Gotham always seems to have a never-ending source of villains. Just like a damsel in distress, the city always needs its knight in dark armor. It’s a good thing Batman is always around along with his set of high-tech gadgets. The citizens of Gotham will miss their caped crusader otherwise.
Batman: The Telltale Series takes a crack at sharing our favorite bat’s story through a video game medium. There’s nothing significantly different on the surface: Bruce Wayne is still an orphaned billionaire, Alfred is still the ever-faithful butler, and villains still come out of the woodwork. But it wouldn’t be a Telltale game if they didn’t manage to infuse their storytelling chops in this expansive superhero universe.
GOOD EVENING, GOTHAM
The game starts with action right away, never letting go until about 15 minutes later. Telltale immediately establishes the kind of game Batman: The Telltale Series is going to be: dark, violent and conflicted. The kiddie gloves are off with profanities and graphic deaths that are dropped casually but never gratuitously. The art style’s beauty shines right away: bold lines reminiscent of comic book aesthetics that match the entire series’ tone. And if you’re still in the game after these few opening scenes, make sure you keep your eyes glued to the screen. The action sequences will come at you fast.
Once the game decides to calm down a bit, Telltale’s signature response choices come out in full force. They still have the sometimes problematic timer that doesn’t give enough time for reading and deciding. But unlike in Minecraft: Story Mode where conversation choices usually don’t have severe consequences, Batman is the opposite. In just less than 30 minutes since starting the game, some of your choices will already start haunting you until halfway through the series.
Pacing is also much better here in Batman: The Telltale Series, but that’s probably because there is so much ground to cover. Episodes can still feel a bit long but it’s never idle. There’s always something happening, something to consider, and something to talk about. Unfortunately, the autosave system is still unreliable. If you find yourself needing to step away from the game for a second, make sure the Switch will not lose power. If you’re unlucky, you’ll have to start the chapter all the way back from the beginning.
REMOVING THE COWL
Part of the game’s charm is its excellent balancing of conflict resolution between Batman and Bruce Wayne. Of course, this task falls into the players’ hands. It’s always intriguing to wonder how a situation would have played out if the other option was chosen. But unfortunately, the curiosity will end up killing the bat because of the inconsistent autosave areas. Choosing the other option will require exiting without saving, and we all know what happens if we do that. A manual save option would have been perfect, especially when taking a short break.
And while the dialogue is well-written, it’s sometimes rather sad to see that the facial expressions are not as well-animated. The faces are very stiff, almost as if every character is trying hard to hold their emotions back. The occasional eyebrow-raising might work for casual conversations, but in intense situations, it’s never enough. Regardless of how beautiful the art style might look, the lack of animation on characters’ faces is distracting.
When not trying to make a choice between giving people the silent treatment or pacifying their insecurities, Batman: The Telltale Series involves the player by allowing them to investigate a crime scene. This usually involves approaching areas of interest one by one, trying to analyze what might have happened at that spot. Once everything has been examined, links must be made to try and recreate the scene that took place. Think of it like a modern L.A. Noire investigation: the ability to closely examine evidence is replaced with fancier gadgetry.
Infiltration missions also give players another level of involvement with the game. Even though there are usually only two choices, players still have the freedom to decide how they want to take down a goon or two. Along with the live simulation of how the plan will take place, it feels very satisfying to see the plan come to fruition and still be involved with the button inputs. There’s also an option to back out of the plan and opt for the other option if needed. Nothing is set in stone unless the player says it is.
What’s even better when the game gives players the chance to control some of the gadgets, giving a first-person view through the device. These kinds of moments are far and few during the game, but they’re as exhilarating as they come. They can make players forget for a moment that they’re playing a Telltale game, transporting them to another stealth action game.
It’s not very often that most of us can get into the head of a superhero like Batman. To have a hand in decision-making and influencing interactions is powerful, regardless of whether it’s for Batman or Bruce Wayne. As the audience, we are used to passively accepting Batman/Bruce’s actions as his decisions. That’s how it was in the comics, that’s how it was in the movies, and that’s how it was even in other Batman games.
But this time around, it’s up to us. With Telltale’s signature gameplay style, Batman: The Telltale Series succeeds in suspending disbelief and transplanting the player directly into the story. We, as players, wield the ability to gently nudge the narrative to a certain direction. If you can ignore the characters’ stilted display of emotions, you’re in for a great ride with this one.
Review Copy Provided by Telltale Games