Batman: The Telltale Series offers up the true Dark Knight experience, letting players make tough choices and gather clues as both Batman and Bruce Wayne.
Although he’s intrinsically linked to Batman, it isn’t often that a Batman video game (or movie, for that matter) gives equal screen time to Bruce Wayne. Batman is all action and Bruce Wayne is all set-up, and in the world of video games if the action isn’t fast and furious, the player is typically bored. It’s for that reason that the narrative-minded Telltale Games feels like the perfect partner to bring the full story of Batman to life – to create a video game where the player spends just as much time as Bruce Wayne.
Batman: The Telltale Series Episode 1 – Realm of Shadows is exactly the type of game one would hope to see from The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones developer. All of the various pieces are put in motion, some hints are dropped along the way, and plenty of familiar DC Comics characters make appearances. It’s a first episode as only Telltale knows how to deliver.
For now, the story in Batman is fairly straightforward – Bruce and Batman are on the tail of crime boss Carmine Falcone, but even early on there’s a sense that a larger plot is looming. The first episode also features appearances from Batman fan favorites like Harvey Dent, Catwoman/Selina Kyle, Vicki Vale, and one or two surprise characters. But while we may know these characters by name, it’s clear that Telltale wants to put its own spin on DC Comics lore, not just repeat it. It’s refreshing to jump into a Batman story and not feel like every character’s path is already set in stone.
If there’s one element that Telltale seems to excel at its writing, and Batman is no exception. The dialogue between Bruce/Batman and the numerous characters has that much-needed air of mystery, as players try to figure out everyone’s motivations. Choice also continues to play a role in the game, but it’s more nuanced than in past games. Here, Batman can influence how the Gotham police force views his actions, while Bruce is focused on keeping up a public persona. However, not every choice is cut-and-dry, especially as Batman. It isn’t often that a player gets to determine how far Batman goes with his brutality and interrogation techniques, but Telltale offers that freedom.
Batman: The Telltale Series also plays up the detective element of the character more than most media. Granted this is still a point and click adventure with obvious interactive points, but Batman adds a new layer to the Telltale formula through its linking mechanic. Essentially, Batman can uncover layers of a crime scene by linking specific pieces of evidence together. It’s easily the most a game has made the player feel like Batman the detective.
But don’t worry; Batman the fighter is also well and truly present in the game as well. Through the use of Telltale’s signature quick time events, players will get to experience the sheer power of Batman, as he makes quick work of a group of thugs. There’s also a meter that builds as the player completes specific actions, leading to a devastating finishing blow. For as much as Batman: The Telltale Series values the slow burn and heavy dialogue sections, there are still plenty of Batman beat downs to go around.
Where the game does stumble a bit is in its frame rate, which is a notorious problem for Telltale graphics engines. Because these games are influenced by choice and timing-based actions, there is always a constant need to callback to those decisiions, and in turn that results in choppy edits between shots. It’s not something that will completely take the player out of a scene, but it’s definitely noticeable. Luckily, our time with Batman: The Telltale Series was spent on the PS4 version of the game, because the PC version seems to have even more problems.
Visually, though, the game combines the trademark Telltale style with a genuine Batman nicely. Batman’s design is especially strong, like a combination between the animated series and the new DC movies’ look. And voice actor Troy Baker wonderfully embodies both Bruce Wayne and Batman in a way that never feels over-the-top. That’s also a testament to Telltale’s writing, but without Baker, Batman wouldn’t feel as fully formed as he does. Even though the game doesn’t outright spell it, you get a sense of what this Batman has gone through in his early work.
All told, Batman: The Telltale Series offers the best of both worlds when it comes to The Dark Knight. The Bruce Wayne sections help develop the plot and present the player with dialogue choices that will pull their allegiance in one way or another. While the Batman sequences truly typify the character, highlighting both his skills as a detective and a tactician. And even though the game still has some frame rate problems and it hitches up here and there, this is still a solid foundation for Telltale to build from. Batman fans will not want to miss out on this.
Batman: The Telltale Series is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.