Archives by Day

August 2022

Batman - The Telltale Series

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: Aug. 2, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Batman: The Telltale Series'

by Brian Dumlao on Jan. 31, 2017 @ 2:30 a.m. PST

Batman - The Telltale Series will let you dive deeper into the mind of the man behind the mask, not tied to any existing iteration of Batman in games, film, or comics but solely a story focused on Bruce Wayne and Batman.

Buy Batman: The Telltale Series

Since 1986, Batman has graced just about every gaming platform possible, including the ZX Spectrum, Atari Lynx, original PlayStation and the current generation of platforms. Gamers and fans of the Caped Crusader have seen it all, from comic-inspired creations to those based on live-action movies and TV series. The games have ranged from pretty terrible, like Dark Tomorrow, to good enough with the NES version of Return of the Joker to absolutely fantastic, like the Arkham series. At the hands of Telltale Games, Batman explores the realm of the adventure game, though some will argue that the studio produced something more akin to a visual novel than a traditional point-and-click adventure.

The story starts in pretty typical fashion but with slightly more mature tones than what Batman fans may be used to outside of the comics. A group of armed thugs breaks into Mayor Hill's office looking for an encrypted hard drive when Batman appears. In the middle of dispatching them, he discovers that Catwoman has already broken into the safe and snatched the drive, resulting in a scuffle between the two. at a time where the police and the public don't absolutely trust Batman just yet. Victorious with the drive in his possession, he returns to Wayne Manor to host a fundraising function for District Attorney Harvey Dent's bid to become mayor. It doesn't take long before the city's biggest crime boss visits and the city is embroiled in turbulence.

You play as Batman, and the typical Telltale formula works as expected. There are a few sequences where you have a limited amount of time to give a response that's either threatening, calm, somewhere in between, and silence. A few sections ask you to roam around a small area and activate hotspots to further the plot without much involvement beyond hitting a button.

The combat system hasn't changed from before, as you're simply engaged in Quick Time Events mixed with a few instances of aiming the cursor at a specific area before firing. What may surprise you is how fluid the system feels in this outing. Part of that can be attributed to the many actions you'll perform during a fight sequence, along with an enhanced finishing move if you've successfully hit all of the buttons beforehand. Another reason the fighting feels smoother is because of how often you'll be doing it. The first episode alone has about five complete fight sequences, and the other episodes feature a similar number. Then there are a few fights where you can plan your attacks ahead of time, so you have some freedom in how the fights are performed even if you're only hitting buttons and directions when told.

While the formula is followed pretty closely most of the time, Batman does allow the series to stick to more traditional adventure game mechanics with the crime investigation sequences. They play similarly to the roaming sections, except you can link two pieces of evidence to paint a better picture of the crime scene. Unlike a traditional adventure title, the solutions are simple to figure out, but it is nice to see The World's Greatest Detective actually do some detective work in a game.

Even though this is a Batman game, you aren't spending all of your time as the masked vigilante. You spend a great deal of time in the suit, but you spend roughly the same amount of time as Bruce Wayne. Here, the roles are reversed, so QTE actions take a backseat to dialogue choices. The formula is the same, but it feels more impactful with Bruce rather than Batman, since there is a public persona to maintain. If anything, it's more refreshing to spend a large chunk of time playing the civilian role since that part tends to be ignored in the games.

The desire to devote an almost equal amount of playtime to both Bruce Wayne and Batman is played up in a few key situations. One example is a meeting with Mayor Hill, where you must choose between going in as Batman or Bruce Wayne. As the billionaire playboy, you can use your wits to weasel information out of, but as the Caped Crusader, you must resort to intimidation. The end result would have been the same, but having this choice several times throughout the game makes things feel different compared to Telltale's other adventure offerings in recent years.

Unsurprisingly, a few of the complaints of the studio's games are still present, namely the illusion of choice. We've known for a while that these stories have one established ending, and the details surrounding it are dependent on your actions. However, you'll get a number of situations where your choices are ignored based on other people's responses to you. For example, if you advise Harvey to do his speech instead of staying in the hospital, he'll tell you later that he's glad he ignored your advice by going out instead of staying in. Things like that start to break down the facade faster and gives you the sense that only a few things you say will have an impact.

The biggest obstacle players will have to contend with, though, is the story's treatment of established canon. Like a few recent Batman-related projects, the story alters changes the canon. Some parts are small, such as how Harvey became Two-Face. Others are more significant, such as Penguin's history and relationship with Bruce. Then there's the big bombshell about the Wayne family's past that serves as the crux of the whole tale. The story is very strong under these new tenets and well-paced. This is also treated as an alternate take on the Batman mythos, but those seeking something closer to the established canon may find it difficult to accept this game.

For the first time, Batman introduces multiplayer to the mix in the form of Crowd Play. Much like the Jackbox Party Pack series, the mode allows up to 12 players to use their smart devices or spare computers to vote on choices as they appear, making the game friendlier to those who prefer to watch the series together while still wanting to contribute to it beyond simply shouting suggestions to the player with the controller. While it functions fine locally, it isn't meant for online play due to the delays inherent in streaming. A longer timer on the choices would fix things, but considering the type of tension the developers want with short timers, don't expect a move toward more streaming-friendly play anytime soon.

With Batman, the studio moves on to an improved version of its original engine. The textures on the characters have a more color gradients present, and the engine seems like it can handle a few more characters on-screen without resorting to tricks like lessened detail on the background characters. The designs are also well done, even if their heavy use of cel-shading has become a little passé. Having said that, the game still sports some stiffness when some characters move, and a few other bugs crop up around limb movement and lack of mouth movement. Stutter creeps up as well, making some scene transitions look disjointed. The game also seems to have an issue with options, as anti-aliasing is either permanently off in the options or simply doesn't work. Booting up the game in Steam's Big Picture mode requires you to do it twice each time, as it boots up in windowed mode first and only remembers it was supposed to go full-screen the second time.

While the graphical presentation has some issues, the audio side has considerably fewer. On a few occasions, the audio got cut off, and even then, those were too brief to be noticeable. Otherwise, the score was top-notch, as it evoked the correct emotions without resorting to using snippets of familiar themes. The voice acting is also just as excellent, with a top-notch cast doing a great job.

If you can accept the studio's adventure game formula and the fairly large deviations to the canon, then Batman: The Telltale Series is a good game. The story remains gripping, and the additions to the gameplay formula make this feel more refined over the studio's previous efforts. The lack of further technical polish, however, is unfortunate; fixing those issues would've placed this game in the upper echelon of the studio's offerings. As it stands, Batman fans will certainly want to check out this title.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about Batman - The Telltale Series
blog comments powered by Disqus