Telltale Games has a reputation for creating games that have compelling stories but feature simplistic gameplay and often glitchy play on the PC platform. Despite this I have enjoyed many of their past game series, whether they be set in the Game of Thrones or Borderlands worlds. Still, when I heard they were doing a Batman game I held my breath in anticipation, with a hint of trepidation. Now, having played the first episode of Batman: A Telltale Series, I can confidently say they have delivered a solid experience that has some issues but overall does justice to the legendary Batman property.
Telltale’s take on Batman is an interesting one. Their slightly younger Bruce Wayne/Batman is known but not the Dark Knight of legend just yet. James Gordon is only a lieutenant at this point and Batman’s rogues’ gallery is not yet established.
The game also gives each side of the character equal time as you play through the first episode, called “Realm of Shadows.” Batman is playable as you take out bad guys and investigate crime scenes, but Bruce Wayne appears to host a fundraiser and assist Harvey Dent in his campaign to become mayor of Gotham. It is an interesting approach and frankly my favorite part of the series so far.
This being the first episode of a series, we are slowly introduced to Telltale’s take on the Batman universe, and it has as many good points as bad. Batman himself is absolutely amazing in this title. Troy Baker voices this younger version of the hero, and I really like his take on the character. In a very neat touch, Baker does not do a forced “Batman voice” as we are used to. Instead the character has a voice modulator in the suit.
The Batman suit itself is VERY impressive with a host of gadgets incorporated into it that enable a number of gameplay mechanics such as drone control and crime scene investigation.
The other characters are a mixed bag. Bruce Wayne is voiced well and looks great but I don’t like his pensive and almost hesitant attitude. Alfred is persistent to the point of being naggy and I am surprised Bruce puts up with him. Selena Kyle/Catwoman as voiced by the amazing Laura Bailey is pitch perfect: both personas are amazing, echoing Michelle Pfieffer’s riveting performance from the Batman Returns movie.
Harvey Dent is a trainwreck in this game, as Lt. Gordon. Their models and voice work are frankly terrible for the characters, and I cringed each and every time they were on screen. The big surprise of Oswald Copperpot (The Penguin) as a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne makes for a weird character in the game. He is tall and fit and resembles the Riddler or Joker more than the Penguin we all know and sort of love. Time will tell if these characters improve over the length of the series, but so far they are hit and miss for me.
Gameplay-wise this is an adjusted take on the Telltale format of discussion choices, quick time events and light exploration. The dialogue is well written and the choices let you play Batman/Bruce Wayne as either neutral, aggressive or probing, which is a nice touch and fits the character.
Exploration is handled with small areas you can wander around in and then examine various items or crime scene elements. The QTE events are textbook Telltale, but because it is Batman and you are making him jump through a window or counter a blow from a bad guy it is very cool when it works smoothly, though on PC that is not always guaranteed. The PC version of Batman: The Telltale Series falls prey to the usual slowdowns and odd glitches and bugs that are baffling considering it uses an ancient engine. Have a look at some gameplay I recorded during the first 30 minutes or so of the first episode to get an idea of gameplay and how much the game stutters on my quite powerful PC.
All in all despite some of my issues with character design and gameplay oddities the story is very engaging and the first episode of this series was ultimately satisfying. I am hoping that Telltale continues to amp up the action, drama and intrigue as the series continues, and squashes some of the annoying items as they go. If they continue on an upward path Batman: A Telltale Series promises to be a solid addition to their catalogue.