Episode 1: Realm of Shadows
By Richard Jewell
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released August 2nd, 2016 on all major platforms
Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games
Batman is the latest IP to get the signature Telltale treatment. Batman: The Telltale Series is a story-driven adventure game where players get to take on the role of Bruce Wayne as they find out what it really means to be The Batman. I’m going to talk a little bit about the plot now, so there will be very minor spoilers, so if you don’t want to know ANYTHING about the story I suggest you skip to the next paragraph. This game features a unique storyline that takes place early on in Batman’s crime-fighting career. As the tale begins, Gotham, while still a city plagued by rampant crime, has yet to see its first super-villain. The Bat and The Cat have yet to meet, Harvey Dent is still a District Attorney with one face and a dream of cleaning up Gotham, and most of the police force can’t seem to make up their minds as to whether Batman is a caped crusader or a masked menace that needs to be put away. You get to play as Batman, obviously, but now you also get the chance to play as Bruce Wayne himself, which is a very rare occurrence in most Batman games so far. That’s all I will say about the plot because Telltale games are at their best when experienced firsthand!
As with all Telltale Games, players are required to make choices to drive the story forward. Most choices you make will affect the game in some way. The consequences can be small, like saying something that will make a potential ally angry with you and less reluctant to help when you need it. On the more severe side however, choices can be made that potentially result in the death of someone close. The action scenes play out via quick time event, where players are required to input specific on-screen prompts in order to complete the event. You also have a combo meter that fills up with each successful QTE input, and if you manage to fill it up in time, you can end the battle with a powerful finisher. At one point in the episode, Batman is scoping out an enemy’s position and you get to decide how to take out each guard before swooping down on them in typical Bat-fashion. I thought it was a great way to show that there is a method to the way he operates, not just flying in through a window and “winging it” (heehee). This episode also gives you a chance to see the detective side of Batman when you arrive at the aftermath of a crime and try to piece together what happened. Batman must search around the area for clues, and then link the relevant clues together to come up with a theory. It takes just the right amount of thinking to do, so it provides a balance of detective work, but without being too difficult for those who are playing just for the story. For the first time, Telltale has added a feature called Crowd Play. This allows people to join you as you play through the episode, and they get to vote on which choices you should make. When I first heard about this I thought about how perfect it would be to stream on Twitch, but it says right on the menu screen that because of latency issues it’s not really fit to be used with any streaming service. Seems like a wasted opportunity, sadly.
Overall this game is a must for any fans of Batman or Telltale. It runs about 2 hours, though you can replay it over again to see what would happen if you made different choices (or if you just want to see how big of a Bat-jerk you can be). I found that the game ran very smoothly. In some Telltale games, there is a noticeable jerkiness when the game transitions to another scene, but I had no such problems this time so I’m glad to see that. The only complaint I have with this game is the voice casting of Troy Baker as Bruce Wayne. Let me just say right off the bat that I have nothing against him, he’s a great voice actor and I enjoy him in many games, but as Bruce Wayne, I find him hard to believe. I think part of it stems from the fact that when you see someone so often in video games, and even movies, there is a powerful sense of familiarity. You see the real-life person instead of the character they’re supposed to be portraying. For example; actors like Bruce Willis. When you’re sitting there watching him on the big screen, chances are you say things like “Hey, there’s Bruce Willis. Bruce Willis was great in that movie. I liked Bruce Willis’ character in that movie.” I bet you didn’t even catch the name of his character the whole entire time. It’s a common scenario where the actor overshadows the character. That’s how I feel with Troy. I’m hoping by the end of the 2nd or 3rd episode I’ll start seeing him as Bruce Wayne and not just Troy. And on that note, episode 2 can’t get here fast enough!
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
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