TITLE: Batman: The Telltale Series
CREATORS/DEVELOPERS: Telltale Games
VOICE ARTISTS (if applicable): Troy Baker, Laura Bailey and Travis Willingham
PLATFORMS: iOS, Windows, OSX PS3/4, XBOX 360/ONE
RELEASE DATE: First release 02/08/2016
If you aren’t as sick of seeing the murder of Martha and Thomas Wayne as you are of witnessing the death of ol’ Uncle Ben, you’ve either been hiding under a rock for the last couple of decades or are a glutton for punishment. Now it seems that the notorious Caped Crusader has swept in once more from his 5-minute absence from the limelight and into my loving embrace thanks to Telltale Games’ latest installment of Batman: The Telltale Series.
The World’s Greatest Detective is often hailed as the darkest of the true “superheroes”, with his anti-hero/borderline villainous past being discredited as a learning curve by many fans eager to label him as a hero. Once more, game developers have taken this title quite literally, producing a game for which my brightness had to be turned up to unspeakable levels just to see the detail in Batman’s suit. Could they not have named him, say, the Pink Knight? No? Ok.
Telltale Games are a game development company that have focussed on releasing episodic games since 2005, though reached wider recognition and fame in 2012 with the release of the eagerly awaited The Walking Dead. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength, securing major contracts with household franchises and introducing them into Telltale’s exciting and creative universe in which the players choices directly impact the discourse of the game. This mechanic of player-driven narrative and choice making, however, is relatively recent, having been introduced as a major feature in Jurassic Park: The Game…*shudders*. Whilst they have a reputation as of late for publishing games ridden with bugs and glitches, their ability to adapt, re-write and re-imagine some of the most well loved franchises has elevated them into the spotlight, and whilst Game of Thrones was met with mixed reviews due to its watery characterisation, many of the recent titles such as Minecraft: Story Mode, Tales from the Borderlands and The Wolf Among Us have been met with overwhelming approval from fans and critics alike.
From the two chapters that have been released so far, it appears as though we have a timeline set with Batman in his prime; he’s an established and wanted “criminal” in Gotham, Arkham Asylum is in full swing and the Bat has already put many petty criminals behind bars. Telltale swiftly introduces a whole array of Gotham’s most recognizable characters aside from Bruce and Alfred in the first chapter, such as Harvey Dent, Selina Kyle, Officer Gordon, Don Falcone and Oswald Cobblepot, which, whilst almost overwhelming at first, was certainly an engrossing feature for the run-of-the-mill DC nerd.
The bulk of the first chapter takes place during DA Harvey Dent’s campaign to be the Mayor of Gotham against the corrupt Mayor Hill, which is intertwined with Bruce Wayne’s philanthropic lifestyle as it is revealed that Wayne is funding Dent’s campaign. As per comic book superhero style, the main characters are all somehow connected, however as the game progresses, it becomes clear that Telltale have definitely taken some creative liberties. Selina Kyle is now Dent’s erstwhile lover, Oswald Cobblepot is Wayne’s childhood friend (and as usual, sounds like he’s attempting an amateur impression of Dick Van Dyke’s “English” accent) and Alfred is… well, Alfred.
The story is well grounded in Bruce’s brooding perspective, focusing as heavily on the social, political and personal dynamics of Gotham. In doing this, Telltale and their signature quick-time sequences manage to transcend being battle-based and seemingly inconsequential to the “choice-making” elements of the game, meaning that every handshake, touch and expression can sway how someone thinks of Wayne as a socio-political figure. It’s much more exciting than it sounds, honest.
Batman: The Telltale Series so far has a lot going for it – it’s dynamic, interesting and manages to introduce new ideas and plot lines without losing the classic feel of Gotham and the double life that it and its residents lead. The voice acting is largely immersive and well done, Bruce Wayne as a character is more than just a pretty face who wears a mask and runs around screaming “WHERE IS ___?”, and there are enough compelling surprises and plot twists to keep your focus on the narrative.
The fight scene mechanics – especially the “finishing move” are all-round pretty satisfying, as are the detective sections where one must link up clues to come to a conclusion on the case. As usual with Telltale, you get the sense that the end result of chapters one and two wouldn’t vary *too* much from choice to choice, barring a few obvious ones.
A major element of this game that has set it apart from other recent representations of Batman (sorry, Bat-fleck), is that Telltale have managed to take the most basic, seemingly fundamental qualities of a lot of these plot lines and characters within the Gotham universe and completely re-written them. Before you reach for the pitch forks and torches, however, give the game a chance – Telltale have somehow managed to take everything we knew and loved about Batman and his origins and convince me otherwise.
There are still 3 more chapters to come in Telltale’s Batman, so it’s difficult to rate it as a whole game as of right now, but from what we’ve seen so far it’s clear that they’re attempting to tie in classic, well-loved Batman to more modern and in-depth representations of Gotham. Every so often, they throw in a cheesy one-liner for the Bat which leaves you cringing in your corner as flashbacks to Clooney-man dart before your eyes, but it does little to stop you from returning to the game shortly after. It’s certainly intriguing to see how Telltale handles the two separate storylines that come about as a consequence of Episode 2.
CHAPTER 1: 7.5/10
CHAPTER 2: 8/10