BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES
Available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4
In an all new story from Telltale Games, witness the torment and struggle of Bruce Wayne as secrets linked to the past are revealed, impacting the lives of Bruce and the entire city of Gotham. Fuelled by the hate generated by the city, militant group Children of Arkham are set on taking control, no matter what the cost. Can Batman save the day?
Welcome to BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES, a 5-episode interactive game for console and PC from Telltale Games. Despite owning The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series, I’ve never actually played any of Telltale’s acclaimed interactive story games. I’ve heard much praise though for their knack of storytelling which draws the player into the world so when Batman: The Telltale Series popped up on the scene, I was intrigued to see which angle they would approach the comicbook character from and who would be involved.
In Batman: The Telltale Series, Bruce Wayne is on the campaign trail, funding District Attorney Harvey Dent who’s looking to become Mayor of Gotham and clean the streets of the city that have become corrupt and dangerous under the eye of Mayor Hill. Bruce Wayne’s bankrolling of the campaign makes him a target for old friend Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, who has a score to settle with the Wayne family. Could his return to Gotham and talk of revolution be linked to the items stolen by one “Catwoman” and, if so, what does Oswald want with them? These are the questions Batman will have to discover the answer to in an effort to save Gotham. With butler Alfred, tech whizz Lucius and Detective Gordon of GCPD on his side, and a little help from an unlikely ally, Batman might just be able to save Gotham from the destruction that awaits.
I’m not the most clued up Batman fan, if you can even call me that, but I’ve enjoyed the recent run of movies (and the old ones too), along with the videogames that have been churned out by Rocksteady in recent years, to have an adequate knowledge of the World’s Greatest Detective. *Stop reading now for spoilers* For instance, I know that the good-intentioned Harvey Dent becomes the villainous Two-Face. Another one of the comic’s main plot points, that of Bruce’s billionaire parents Thomas and Martha Wayne being murdered, seems to be the sticking point in most iterations though the idea has always been open to intepretation as to why they were killed. Whilst most comics give the impression it was a random mugging, Telltale have decided to expand upon this life-changing moment in Bruce’s life, sending out shockwaves that will affect Bruce, Wayne Industries and the whole of Gotham. This plotline will have players gripped to the screen as we see how familiar characters such as Alfred Pennyworth, Catwoman, Penguin and mobster Falcone are involved with the story.
If you’ve played the Rocksteady Batman games, like Batman: Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, this game is nothing like them. You can’t freely wander around the city nor operate your character at will. The Telltale gameplay mechanics, at least in this outing, is predominantly story-driven cutscenes that allow the player to join in every so often, such as during fight scenes, by prompting the player to press certain buttons or keys, depending on whether you’re using a controller or keyboard. When tasked with investigating a scene of a crime, the player is required to navigate around the surroundings and interact with certain items to discover more details about them before linking evidence together to form a picure of what actually happened at that location, for instance a crime scene at a warehouse where dead bodies are strewn across the floor. Occurring more often than any of these gameplay mechanics is the player response mechanic, where the characters on screen will have a conversation and the player, as Bruce Wayne/Batman, must choose from a variety of responses to progress the gameplay. Some dialogue interactions are merely throwaway and it doesn’t matter what you choose, but other reponses are important and will affect the gameplay along the line so choosing is crucial. One instance, though not a response to a conversation, involves you choosing whether Batman should save Harvey Dent or Catwoman during Oswald Cobblepot’s electoral speech rally takeover. Choose to save Harvey and you save him from disfigurement whilst Catwoman gets shot – if you choose to save Catwoman from armed goons, Harvey gets a face-full of a stage lamp earning him the iconic Two-Face. I opted with saving Harvey and it didn’t seem to have any negative impact on Batman’s relationship with Catwoman (far from it as intimate relations progressed in episode 3) but I highly doubt saving Harvey from disfigurement will prevent him from becoming Two-Face. With one episode remaining and Dent already unhinged, I’ll be interested to see where my particularly in-game choices have led me.
For most part, the visuals in this game are pretty incredible and spot on. The thrill of watching the Batmobile speed through Gotham to the intensity of a showdown between Batman and the Children of Arkham has to be seen. Even the sexual chemistry between Bruce and Selina (Catwoman) sizzles as you’re given the option to pursue or halt a possible romance with Ms Kyle. However, there’s been a few hiccups along the way with a slight lag, albeit intermittent, the game randomly crashing to desktop and the odd audio sync issue as well as a lack of lip movement from a character who’s clearly speaking. The lag and audio issues don’t really hamper the gameplay in any serious way as all the important choice options and user-prompts seem to be unaffected but the random closing of the game left me pulling my hair out somewhat, though this only seemed to happen during the final episode of the game.
Batman: The Telltale Series isn’t for action gamers looking for a game to actually ‘play’, but as a fan of movies and story-driven content, there’s a definite appeal to this particular series and, I guess, with Telltale games as a whole. With each episode taking around 1.5 hours to complete, the story moves along quite nicely and quickly, keeping the player engaged at all times with very little filler. Giving the player the choice of how to respond sucks you into the game and makes you care for the characters on screen, with every plot twist and turn feeling as though a personal experience.
I had high hopes for the final episode and whilst it went to some dark places and had some interesting exchanges, it didn’t really hit the heights in which I was expecting after the solid build up in the first four episodes. The final fight scene was pretty decent but the emotional side of the episode felt a little flat. Even another meeting with Selina didn’t really have any value unlike the earlier liasons. It wasn’t even that clear where earlier choices had affected the game with my choice to save Harvey Dent from being scarred having no effect in preventing his transformation into Two-Face, albeit without the literal half-burnt face. It seems like Telltale gave up in the final episode to produce a rush job which is a shame as I expected more.
I’m pleased with what Batman: The Telltale Series achieved in earlier episodes with its strong core and adult approach to the story (minor swearing, plenty of violence and a bit of sexy time) but providing an ending which delivers on the promising build-up seems a little out of Telltale’s reach, at least in this particular game, despite setting up the groundwork for a second series which, knowing how popuplar the Batman franchise is, will no doubt come to fruition.