Telltale has become one of the most popular developers when it comes to dialogue-driven adventure games as of late. Not only are they providing narrative choices that straddle the line between different shades of gray, but they’ve also been able to get their hands on quite a few expensive properties with which to frame their gameplay style, which has become a norm at this point.
Despite that fact, I was very surprised when it was announced that they got their hands on the Batman license and were adding one of the most iconic comic book characters to their catalogue. Batman is very much a grounded character that, in theory, should make decision-making a very tricky business. What choices might there be offered to a player that don’t align with the well-established character that’s been around for so many years? Thankfully, this is addressed very well by presenting its own take on the Batman universe and turning a lot of what we thought we knew about the franchise in its head in a very convincing manner. The writers have taken a very liberal approach to Bruce Wayne, Batman, and many other characters (that I don’t want to reveal here for the sake of spoilers). While this may upset some purists of the comic series, I found it completely enjoyable and a fresh spin on a property that has had its fair share of rebooted story lines.
The player assumes the role of both Batman and Bruce Wayne, at many times based on the choice of the player. You can tackle different situations as either character, which will affect the outcome of the plot. Over the course of all five episodes, we’re introduced to several different villains that we’ve seen before, but not quite like we have before. This aspect keeps the player guessing as to where the story is headed, and leaves some very tantalizing cliffhangers at the end of each episode that leave you wanting more. Thankfully, the gaps in between these episodes weren’t nearly as lengthy as they have been with past games from Telltale. This time around, I felt that the “previously on…” segment at the beginning of each new episode was more than enough get me caught right back up.
The game also throws some interesting mechanics that are a bit new to the Telltale brand. At his core, Batman has always been a detective, and this characteristic is fleshed out a bit in the gameplay. When Batman comes upon a crime scene, he will investigate different aspects of the scene and then have to link different pieces of evidence together in order to find a connection and solve the puzzle to determine exactly what went down. While this isn’t overly complicated (you can literally try different combinations until you get it right), I found it to be a refreshing take on what has been a very recycled gameplay engine. In addition, Batman has the opportunity to survey a battle scene before jumping into action. Much like with the detective gameplay, he will link different enemies to various stationary objects in the environment. When the action starts, Batman takes whatever approach the player chose, complete with QTE’s to add a minor bit of reflex to complete just right.
The game isn’t without it’s issues, however. While it’s very much improved over previous titles, there’s still a very obvious framerate/stuttering issue with the performance. It’s hard to defend this anymore, as this style of game doesn’t feel like it would be very taxing on the hardware. It feels like the engine is due for an overhaul before the next big series (come on, Guardians of the Galaxy, be great), but still, it was never anything that kept me from enjoying the story that unfolded.
This one is pretty easy to recommend (or not, depending on your taste). It’s quite simple: If you’re still a fan of this adventure game formula, and you like Batman, this is a no-brainer. If you’re tired of the lack of action and don’t care too much about comic book heroes, then don’t give it a second glance. There’s enough here that feels fresh to me, and I was genuinely surprised by how well the writers made this alternate universe work when I have to imagine it looks rather messy on paper. “Batman: the Telltale Series” doesn’t offer a ton of new in the gameplay department, but the story is well worth a play-through to see just how crazy it gets, and it still works.