Batman: Telltale Series (2015)
Ever since Telltale didn’t follow through with Wolf Among Us 2, and instead kept churning out so many series on unwanted IP, I lost track of what they did and also just stopped caring. I remember hearing about their Batman game back when it was announced at The Game Awards. Even by then I was already Batman’ed out, and just really didn’t have much of an interest. Once it did come out I didn’t hear great things either. It being a bad Batman “game” and the terrible Telltale engine really chugging made it a hard sell.
Flash forward to several years later and the collapse of Telltale itself, I wanted something lite to play at the end of the year, also I found myself buying up several Telltale games just so I could grab them before they get removed from Steam. Loading up Batman I cranked everything to Max in settings and was launched into an intro that really started off quite well. It’s fast paced and really does a good job with the Predator stalking his prey aspect of Batman’s Mythos. The hits feel brutal and heavy like Batman’s hits should feel.
The voice acting is good enough, nothing too great, nor too bad and the graphics actually led itself extremely well to the comic book caped crusader.The cell shading really pops and makes these characters stand out as both human and also comic. The story involves a younger Batman as he still isn’t extremely well known and more of a myth than a legend. We also have an unknown Catwoman who first appears here and also Harvey Dent and pretty much everyone else before they turn into their known counterparts.
This all seemed like it would be bothersome and annoying as I don’t need ANOTHER origin story of anyone, but since this story (so far) feels quickly paced, it’s not too bad. The writing skips most of the tropes and focuses one a couple key things to keep it moving along and also really interesting. A part in the middle of the first episode with both Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, where they “meet for the first time” is actually really tense and well acted. The dialog options fit perfectly for the conversation you two are having and gives off a really intense moment that you don’t see a lot of games pull off well.
The action scenes are well choreographed and acted out, even with the cuts being too quick at some points, Batman always keeps you surprised if just exactly where he is and how quick he moves. Truth be told, I’m blown away by how much better this game is than what I was led to believe. The detective aspects are done better than even some of the Arkham games, it’s basic, but connecting several parts to link the clues together do add at least something more than nothing.
It does have huge technical issues and it dropping frames and having huge stuttering issues, on a PC that is more than capable to run even today’s games at 4K/60… is a huge bummer. It really takes you out of the moments that should keep you trapped in the world. The movement of the characters and the way they walk is also extremely stilted and unnatural for a game that is so deep in the engine's history of games. This type of stuff shouldn’t be happening in 2016/17 when it wasn’t happening in 2012.
Technical aspects aside, the cell shading brings these comic book characters to life and the story is actually a new take that I don’t remember seeing before. I’m having a blast with this game and can’t wait to dive into it more, even if there are some huge glaring issues. I do wish it wasn’t a game and just a movie instead, because you barely actually play the game and it’s mostly a QTE game and the same formula that apparently no one actually liked and put them out of business.
The next episode picks up right after the second one left off, dealing with the aftermath of Carmine Falcone being arrested and awaiting a hearing. Bruce and Harvey team up and with the help of Lt. Gordon they get to ask Falcone some questions to why the Wayne name is being dragged through the mud. Things go sideways and now you have to spin everything politically.
The story continues to both surprise and be extremely easy to see a mile away. Parts of it twist a familiar story in new and exciting ways, and other parts foreshadow way too much. Dent really doesn’t need to keep emphasizing the word Face… we get it, he’ll become Two Face.
The action also is still really well done, Batman moves like he should, Bruce still kicks all sorts of butt while still pulling punches to not give away his alter-ego. The combat also has a bit more to it than just QTE presses. Linking a couple options to a thug, allows you to take out a thug one of two or three different ways, which again, is super basic, but at least something more than nothing.
I’m still enjoying the story enough to keep going, but being able to pick out the plot threads and even the “twist” villians a mile away is a bummer. For a game that is definitely trying to be mature (I mean they really keep showing people get shot in the face a lot) they shouldn’t be so afraid to play around with keeping things underwraps and not winking to the player so much.
Here was the dip I was expecting from the game. This episode felt a little too long, and brought back the trope of the Three’s Company misunderstanding that turns into something much worse, No one reacts like a normal human and everything goes off the rail.
I will say two things this game did well was 1st giving you the choice not to romance Catwoman, because it would have felt completely unearned and pointless and 100% against the character of Bruce Wayne… That being said, I am apparently one of the 9% who didn’t romance her, which is just a dissapointing measurment and really makes me understand how stupid most people are when it comes to Batman and what kind of characrer he is.
The second thing this game does extremely well and something I don’t really feel was done well anywhere else is showing the physiological breakdown of Harvey Dent and that this is something he’s struggled with way before he turned into Two Face. It’s really well done, and made me really like that this is a bit of a different approach to the characters than just another retread of Batman origin stories.
The pacing was way off in this episode, but that was to be expected, and as I was about to start looking at my phone and drift my attention to something else, the game picked up the pace and didn’t really stop. The story is a bit frustrating as it puts me in a spot to swallow my pride and do things that I don’t think the character would do. The choice between two bad options is never a fun choice to make, and a lot of this episode was making the choice between an out of character response and something completely out of character. Not a great episode, but it did do some things well enough to keep me intrigued on how Batman is going to get out of this one, as the story continues to evolve and also change itself enough for me to be wrong about a few things
Wow, this episode really did turn immediately. Starting out being thrown into Arkham Asylum and also having contact with The Joker. I really didn’t expect some of the ways that they took the turns of the character arcs, which is fantastic since a lot of it was predictable. Also this game gets pretty gory, especially since it's a Batman game. Not really much to say about it other than I am really enjoying the game and really want to finish up the game.
As the story was coming to a close, it felt like several pieces of the game weren’t really finished off well. Penguin and a couple others were just left without what felt like an endcap or any real justice. But I will say the overarching Lady Arkham story was a pleasant surprise and did change my expectations and got me really involved. There were several shocks in the game and I feel pretty satisfied with where this season ended.
Telltale has an ebb and flow with their games. Some are lackluster and forgettable at best, like Game Of Thrones or Minecraft. And some are absolutely phenomenal, like Back To The Future. Batman is up there as one of the better games in the Telltale series. It has its own canon that uses some familiar faces, but gives tweaks to their origin stories and really makes their version of Gotham and the Batman universe their own.
I was genuinely surprised at several twists, and felt the game season concluded in a satisfying enough way. Luckily I know there is a season two and I do hope that delivers a good conclusion to the story, because where this game and season end up is on a cliffhanger like so many other Telltale games, and like with A Wolf Among Us, those cliffhangers might not ever get to be finished.
What Season One does, it does well. The characters all feel fleshed out, and every story beat feels earned. Nothing really felt too disjointed and the pacing for the most part was tight. One section in Episode 3 did start to drag a little bit, but it did get back to the quick paced action, which was my favorite part. This game should be played in one or two sittings, just like the other Telltale games. The formula for these games is beyond stale at this point, and even calling it a game is a bit of a stretch at some point, but picking this up as a sort of palate cleanser in between huge games and the end of the year really was refreshing and a welcome distraction.
Leaving me wanting to know much more about this version of Batman. I’ll be sure to tune into the next season right away, on the same Bat time, same Bat channel.