It never fails. Just when I finally get around to playing a highly anticipated game on my shelf, it’s offered up free on PlayStation Network. That’s happened with Transformers: Devastation, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, Until Dawn and now with Batman: The Telltale Series. While free is clearly the best price, I got Batman for a great deal so I won’t complain too much. And since I’ve just wrapped the game, I figured I may as well review it for folks wondering if it’s worth the download.
The Telltale Games format won’t necessarily work with every comic book character, but it’s perfectly suited for Batman … and surprisingly Bruce Wayne.
Batman (Troy Baker) must deal with a new threat as the Children of Arkham are intent on a dangerous plan to drive Gotham City to anarchy. Along the way, he encounters the mysterious Catwoman (Laura Bailey), desperately has to keep mayoral candidate Harvey Dent (Travis Willingham) alive while dealing with scoop-seeking reporter Vicki Vale (Krizia Bajos).
As Batman, there’s a nice mix of quick time action sequences and detective work. While the action sequences are well done, I found the slower paced crime scene investigations more fun. Telltale set up a new feature for Batman where he can link items of evidence and render how an incident played out. The clues aren’t overly complicated, but there’s a surprising amount of satisfaction in completing the re-enactment. The Telltale point and click game engine works extraordinarily well here.
I came in expecting the Batman sequences to be fun, but Batman: The Telltale Series does an even better job making me invested in Bruce Wayne. Long-hidden secrets put Bruce’s control of Wayne Enterprises in jeopardy and he must fend off a hostile takeover from a familiar name to Batman fans. Bruce’s subplot takes a lot of surprising turns leading to some memorable encounters with Batman universe characters. One in the fourth chapter is very unexpected.
Initially, I was thrown off with some of the major changes to the Batman canon. Batman: The Telltale Series takes some liberties both small — Alfred having a full head of white hair for example — and big spoiler heavy alterations that impact Batman’s motivations.
Eventually, I came around that these changes were for the better. There was no sense playing through the game if I came in knowing everyone’s agenda. It also helps that the writers deliver big time with these changes allowing for a slew of legit surprises and twists.
With the freedom to subvert expectations, the writers use players’ familiarity with the source material against them and challenge them to see Batman’s universe in a new light. Harvey acts two-faced long before he gets disfigured. And Catwoman remains a wild card throughout.
The one drawback is the sense that the decisions are less meaningful than other games. I rarely second guessed a choice as the story appeared to call for me to make that decision. It felt like the alternative was just going to ultimate get steered into the first one anyway. Eventually, I’ll play through and make those other choices, but I don’t expect significant changes like say The Walking Dead Telltale Series.
Another gripe was some issue with the basic setup upon completion of the chapters. Since I wasn’t signed in to Telltale Games’ server to share my choices, I had to close the game every time to get to the next chapter. Also, to avoid a break in gameplay, download all five chapters at the onset while being mindful of spoilers. There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to immediately start playing the next chapter and having to wait 30 minutes.
I appreciated DC allowing Telltale to craft a more mature Batman video game experience. There’s no shying away from the violence that would be expected in Gotham and the game handles the Batman/Catwoman dynamic in a more risqué manner than you’d expect.
The graphics improved on previous Telltale efforts with the signature shading effect never looking this good. Smooth movement is most important during the action sequences and barring a few hiccups with some stilted animation, it plays out well.
Batman: The Telltale Series is one of Telltale’s best efforts yet with a story that pulls the player in deeper as it progresses. With the sequel already out, this may be the rare instance where I immediately play the next game since I’m so invested in where Telltale will take this universe.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Telltale Games