Announced at the 2015 Video Game awards, and hyped up at this years E3, episode one of Batman – The Telltale Series is finally out. Titled Realm of Shadows, the first episode gave the series a strong starting off point. The game establishes Batman’s place in the world as well as Bruce Wayne’s. Batman is still in his juvenile stage as the cops don’t trust him yet and still see him as a menace. Bruce is younger as well, friends with Harvey Dent (we all know that won’t last), and is still trying to get over his parents murder. The episode also sets up what looks like the series villain, Carmine Falcone, a dangerous mob boss. So let’s see if this was any good.
Well first of all I can say Telltale’s new engine is pretty. The animation is cleaner and the movements are smoother than they’ve ever been. Now that’s not to say it didn’t have it’s faults, I’ll talk more about them later. The face animations have been approved as well, none of those stereotypical ‘Telltale smiles’.
The dialogue choices had a good variation to them. I know a lot of times in the other Telltale games you were basically presented with 4 ways to say the same thing. In Telltale’s Batman the choices seemed very different and opposite end of the spectrum from one another. Speaking of dialogue, Telltale has once again hit it out of the park with the voice actor cast. Troy Baker (Bioshock Infinite, Batman Arkham Origins) who returns to the world of Batman as Bruce Wayne/Batman (though I would have rathered Kevin Conroy), along Laura Bailey (Tales From The Borderlands) who provided the voice of Selina Kyle, and Travis Willingham (Fullmetal Alchemist) as Harvey Dent are definitely the stand outs of the voice cast in my opinion.
The story was pretty strong. It was pretty interesting for the most part. This is by far my favorite iteration of Bruce Wayne so far. Depending on how you play, he’s not just rich and suave but actually acts silly and bashful at times. Its great. The origin stories Telltale chose to go with are pretty fresh as well, especially Oswald Cobblepot’s (Penguin). The game portrays him as a cockney youth (reminded me of Georgie Porgie). I thought that was pretty neat as the Penguin is usually portrayed as a creep with fishy characteristics and a limp. Good on ya Telltale!
Batman – The Telltale Series has actually brought a new mechanic to Telltales arsenal. While playing as Batman, you get the chance to investigate a crime scene. While doing so you’re introduced to the evidence mechanic. By linking two things together you can solve and play out different scenarios about how the crime might have went down. A+ on that one. Lastly, and what I think is most impressive, is the Crowd Play feature. Telltale has integrated this feature that allows viewers to vote on decisions in the game. This obviously works best in a livestream situation, engaging the audience.
With all the good comes some bad. Lets start with our titular hero, Bruce Wayne! Oh wait I mean Batman. I found the Bruce Wayne gameplay to Batman gameplay ratio heavily unbalanced in favor of Wayne. This isn’t bad necessarily, but in a game literally called ‘Batman’ I would have liked to play more as the caped crusader.
As good as the new engine was, it had it’s bad moments. For a good chunk of the game the animations were super choppy and the game was chugging hard. Scenes would freeze before they were set to change, and we’d get some super awkward close up of a characters face just as the game freezes while trying to make a simple screen transition. FIX THIS TELLTALE.
The last, and probably most important criticism I have is about the QTE’s and the choices. I know a lot of people have this gripe when it comes to Telltale games, but the choices don’t really seem to matter. Say I choose a more aggressive dialogue option, nope Bruce Wayne automatically backs down, choice didn’t matter. The QTE’s as well, man are they useless. I missed a few QTE’s while playing. One was for dodging an oncoming projectile, I missed the QTE entirely, Batman still dodged…? What’s the point?
‘Realm of Shadows’ was a perfectly fine premiere to what is sure to be a rich and suspenseful season. The first episode had some hiccups and some regular Telltale issues that don’t look like they’re going to get fixed any time soon, so push those aside and enjoy the game for what it really is, a 2 hour detective/rich playboy simulator. I liked it, then again I like everything Batman. Give it a shot, it’s only $5. If you like Telltale games then you’re bound to love this.