‘BATMAN – The Telltale Series Full Season One Review – PC
+ Authentic cel-shaded artwork
+ Great voice ensemble
+ Engaging story with some cool twists
- Superficial decision-making
- QTE fails don't seem to matter
First, I’d like to commend Telltale on creating what has easily become my favorite interactive narrative game, not just in their own library of titles but the entire genre. BATMAN delivered a gripping tale from the opening episode to the climactic finale that released yesterday. Never in the history of any Telltale game was I chomping at the bit for the next installment to arrive, and thankfully this season flowed rather than trickled with all five episodes releasing in just as many months. For binge gamers who have been waiting for the entire season to release, prepare for 10-12 hours of the best Batman adventure ever.
There will be no spoilers, but rest assured you have never experienced Batman they way Telltale presents him. There is so much betrayal and inner discovery for both the character and the player, as we learn more about Gotham and the legacy of the Wayne family than ever before. Perhaps this is old news for fans of the comics, but for someone who sticks with movies and weekly episodes of Gotham it was pretty cool to see these unexplored areas of the Batman universe.
Each of the four subsequent episodes after the first (reviewed below) deliver epic amounts of story content with equal proportions of branching conversations, detective-like discovery moments, and plenty of interactive quick-time combat sequences. The game manages to suck you in to the point where you start role-playing and make decisions as Bruce/Batman rather than simply trying to game the system to achieve some end results.
Every episode introduces new layers of depth to the overarching storyline as well as several new characters including the Joker who is setup perfectly as our nemesis for Season 2. As long as Telltale can manage to maintain this level of gripping narrative and interactive storytelling I see a big future for Batman adventures. I almost never replay these kinds of games, but I definitely plan to revisit Gotham and explore some unexplored paths just to see the limits of Telltale’s storytelling. BATMAN – The Telltale Series is a must-play game for fans of adventure games, Batman, and especially both.
Original Episode One review from August 15, 2106
Telltale Games has just released their first installment in yet another new licensed franchise. This time, the caped crusader tries his hand at crime fighting while trying to conform to an aging game engine that is designed entirely around conversation choices and QTE’s. Can BATMAN – The Telltale Series rise above the limitations of the code that has powered the likes of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Wolf Among Us?
There is no denying the game has issues, and while I was fortunate enough to not be affected by most of them, I still gave them nearly two weeks to see if they could iron them out before posting my review. Everything from horrible framerates on the console versions to poor compatibility problems on the PC have been brought up in numerous forums since launch. For me, the only issue I had was with some truly horrible text resolution on the subtitles, which forced me to make some tweaks in the compatibility properties of the EXE file for the game – a 20 second fix after 20 minutes of research. Even though Microsoft has pretty much forced the entire human race to upgrade to Windows 10 this game’s launcher only offers Win7 and Win8 modes.
BATMAN – The Telltale Series assembles an impressive cast of voice talent, some excellent artists, and one of the best stories of any Telltale games I’ve played since The Wolf Among Us, then somehow manages to create some truly impressive action sequences using those infamous QTE’s that most of us despise but have learned to tolerate. Hopefully, you can tolerate them because the first 10-15 minutes of the game is nothing but swipes of the stick and fast button presses before settling back into the conversation-driven story mode that offers slightly divergent paths to the same conclusion.
Most of this first episode is spent setting up all the characters that will be coming back to haunt us in the remaining installments. We get to witness the first encounter of Batman and Catwoman, both in and out of costume, along with Harvey Dent who is running for mayor with heavy financial backing from Bruce…at least until his family honor and source of his fortune comes into question. Could the Waynes have ties to gangsters and mob money? If Falcone is to be believed then Bruce’s reality is about to be shattered.
As far as presentation, this is by far the most visually stunning Telltale game in the library. A character born in the comics is perfect for the colorful art and thick-stroke black outlines used here, and there were a few moments where some wide shots looked strikingly like an Arkham game. You even get the option to pick the highlight color for all your Bat tech. The music and sound effects are perfect and with top voice talent like Troy Baker in the role of Bruce Wayne, Travis Willingham as Harvey Dent, Erin Yvette as Vicki Vale, Enn Reitel as Alfred Pennyworth, Murphy Guyer as Lieutenant James Gordon, Richard McGonagle as Carmine Falcone, and Laura Bailey as Selina Kyle, I felt like I was watching a DC animated feature.
For the first time in a Telltale game you can now share the adventure. No; there isn’t a multiplayer mode, but you can now toggle on Crowd Play that allows you to invite up to 24 people to watch and play alongside you and vote on story decisions using any web browser from a computer or mobile device. I’ve done similar-style voting sessions using Twitch chat, but this built-in option might be better for casual gamers. I’ve always considered these Telltale games very personal experiences, so for me this seems like an unneeded option. I can’t imagine anybody actually asked for this feature.
Episode One: Realm of Shadows is evenly split when it comes to narrative vs action. As always, the linear plot is cleverly masked in the illusion of choice, but even when you are using your cool Bat-gadgets to engage in a crime scene recreation or remote pilot a Bat-drone to recon a penthouse gangster pad it always feels like the creators are holding your hand and guiding you through the game. A few choices and even a bit of dialogue are used as callbacks, but its painfully obvious, almost as if the designers are saying, “See…we remembered what you did/said.” Whether those choices truly impact the story is doubtful, but we’ll have to wait and see as we begin the painfully long wait to the final episode. Even the QTE’s don’t seem to matter that much, as there were several times where I failed one, two, or even three rapid inputs in a row and the scene played out to the same positive outcome.
As always, if you don’t mind not being part of the conversation and can wait until Dec/Jan (I’m guessing on the time frame) you can hold out for the full game, which always makes it way to retail release. Who knows; by then they may have worked the kinks out of the game or at least optimized it. Patient fans of the Bat with a respectable PC can enjoy game now, but honestly, it’s no crime if you wait until the whole season is ready for prime time this holiday season.