With a new Batman movie this year and more on the way, are there still new, interesting stories to be told about the Caped Crusader? Is the new Batman: The Telltale Series more gravelly-voiced Christian Bale or fat Val Kilmer? Put on your cape and cowl, Detective, and read on to find out.
Telltale Games announced they would be making a mature Batman game that focused heavily on Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne has been one of my biggest surprises about the game. For someone who only watches the movies or animation, Bruce Wayne has never been very interesting to me. Batman has always been at the center of the conflict and had the cool gadgets and cars. Without ruining the plot, Batman and Bruce Wayne are fighting their own separate wars against an (at least for now) unknown foe. Bruce Wayne is helping to fund the campaign of Harvey Dent, and, like all great campaigns, is caught up in a scandal.
If you have played a recent Telltale game, you’re already familiar with the mechanics. During intense action scenes, the game operates like a simplified fighting game. Specific buttons, directions, or combinations of both are shown on-screen. Hitting these buttons correctly and in time allows you to be a butt-kicking Batman.
For someone unfamiliar with these games, I know some people cringe at the thought of quick time events, but they are usually not bad in a Telltale game. They can be great at building tension. There are a few times where the action does not provide much time to respond, but it is normally a little forgiving. If you fail these, you could still accomplish your goal with less style, but, at least in one case I encountered, you will die and have to replay that section again. With that in mind, I never thought the game was unfair.
During dialogue, you are frequently given four responses, including the option to say nothing. These allow some freedom to choose how your character reacts to the world, and some of the choices indicate that they made an impact on another character or the world itself. The most common example of this is a note that pops up showing the other person will remember what you said. These choices carry over from each episode, so being a mean Batman could have bigger positive or negative repercussions in the future.
Choice is the hallmark of a Telltale game, and Batman offers plenty of interesting opportunities for you to determine what kind of hero your Batman will be. Will he ruthlessly do whatever it takes to get the job done, or will he continue to stay on the more lawful side of vigilanteism? You will have to deal with the consequences of whatever you decide, and, at the end of the episode you will see percentages showing what everyone else decided to do in that situation.
Crowd Play is a new local multiplayer feature. This lets you play with 4-12 people who can vote on which decision to make using their laptop, phone, or tablet. They can join the game using their browser, and the choice with the most votes wins. I was not able to try this feature, but it sounds like a great way to enjoy this game with friends or family.
Although graphics have never been what draws people to Telltale’s games, there have been some improvements made to the game’s engine, and it shows. Batman definitely looks better than previous games with the fantastically rendered stylised graphics, and the shorter load times are more than welcome. I did run into a couple of instances where the game juddered just a bit as it was loading in after a transition. It didn’t ruin the experience in any way, but it was noticeable that it’s worth mentioning here.
The overall sound design is excellent. The voice actors perform their roles very well and help to make the drama around Bruce Wayne and Batman very believable. There are no flat “came from the moon” moments here. The noise in the world surrounding the characters adds to the depth in every scene. From the game menus to the individual moments inside the game, the music is varied and creates a mood for the action on the screen.
What about the most important part of the game? The story and the dialogue are very good, especially if you love the world and characters. This is a younger Batman, and many of his future relationships with both villains and allies are not yet made. By the end, the story had gone in a fresh, unexpected direction, and I look forward to seeing what twists Telltale has in store in episode 2. Since this is only the first episode, it takes about two hours to complete, but it does set the foundation for a much larger story with characters that will play a more important role in upcoming episodes.
If you have any interest in Batman or previous adventures by Telltale Games, you should pick this up. The studios’ ability to create a world and tell a story continues to improve, and this is a great entry point for someone who has never tried one of their games in the past. For now, it is only available digitally on just about everything outside airport radar, but there will be a disc-based release on September 13th, 2016.