The first season of Batman: The Telltale Series is over, with Telltale's unique take on Batman, and more importantly Bruce Wayne, finishing off with a bang. Telltale has put out great games, and others that don't quite reach that mark. The question today is, where will the adventures of the caped crusader land on the line?
While the game is called Batman: The Telltale Series, it may be better to refer to it as Bruce Wayne: The Telltale Series. The man behind the mask plays a front and center role in the story. There are several events occurring in Gotham at once: a mayoral election sees Bruce's best friend Harvey Dent facing off against current mayor Hill, the occupations of Bruce's family is coming into question, and there are several new criminals taking to the street. The most important of the group is Lady Arkham, an all-new villain who seems to hold a personal grudge against Bruce for reasons unknown. The story develops in genuinely interesting ways, and it puts some very creative spins on usual Batman lore. I don't want to get too much into spoiler territory, but things like Lady Arkham's identity, what the Wayne's were really up to, and some of the general personalities and mannerisms of older Batman villains come off as clever changes and twists.
Similar to many Telltale games, you will be spending the majority of your time in dialogue options and talking with characters. You can choose your responses to shape Bruce into the person you want, often giving several options leaning towards general personality traits. You will also be making difficult decisions, which is standard for these kinds of games. Some of these decisions are more vital than others, changing story events in important ways. A choice that comes up often is if you attend events or meetings as Bruce or Batman. Bruce has the money and name recognition, while Batman can strike fear into the hearts of people and is seen as a symbol for justice.
Another holdover from other Telltale series is quick time event fights. Many of these fights display an eye for choreography, each of them an impressive flurry of action. The second episode has a fight in a bar, with Bruce and Selina teaming up to take on a group of Penguin's thugs, complementing each other for one of the best fights I've seen in a Telltale game. While the second episode's fight is the highlight, I couldn't think of a single fight in the game that disappointed me. Much like other Telltale games you'll be controlling them just by using quick-time commands. There's a single new feature in the form of "finishing moves". Every time you correctly land a command you'll fill up the "finishing move" bar, and if it's full at the end of the fight you can perform a special attack that adds some extra visual flair to the combat. Is it a major change? Not really, but it's pretty cool to look at.
The biggest gameplay addition comes in the form of investigations. There's usually about one an episode, and they play much closer to the traditional puzzles you'd see in more traditional adventure games. Your goal is usually to discover what's happening in a scene based on clues you find. You'll find the various clues scattered around the areas, then have to connect them together. It's a good chunk of puzzle gameplay in between the usual talk and quick time events. I found myself looking forward to the investigations more than I expected to going in. They may not be as in-depth or confounding as adventure games of old, but they're a nice blend of new ideas that Telltale could use for making their games feel more interactive.
There's not a huge graphical difference between Batman: The Telltale Series and any other game Telltale has made. The animations are really the biggest change, as evident by the excellent fight scenes. Characters no longer look like awkward marionettes while fighting, but rather like real fighters in a real fight. Facial animations have seen some improvement compared to past games, but there are still scenes that the faces felt stiff and lifeless. Less than other Telltale games, but still noticeable at times. Generally, the graphics look slightly better, but not much else. On the other hand, the game does contain some strong voice acting. Troy Baker is fantastic as Batman, and every other actor turns in a high quality performance.
Finally, we come to the problem that Telltale is getting rather notorious for, and that's the poor technical performances in their games. Some episodes, namely two and five, gave me way more issues than others. I saw instances of the usual slowdown, the game stuttering to a crawl for seemingly no reason. I had parts of the UI vanish, the game not register decisions correctly, characters being reduced to nothing more than eyeballs and teeth, and the environment vanishing. The worst of the bunch was a pair of hard crashes during the final episode, causing me to have to reset my PlayStation twice to finish the episode. It's a shame, as some episodes run extremely smoothly, and I was really getting into Batman: The Telltale Series every time before the glitches hit. If you're tolerant of glitches you may not have a huge worry here, but if they really distract you and take you out of the moment then you may want to let Batman get a few more patches before you dive in.
Still, glitches aside, Batman: The Telltale Series is an impressive showing from Telltale. They gave the world of Batman a great twist, expanding characters in new and unique ways and not playing the formula the way you completely remember. The story told is interesting, while the fights provide a visual treat and the investigations give you some new gameplay from Telltale's normal games. Now if they can just work out the glitches then we'd have one of Telltale's best. Until then, this will settle as one of Telltale's greats, which is still a pretty good position to be in.
Batman: The Telltale Series was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC via Steam and GOG (Affiliate), iOS, and Android.
Telling one of the most interesting Batman stories in any medium, Batman: The Telltale Series is a really cool take on Batman with some great fight scenes and fun investigations. It just really needs some technical polish.
- Great Story
- Amazing Fight Coreography
- Great Voice Acting
- Investigations are Interseting
- Technical Issues
- Stale Telltale Formula