Batman : The Telltale Series Review

  • August 2nd, 2016
  • Telltale Games
  • Xbox 360, Xbox One , PC, iOS, Android, PS3, PS4

Review By Guest Writer : Jackson May

Review Contains Spoilers

Telltale Games had an interesting 2016. Between finishing up Minecraft: Story Mode and launching season 3 of their highly-lauded Walking Dead game, they quietly (it seems) put out Batman: The Telltale Series. Unfortunately, the Batman Telltale game came out in the wake of pretty negatively received larger Batman games – such as Arkham Origins and Arkham Knight being critically panned and/or technical dumpster fires. Luckily, Telltale stuck to their formula (maybe to a fault?) to provide yet another pseudo-adventure game in the Batman universe, played it safe, and came away with an entertaining yet flawed Batman game.

It seems that lately, to discuss Telltale games, they need to be divided up into “Story” and “Literally Everything Else,” so let’s start with the everything else. The Batman Telltale Series might just be the most formulaic, by-the-books Telltale game yet. Every calling card of every past Telltale game is here, but this time it’s barely fleshed out at all. The player enters a scene and can interact with a few things in a limited space and is ushered to the next cut scene – possibly via some of the easiest QTE events in all of Telltale’s history (seriously, I think I only failed 1 the entire game) where it’s back to clicking on prompts in the environment until the story moves along. A few semi-interesting things were attempted with varying degrees of success. Batman, dubbed The World’s Greatest Detective, sometimes analyzes crime scenes. Once something is inspected, it can be “linked” to another clue in the environment to help Batman understand what had happened. While this should be interesting, the game literally will hold your hand if you link something incorrect to something else. Again, it’s pretty easy throughout the game but a few times this investigation sequence popped up, I was just linking something to something else to get it over with. The other, and slightly more interesting, way this is used is to plan Batman’s attack in several different scenarios. Link Bad Guy #1 to either a table or a pillar, Bad Guy #2 to either a painting or sculpture, etc. Once all links are set, a QTE plays out where Batman runs through the gauntlet he (read: you) set up and dispatches foes. This does allow for a small bit of customization in just how these action sequences play out, but it always ends up with the exact same conclusion. As far as the game looks, it’s again about what you’d expect from Telltale after all these games. Cel-shaded 3d models look fine, although since Batman is more grounded in reality, nothing really stands out. Some of the outside areas, especially in Cobblepot Park, look downright atrocious with terrible textures, although Arkham Asylum in particular looks pretty great. Most of the voice acting lineup should also be readily familiar to veterans of past Telltale Games – Laura Bailey (Fiona of Tales from the Borderlands, etc.) as Catwoman and Dave Fennoy (Lee of The Walking Dead, etc.) as Lucius Fox make me wonder if I’ll ever be able to separate those voices from those roles ever again. However, Troy Baker (you know Troy Baker) does an almost-perfect imitation of Kevin Conroy as Batman that it wasn’t until checking IMDB after completing the game that I was aware it was him at all. So, although there are a few technical and game play hiccups, little flourishes in the voice acting really helped this game out of mediocrity.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Now for the story. As someone who has little exposure to the in-depth comic fiction of Batman’s background but who has moderate knowledge gained through the recent Arkham games and Nolan films, the Telltale Games Batman seems at a strange place in the Batman universe. It seems to place this tale early on in Batman’s story, but it’s not an origin tale. The game begins by meeting Catwoman/Selina Kyle during a burglary before hard-cutting to a fundraiser at Wayne Manor for – you guessed it, Harvey Dent. But there are other elements that really went against what I thought I knew about the universe of Batman – Oswald Cobblepot isn’t a fat New Jersey man with a machine gun umbrella, he’s a refined lanky British gentleman who was Bruce’s childhood friend. It’s not commissioner Gordon at the beginning of the game, but Lieutenant. There’s also a part where Bruce Wayne is interred at Arkham Asylum and Bruce doesn’t know who Alfred Wesker (The Ventriloquist) or Victor Zsasz is nor does he recognize “John Doe” (aka a guy with a wide smile, pale-white skin and green hair. You do the math) so it’s easy to see this is really before any inmates escaped Arkham Asylum and the only crime in Gotham was from actual criminals like mob boss Carmine Falcone, who plays a central role in the first few episodes of the series. But the game does something with a before-untouchable part of Bruce Wayne’s backstory that I don’t think has been done before – the game comes out and makes Bruce’s parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, bad people. Like, really bad. It’s a really interesting concept and it plays out as one of the main conflicts internally and externally throughout the game. It’s real tough to put just exactly where this game falls on the already established timeline of several different pieces of Batman media, so it’s just sort of best to let that go and play it as its own separate entity. There are enough twists and turns and cliffhangers to put this story up there as one of Telltale’s better ones. Also – this is one of the darker Batman stories, especially by Telltale standards. It’s not uncommon to see gore and to experience heavy themes. This isn’t your grandpappy’s Bruce Wayne anymore. And for the most part, it works. The ending (really, most of the final episode) seem a bit rushed and the conclusion doesn’t really hold all that much weight. Everything seems to sort of come together for the sake of coming together and not a whole lot really seems solved, but its strengths absolutely outweigh its weaknesses.

So what we’re left with if the most “Telltale” Telltale game maybe ever – the formula might be getting stale, especially when it doesn’t really innovate any part of it. But a stellar story (for the most part) and memorable voice acting help save it from the bargain bin. Get it on sale and then go watch the Animated Series.

Score : 3/5

Review Code For Entire Season Provided Courtesy Of Telltale Games

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