There’s been many different representations of Batman over the years since his debut in 1939. These iterations range from the campiness of the 1960s Batman TV show starring Adam West, to the darker, more brutal Batman that is seen in Frank Miller’s comic book runs. Telltale Games is well aware that Batman isn’t a character that fits into one mold, which is why they’ve allowed the player to decide what kind of Batman they want to protect Gotham City as.
Up until this point, Telltale has mostly worked with characters that have been created and written by themselves. Now working with an established character in Batman, I was concerned coming into episode one that my choices overall wouldn’t matter and that they would want to give your Batman a defined role. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only does Telltale give you major decisions in combat situations — such as choosing to be brutal and physically harm someone or instead intimidate them — they also give you hard choices to make when not donning the cowl. Both as Bruce Wayne and Batman, Gotham City bears witness to the decisions you make and judges you based upon them. The stakes seem higher when an entire city is judging your decisions and not just those close to you.
If you’ve played a Telltale game before then you already know what to expect from Batman: The Telltale Series in terms of gameplay. I will say that combat seemed more exciting in this game compared to others by Telltale. I think that the biggest reason for this is because there now seems to be more button prompts during quick time events which forces you to pay more attention. These added prompts make combat seem faster and more on-edge than before.
There are also a few new mechanics in Batman: The Telltale Series that I haven’t seen before. The detective mode is really enjoyable and forces you to explore your surroundings and prove that you are indeed The World’s Greatest Detective. I liked that you needed to link together key pieces of evidence to determine what happened at the crime scene you are sleuthing about. There’s also a combat scenario towards the end of the episode which let’s you decide how you want to attack the criminals you are trying to take down. It’s a really fun sequence that ended up probably being my favorite scene in episode one.
If you’re a fan of Batman, then you will see many familiar faces like Harvey Dent, Selina Kyle, Carmine Falcone and Vicki Vale in this first episode. Most of these characters seem to be quite similar to their counterparts you see in the comic books or animated series. I do think it’s worth mentioning that the character Oswald Cobblepot really stood out to me. Cobblepot is one of the more famous character’s from Batman lore, but Telltale seems to be taking him in a slightly different direction, which really interested me. I have a feeling that Oswald will be one of the big players in this series going forward and I’m really excited to see what they do with his storyline specifically.
By far my biggest grievance with this game so far would have to be the inane amount of exposition that was spent on the death of Bruce’s parents. The murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne is brought up so frequently by both Alfred, Bruce and other characters that you converse with throughout your two hours in the episode, that you’ll begin the question whether or not their deaths happened last week instead of almost 20 years prior. I have never seen a Batman story focus so much on the death of Bruce’s parents for any reason other than to constantly remind the player/reader that it happened. Batman’s parents dying are such an integral part of his origin story but I feel like it’s also safe to assume at this point that a vast majority of people who play this game will already be aware of it before playing. Shoehorning this unneeded exposition into the story seemed unnecessary, gaudy and in general just amounted to poor writing.
It’s worth noting that leading up to the release of Batman: The Telltale Series, Telltale Games had been telling fans that their game engine would indeed receive and update with the launch of this series. While the new engine does seem slightly improved, it’s still not great. During my playthrough, I had many issues with the frame rate dropping just as it did in previous Telltale games. While the graphics in this Telltale series look better than they ever have, the engine itself is still a work in progress. It’s reached a point where we should no longer accept mediocrity from Telltale when it comes to their game engine. These problems have persisted for years and it’s flat out ridiculous at this point that they continue to occur.
This first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series has a lot to like despite a still struggling game engine and some unneeded exposition. Being able to mold your own Batman is incredibly cool and I can’t wait to continue to make more choices that affect my own version of The Dark Knight in subsequent episodes. Despite my grievances, I still really enjoyed my short time with this beginning episode and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.