Batman: The Telltale Series - A Story The Dark Knight Deserves | A Short Pause Review
Telltale Games has developed a reputation in the gaming space for delivering narrative-driven adventures based on popular franchises. So when I heard that they were working on a new story in the Batman universe, my interest was piqued. Now, after playing through all five episodes of this fine series, not only am I satisfied with what I experienced, but I also can't wait to see what else Telltale has in store for Gotham City and its residents in the future.
Tale of the Tape
Title: Batman: The Telltale Series
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, & PC
In Batman: The Telltale Series, you play as none other than the Caped Crusader himself. But, unlike the many Batman video games in which you play primarily as the Dark Knight, Telltale gives us the unique opportunity to jump into Bruce Wayne's well-polished shoes as he unravels the mysterious goings-on that threaten the safety of Gotham and its citizens. On occasion, you'll even be presented with the option to either handle a situation diplomatically as the millionaire playboy, or to don the cowl of justice in order to intimidate characters into providing information. The way you choose to tackle each encounter and conversation can affect the story in numerous ways. For example, as Batman you can interrogate a criminal by simply striking fear into their hearts, or you can push the boundaries of morality by breaking arms or busting kneecaps. If you choose the latter, it can result in Jim Gordon and the rest of the Gotham police force feeling less inclined to believe that you're one of the good guys.
I found the narrative itself to be a fresh take on the familiar Batman formula. Not only is this an original story, but the team at Telltale have taken classic DC Comics characters — many of whom have existed for 75 years — and brought them into the modern day in unique and interesting ways. This is particularly true in the case of Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, who is represented in the story in a realistic and contemporary way befitting of how he may have been interpreted in a Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film.
The overall tone of Telltale's Batman is another departure from what we typically see from this universe and from superhero stories in general. As an M-rated title, the game goes to some dark places. It's not excessively violent, but there are some adult themes that are presented, proving that this is not a story intended for kids. I felt like Telltale struck the perfect balance, making the story edgy and exciting without going over the top. Each character is expertly performed by top-notch voice talent such as Troy Baker, Richard McGonagle, and Dave Fennoy. But the real standouts for me were Laura Bailey as Selena Kyle/Catwoman and Travis Willingham as Harvey Dent, both of whom play pivotal roles in the story.
The progression of the game can basically be divided into three styles: dialogue, action sequences, and crime scene investigations. Dialogue is the primary means by which the story is told. Over the course of the adventure, you will interact with many of the narrative’s key characters and be given the opportunity to respond in a number of different ways. The things you choose to say will affect how that character will react to you later in the story.
When talking just won't do, sometimes Batman needs to persuade people with his fists. That's where the action sequences come in. Most of the fight scenes take place as a series of quick time events in which you press a button or direction on the control pad as you watch Batman kick some criminal butt. I'm not a huge fan of quick time events; I'd rather just watch a cool cutscene. Fortunately, the Batman fight scenes are pretty forgiving in this game and don't punish you for pressing the wrong button or reacting too slowly. For a few of the action sequences, the game lets you plan out your method of attack in advance and then watch how it plays out. For example, there might be a thug standing in a room with a table on his left and a large vase on his right. You could slam his head down on the table to knock him out, or kick the table at him to make him crash down on top of it. Or you could just bash him in the head with the vase. You'll make similar choices to seal the fates of several enemies in a row, and then watch as Batman dispatches them one by one. I found these opportunities to strategize my plan of attack to be very fun and satisfying.
Finally, there are several segments of the game in which Batman must investigate a crime scene. This can be done by linking clues together that can be found within a confined area. For example, you might find some blood splattered on a pool table and a broken pool cue nearby. If you use your cursor to select one clue and then drag it over to the other one, Batman will describe the events that most likely transpired. I thought this was a fairly simple but enjoyable way to represent Batman's sleuthing skills.
My only complaint with Batman: The Telltale Series is in the technical department. Most of the time the game runs fine, but there were several times throughout the five episodes that the game crashed or experienced some slowdown. During one scene in episode 4, there was a character who didn't render properly, causing him to be nothing more than teeth and eyeballs floating around. As hilarious as that may have been, it was very distracting. Aside from these issues, the game runs fine and I still enjoyed it overall.
In my opinion, Telltale Games did an amazing job with one my favorite superhero franchises of all-time. It isn't the most technically sound video game out there, but the fantastic story kept me guessing with unexpected plot twists that I never saw coming. The characters are well-written and are performed by some of the best talent in the business. I'm already looking forward to what the future brings if and when we get another season of Telltale's Batman.
We reviewed the entire Batman: The Telltale Series using a PS4 digital code provided to us by the fine folks at Telltale Games.
- Great story
- Unique take on familiar characters
- Excellent voice talent
- Crashing and technical issues