Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Distributor: Warner Bros
Composer: Jared Emerson-Johnson
Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox 1
Version reviewed: PS4
We have had some truly fantastic Batman games over the years, Batman the movie on NES, Batman Returns on the SNES, Batman the Animated series on Megadrive and SNES and of course the Arkham games. All of these titles had one thing in common though, they all had you knock seven shades out of your opponents to progress the story, this new one from Telltale games is a little different.
For a start the game is primarily a Telltale point and click adventure game heavy on narrative with action taking place in the form of quick time events. You spend the game evenly split between prowling the roof tops as Batman and donning the costume of Bruce Wayne when the Dark Knight needs to be more subtle. The majority of the action will take place when you are Batman throwing extended quick time action sequences at the player which fortunately contain a large margin for error whilst Bruce is more of a conversationalist.
The story itself is not a straight adaptation of any existing Batman tale and could be treated like an alternate earth story having Bats meet up with his allies and enemies in completely different ways. Batman, Catwoman and Falcone are listed as the main players but it isn’t long before we realise that there is more going on behind the scenes than we know. Bruce finds himself in trouble when supporting Harvey Dent as the next mayor of Gotham City, an endorsement that reaches the attention of Carmine Falcone. A chance encounter with Catwoman and a startling revelation into Bruce Wayne’s past form the foundation for this particular adventure.
The game has typical Telltale branching conversation arks which shape the story as you play the game, it feels like everyone will get the same fixed story points but how they get there and who will be supporting you will be different to each player. There is a lot of room to be the Bruce and/or Batman the player prefers, I tended to play and chose the actions more in line with the animated series Batman but some of the dialogue options seemed skewed towards the more campy Batman 66 persona and the Christian Bale Bat whisperer version, all equally valid but would yield drastically different results on how the city would view the Caped Crusader. Using Batman’s detective skills is one of the core mechanics in the game allowing the player to re-create the crime scene by finding clues and linking them together to get the whole picture which paired with the dialogue choices makes a nice change from what we are used to.
The graphics really are what lets the game down sadly, the Telltale Tool engine is starting to show its age and stutters and skips frames fairly often even when nothing much is happening. There are a lot of jagged edges to surfaces and some of the larger set pieces such as Wayne manor and Arkham Asylum look like low resolution 2d cut outs. Though this may be an issue more with the console versions (I have had reports of the Xbox 1 game doing the same) it does feel like more of an engine problem than a hardware one. This is particularly depressing as the ingame characters and most of the interiors are lovingly crafted and a lot of care and detail has been spent making them look faithful to their comic book adaptations, on a superior engine this game could have honestly looked astonishing.
The soundtrack does an incredible job of establishing the mood of each scene and dialling up the drama when required. Though you won’t have heard the score prior to playing the game the music invokes the world of Batman and the streets of Gotham in a breath taking fashion really pushing the tone and story to feel like that of a big budget movie. The voice cast do a sterling job with Troy Baker capturing the duality of both Bruce and Batman and brings a vibrance and presence to the character few others have. Laura Bailey is a sassy Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Richard McGonagle sounds exactly the right kind of grizzled to play ageing mobster Falcone.
In the end the game succeeds at being a great first chapter in an interesting take on the 75 year old tale and is let down by some technical short comings that I feel will be less noticeable as the story continues. Like most Telltale games this is more of an interactive story than it is a game so if you are not a fan of this game style you can ignore the score at the bottom as this isnt for you. On the other hand if you enjoy an interactive adventure with a focus on doing things a little differently and you enjoy what Telltale has done previously then this is something you will want to check out. Telltale do a good job of all of their licensed adventures but it often isn’t apparent until the second or third chapter just how well told the tale will be but purely as an opener this game is a good start.
Review – Batman: The Telltale series episode 1 “Realm of Shadows”
- Well paced story
- Focus on Detection and narritive
- Nicely designed main characters
- Cinematic soundtrack
- Easy to play
- Poorly optimised game engine
- Too many quick time events
- Frame rate issues