Batman: The Telltale Series Review (PC)
Na na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na na, BATMAN!
Telltale Games are a company who seem to have been involved in some sort of mad dash for IPs, spanning TV shows, movies, video games about video games, and comics. And they’ve seen their fair variety of success. While nobody who has played The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us will forget them anytime soon, the rest of us would sooner forget Jurassic Park: The Game and Back to the Future.
So where will ‘Batman: The Telltale Series’ fit in?
Telltale have become the biggest name in episodic gameplay, and it seems like a series based on arguably the most famous comic book character of all time, the Dark Knight himself, would be a perfect match. But it’s actually the alter-ego of the Batman, the playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne, who’ll really be at the centre of this latest adaptation of the worlds greatest detective.
Batman: TTS sees a young, unpolished Bruce early in his career as the Dark Knight. As such, the game treats you to some new origins for some of Batman’s greatest rogues, with Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent taking centre stage, and Oswald ‘Penguin’ Cobblepot a recurring headache. It’s one of the best origin stories I’ve seen played out for Two-Face, moving his disfiguration away from the traditional ‘acidic chemicals to the face’ story. Harvey’s descent from noble, upstanding DA of Gotham into the twisted, psychotic Two-Face is a key element throughout the first season of Telltale’s Batman.
But there’s another, more important villain waiting in the wings for the first few acts. I’m actually not going to say too much, but I’ll tell you that they’re not who you think they are, and their motive is a lot more than “Time to be an evil douchebag!”
Telltale’s writers have gone in to overdrive in creating not just one of the best stories in one of their games yet, but a genuinely gripping Batman story that deserves its own comic series. While they had to rewrite a lot of established Batman lore, the whole thing slots together, with every character having deeply personal motivations for everything they do. Some of them are really, really dark and disturbing.
The story begins with Dent running for Mayor, an electoral bid funded entirely by Bruce Wayne’s inherited billions. I mentioned that Batman: TTS revitalises some of the rogue gallery’s origins, but it does more than that, turning the spotlight on Batman’s family. As the narrative plays out, accusations are thrown that bring the Wayne name into disrepute, which was a refreshing change of pace. We’ve played as Batman a million times. Telltales’ take on the Dark Knight lets Bruce Wayne get a lead role.
Juggling the developing relationship with characters like Jim Gordon and Catwoman can take a toll on both Bruce and the Batman. This is hammered home at points during the story when you have to decide on whether it’s best to solve a problem, like visiting the current Mayor, as Batman or Bruce Wayne, as both can approach different characters from different perspectives.
So far so good, but I did have my issues. There were some minor graphical problems, usually centring on Batman not tracking the person he’s speaking to properly so his head seems to snap around randomly. I had some serious frame rate issues in episode 3 especially, and the game seemed to forget that I’d completed Episode 1 entirely when I tried to start Episode 2. I had to go in to it with the games’ pre-made decisions, which seemed to be exclusively different from the ones I had made myself. Frustrating, of course, but definitely not enough to lower my enjoyment.
I mentioned that the writers were in top form when crafting the story for Batman: TTS, but the choreographers for the fight scenes deserve acclaim as well. After all, who could believe a Batman who can’t fight like a total badass? Most of the Dark Knights’ battles are awesome, playing out in the usual Telltale standard of essentially being one long quick-time event. Action generally takes a back-seat to dialogue in this style of game, but that doesn’t mean Telltale skimped on the combat budget, especially as the game develops. There were at least two moments in Episode 5, the game’s finale, that had me shouting cause Batman is just…well, he’s the Batman.
Batman: The Telltale Series is an essential Batman story. It’s a pretty good Telltale game too, almost up to the standards of their greatest titles. I had a small complaint about a character introduced in Episode 4, but they won’t be a major player until the second season, if we ever get one. Unlike many others, I felt that the decisions I’d made had an impact on the relationships and events as they unfolded, maybe not to the same extent to other games, but if Batman: The Telltale Series had been any other style of video game, with those choices taken out of your hands? It would be an instant classic. I don’t think it’s fair to write it off because it let you make decisions.
8 God Damn Batmans out of 10