When Arkham Asylum was released in 2009, Batman found himself with a smash hit game that was also a critical darling. As a massive Batman fan it immediately became a bit of an obsession for me, ending up with my first 100% achievement from Xbox 360.
The game did an amazing job of giving fans what they had been missing from the Batman/video games intersection for years: making you feel like you actually were the Dark Knight combat wise, detective wise, and all around badass wise.
Two sequels later, the Batman video game license is in a moment of great demand and as fans are looking for their next fix, Telltale announces its own Batman game. Cue the Internet exploding.
With the release of Batman: The Telltale Series Episode 1, we’re all wondering, is it any good?
omg omg omg omg omg
Telltale, a small indie game company that made a huge splash with the release of its Walking Dead game in 2012, is a bit of an outlier in today’s gaming world. Instead of focusing on the AAA brawlers or first person shooters, Telltale took a page out of 80’s adventure games and created a point and click-esque episodic genre of games that have amazing voice acting, excellent storylines, and decisions that alter the world, and show far reaching repercussions for choices the player makes.
Handing a game company that deals well with acting and personal relationship decisions seems odd for a character who talks with his fists quite a bit, but it actually works perfectly.
Batman is more than just a guy in a cape after all. He’s also Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy and head of Wayne Enterprises. So centering a game in the strange gap between this man’s fractured personas is a great touch.
Wayne. Yes that one.
The game opens with Batman taking on a coordinated theft attempt on City Hall. Unfortunately, Catwoman is also interested in stealing the same data the thieves are after, leading to our hero fighting off gun toting robbers, as well as a beclawed jewel thief, just purring for attention.
I was worried that the point/click action would not feel as “Batmanny” as the excellent combat system laid out in the Arkham games, but it feels very engaging. Telltale’s Bats relies on shadows and fear much more than outright brawling, and later fights allow you to plan out your attack approach for an entire room full of baddies before throwing the first punch.
“Hang out here often?”
We also take a deep dive into Bruce’s life, with a fundraiser for Harvey Dent giving Mr. Wayne the chance to hobnob with the high class elite of Gotham and to use language choices to land some blows against an uninvited guest. Is it weird that it’s almost more satisfying to use language to shut down an asshole gangster than fists? I feel like I’m playing Downton Abbey: Gotham, and I’m loving it.
This game is great. Telltale’s plots are always a slow burn, so decisions made in episode 1 will absolutely come back to haunt Bruce as the other episodes unfold. Revelations about Bruce’s family, organized crime in Gotham, and even Oswald Cobblepot–Bruce’s childhood friend–will all criss cross until what I can only assume will be a cowled climax in episode 5.
Meet 90’s Penguin. That is Telltale’s take on Oswald Cobblepot. This is what I looked like when I graduated college…
The point and click combat is fun and engaging. My hours of practice with Arkham‘s combat will always make me miss it (challenge me. I will end anyone), but this is an entirely different genre, so I can accept it for what it is.
Finally, the real star of this episode is Bruce’s ability to investigate and plan. Using the same point and click search and interact tools from all their other games, it takes on a specific flavor with a cowl and cape involved, really making you feel like you’re the world’s greatest detective and a master tactician.
Gripes: well, it’s short. TWO hours at most, and yes I know it’s episodic, but I’m greedy and I wanted more when I finished. Also, it’s tweaking established Bat-canon quite a bit, which for some might be concerning. I myself am excited to see a new twist on the old flying rodent just as I loved the New 52 Bats.
Choices: the backbone of this game.
Batman: The Telltale Series is off to a great start. Episode 1 delivers on its promise to get players into both the utility belt, as well as the 5000 suits of Bats and Bruce, and plants the seeds for a great run.