TellTale’s latest foray into interactive storytelling tackles the DC Comic’s most popular franchise, Batman. Like their hugely popular take on The Walking Dead, Batman features a somewhat mature narrative, and despite its cell-shaded, comic book style presentation, is not geared towards children. Voicework veterans like Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, and others have been enlisted to bring the some of the game’s iconic characters to life. Scheduled as a downloadable five-episode season, a physical disc version of the Season Pass will also be available, in North America on September 13, 2016.
It’s no secret, that I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings about TellTale’s recent offerings. I’ve also openly wondered about their ability to tell a mature story, after The Wolf Among Us. After a single episode of Batman, I’m not entirely sure, that I’m ready to pass judgement on their latest series’ narrative. I will say, the storytelling is close to being on par with the Gotham television series. That being said, there are so many Batman timelines out there right now, it’s tough to come at the adventure game series without any carryover. Some credit should be given to the producers though, for trying to stake out a somewhat original portion of the character’s timeline.
Anyone with any experience with TellTale’s games knows that gameplay isn’t really the company’s strong point. As a matter of fact, over the last couple of years, puzzle solving has been rendered almost nonexistent in their games. Batman: Episode 1 – Realm of Shadows does try to remedy this, with mixed results. While the presentation level of the game’s action sequences is the best I’ve seen yet, the game’s interface just doesn’t make it very easy. What does work, however, are the detective sequences, one where Batman is trying to piece together a crime scene, and another where he is planning an assault. This is an area where the game maker should really be able to excel in this series.
In addition to TellTale’s interface issues, the game maker’s proprietary engine often has trouble rendering the game’s cinematics. While frame rate issues are a typical issue, with TellTale’s games, it is more noticeable with Batman’s sweeping shots. It doesn’t really effect the gameplay as much as it breaks the illusion of the overall presentation. I also didn’t find the added “crowd-sourced” co-operative gameplay feature a useful bonus either. However, fans of TellTale’s other offerings probably won’t mind the online gimmicks, or technical issues as much as the slow burn, that the narrative is. On par with the pacing of a television drama, Realm of Shadows might not move along quickly enough for many gamers.
The just barely two-hour opening episode of TellTale’s Batman might not have enough meat to hook fans of DC Comics’ iconic superhero, but it’s when the game ratcheted up the action that it exposed its limitations. Personally, I enjoyed the game’s primary focus on Bruce Wayne, along with the detective Batman sequences much more than the awkward action scenes. Truthfully, all of the TellTale games are barely video games, and most of you know what you are getting with their offerings. Yes, Realm of Shadows does start off kind of slow, but it is the first episode of a new series, and despite the oftentimes long wait between episodes, I’d rather have them get the story right.
Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 1: Realm of Shadows is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Language, and Violence. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.