, focusing on Thomas and Martha’s death would have been a waste of time. The episode keeps the players attention by not having them sit through a cut scene they may have experienced before.
I would say I don’t get paid enough for this crap, Master Wayne, but that would be a lie.
The combat of the game is quite interesting, incorporating the detective mode adding its own unique style to onto it. In Batman, the player interacts with the surrounding area, linking together clues in order to solve a particular crime. Having labeled himself the greatest Detective (much to the annoyance of Sherlock Holmes), Telltale has incorporated the particular strengths tailored for Bruce and Batman. Detective mode has another interesting trait wherein the player can choose what colour they can see clues in. I think it’s worth mentioning that along with the awesome writing of the first piece, the developers have also taken into account colours which players might be more comfortable with.
Batman is a very physical sort of character using everything at his disposal to win a fight. This includes items available on the utility belt such as the Batarang or a modern piece of art to throw at people. What makes it interesting is how Batman interacts with the surroundings of the game. A holographic interface in Batman’s cowl connects real world objects in order to defeat a group of thugs. Once the plan is formulated, Batman swoops in to defeat them in a series of quick timed events.
Brooding match intensifies.
For a first episode of a beloved series, I think it’s a good start to a new telling of Batman’s beginning. The players are starting out as an unsure Bruce Wayne trying to live up to his parents ideals whilst saving the city he loves. It is a journey which allows old and new players to slip into a new story from a iconic character. I look forward to seeing what direction the next episode takes and what my decisions have set in motion.