by Thomas Neil
Batman: The Telltale Series presents a fun and engaging detective game with fresh takes on well-known characters, but suffers from an average plot and lack of player involvement.
I was really excited when I first heard about this game. First of all, because I’m a DC fanboy till I die, and so I couldn’t wait for something new with the Batman name to come out, and secondly because I’ve spent many happy hours playing Telltale’s other games such as The Walking Dead, Back To The Future and The Wolf Among Us – so I knew at least on a basic level that I’d like the game since I like Telltale’s basic underlying mechanics. I wasn’t let down.
Batman: The Telltale Series decided to go with an original storyline, which was met with mixed success. I happened to like it, because maybe I’m tired of seeing characters being exactly the same over and over again.
This game took the Penguin, always more of a second tier enemy from Batman’s rogue gallery, and made him a prominent challenge, not just a key to completing the story. I think they made this decision because of the success of the same character on Gotham, which showed that with a few changes from the iconic image, or at least the one presented in 1992’s Batman Returns (that’s the one with Danny DeVito), that the character can be more than just a comic foil.
Something interesting and also welcome was the split between playing as Batman and Bruce Wayne. Having the choice to pursue events as either Batman or Bruce Wayne made the game more well-rounded and treated both characters as real. It even showed the real difficulties in balancing Batman’s night job with Bruce’s day job as a billionaire.
With Superman, he’s always maintained that Superman is the disguise and that Clark Kent is the real personality, but Batman has always been the opposite; his need for vengeance has consumed him, and he only keeps up the illusion of Bruce Wayne to stave off questions and to support his other life. I like this adaptation because it’s clear that there is a struggle between the two sides and they flesh him out reasonably well, and it also gives the player the final say on exactly what type of person Batman/Bruce Wayne is, by letting you play him as either aggressive, compliant or a fence-sitter respectively.
I like being a detective and I love being able to work out problems, and Batman: The Telltale Series allows you to do that. It’s not perfect, and I don’t think you can go ahead with the wrong analysis, but it at least gives the illusion of working out a solution.
For example, the first time you do any real detective work, you’re investigating a warehouse where there’s been an explosion. You piece together what’s happened from the evidence left behind by linking pieces of evidence together for Batman to form a theory on what took place. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of the game.
Similarly, there are strategy components, where Batman assesses the placement of enemies and you use the map of his surroundings to figure out how to take them down. This sequence has a little variability, but as with the investigative portion of the game I don’t think you can do it badly, you just end up dead and replay it until you get it right. Regardless, it’s still fun to choreograph a Batman fight – something which I never realized was a dream of mine until I played it.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Telltale game without quick time events. This is by far my least favourite form of gaming because it doesn’t rely on skill, and non-reaction is almost always a worse choice than any action you could take.
These parts should flow quite well (if you have a decent computer), and they separate it from other Batman games like Arkham Asylum, where you are in complete control of the character so there’s a lot of button mashing to take of waves of the same exact enemy. Instead, this game makes it more like a fight scene in a movie, where at a specific moment you need to press a button for Batman to kick ass. If you miss the QTE sometimes the game will just continue on, and make your attack less powerful or miss the enemy completely, but other times you get killed and have to replay from the last checkpoint.
By and large, I had very little problems with this game. Telltale’s core mechanic adds well to the Batman mythos, and the choice to go with a unique storyline means it isn’t tied to any other Batman media, so no fan disappointment if it’s done badly (The Killing Joke, anyone?). It also allowed players to experience a story with a familiar character, but while doing something new, and the investigative element to the game made it feel like a real Batman game instead of a brawler.
The storyline wasn’t perfect, and the game suffered from a weird mechanic I’ve termed ‘butt wiggle physics’, meaning that any time a character is presented from behind and you walk, they wobble and well wiggle their butt. It’s a little distracting but it’s hardly the most glaring flaw, and I mostly just found it funny, so it won’t alter my rating.
So, what’s the overall rating? I’d give Batman: The Telltale Series a 3.5/5. It has a lot of great elements, but it didn’t flow as well as other Telltale games and the story wasn’t amazing. However, it was reasonably well-paced and I did really enjoy playing it, so if you get a chance I think you should put on the cowl and play an episode of what I’m sure will be another Telltale classic.
Video courtesy of: Telltale Games