Batman – The Telltale Series Review

Batman - The Telltale Series Review

There are so many different takes on every superhero, but I think Batman be one of the worst (or best) offenders of that.  The plot points and characters have been rehashed so many times it can be difficult to go into new iterations with an open mind.  It was difficult for me to find a balance of not picking favorite versions and using source material for reference and comparison.  And if it was difficult for me to do that, I wonder how well Telltale did in their take on things?

Taking up their signature art style Batman and company don’t look half bad.  But that’s to be expected; the style has meshed pretty well with almost every franchise they’ve taken under their wing, and I’m not complaining.  As usual they’ve brought in stylistic elements of the source material as well, in this case the comic-book like death screen, which was a nice touch.

Also returning is the intermittent quick time event gameplay.  It’s not something everyone will enjoy, but I don’t mind it.  The choices you make during dialogue and in action sequences, the five large choices in each episode in particular, shape the way the story unfolds.  Failing to hit the quick time event buttons in time usually results in death, though in larger fights you can take a few hits.  Not choosing a dialogue choice results in silence, which is also a valid option – the five main choices being the exception.  The quick time event prompts lasted longer than I’m used to and occasionally it didn’t matter if I hit it or not, it would just continue as if I’d been successful.

New to the formula is Batman’s detective ability, in which you look for clues in various scenes and link them together in pairs to figure out what happened before your arrival.  It wasn’t quite as in depth as the detective mode in other Batman games, but I expected that going in and it turned out to be a nice way to include that particular ability.

Batman - The Telltale Series Review

The game mixes the serious tones of fighting crime and corruption very well with the humor in the relationships, and that whole bit is very well written and believable.  In particular I enjoyed the back and forths between Bruce and Selina.  The moment they realized who they were talking to was fun.  Alfred’s quips at Bruce’s expense, and vice versa, were also perfectly timed and acted out.  Nothing ever felt out of place with those two and the way in which they addressed each other was a simple but effective way to convey how much they appreciate and rely on each other without every straight up explaining that.

The same goes for Harvey Dent, although his conversations with Bruce held less impact overall for me since his screen time was short to begin with, and grew more so with his descent into madness.  I don’t mind because his fall, and his struggle to stay in control, was done well.  Out of all of the moments through the episodes I think the scene where Bruce visits him at the mayor’s office and he starts talking to himself and trying to not succumb to the darkness building within was one of my favorite bits.

The flow of the episodes is decent.  Focusing on introducing the players of the game in the first and second episodes did well to set the atmosphere.  Chapter three’s focus on Catwoman brought with it a nice lull in the action and served as a good ‘calm before the storm’ episode.  Episode four was interesting in that it introduced the Joker, although his screen time was so short and development so little that it almost felt as if he was shoehorned in.  His appearance in the very end indicates that if there’s a second season he’ll play a bigger role, but it still feels that leaving him out and introducing him in that would have been more appropriate.  The fifth and final episode had its flaws but brought with it a satisfying conclusion to the series.  The final press conference scene felt incredibly lazy, however, since Telltale didn’t bother to hide the fact that they copy pasted three or four character models to create a crowd.  One or two duplicates is one thing, an entire crowd made up of four people is another.

To sum up the plot, it revolves around Bruce’s parents and what they did before being murdered, and how his family’s name is being dragged through the mud.  At the same time a mysterious drug is being distributed to cause people to act without inhibitions.  Batman must deal with the drug and some of the heavier fights, while Bruce must attempt to restore the peoples’ faith by atoning for his families past.

I ended up going as Wayne as opposed to Batman for every choice, wanting to see that side of things.  Everyone knows Batman, but there’s very little focus on the human side of him.  It was enjoyable and trying to defeat evil and gain allies appealing to peoples’ humanity and compassion instead of beating the crap out of mentally ill people was a nice change.

I tried not to dwell too much on the reports of technical issues I’d seen before going into the game.  Thankfully my issues didn’t seem to be quite as obscene as Bruce and Alfred not having faces but there was a heck of a lot of lag, particularly at scene changes and at the beginning of fight sequences.  There were quite a lot of jerky animations that almost looked like they were missing frames and random limb jumps for no reason.  At one point in a cut scene Bruce’s neck broke and he was doomed to forcefully look to his left until his model reloaded entirely in the next scene.  The video and audio also were knocked out of sync a few times, which is never fun.

Batman - The Telltale Series Review

As of writing this there was also no choice stack-up for chapter five.  By the time I played the final chapter it had been out for at least a few hours, long enough to get some information.  But there wasn’t even a results screen.  Seeing how your choices stack up against everyone else’s is part of the fun with Telltale games, so to be denied that felt like a bit of a kick in the face.

The technical issues were numerous and distracting, but none of them ended up grating on me like their visualization of one particular character.  Everyone else has their iconic looks and habits, but Cobblepot was completely unrecognizable.  He was of average height, looked dashing, and had no disfigurements or a limp.  Everything that makes him Penguin was absent and nobody I showed his picture to, no matter their familiarity with the comics and movies and such, knew who he was.  And when one of the two central villains in the plot is unrecognizable to fans of the series, that’s not good.

Finally, there was a missed opportunity when it came to the QR codes on the ID cards for Gordon and Vicky on the news.  They’re fake, I tried them.  It’s a shame, they would have been a really good way to slip some cool easter eggs into the game without doing much additional work (on the game side, at least).

Some episodes stood out while others fell short, but all in all it wasn’t a bad game.  I’ve seen worse takes on the Caped Crusader and company, but it was by no means the best of the bunch.  The technical issues were rife and distracting, and I didn’t agree with some character choices, but the story was mostly solid and it was an enjoyable experience.

Rating 7

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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