Balancing Bat and Man
HIGH: Nice fight scenes, and stepping into the shoes of Bruce Wayne.
LOW: Technical issues.
WTF: Oswald Cobblepot looks like a 007 agent.
How does it feel to be a billionaire who has money, status, and power… basically everything? And how does that compare to being someone who prowls the dark alleys of Gotham seeking justice in a city where justice withers and dies? Batman: The Telltale Series has players step into the shoes of Bruce Wayne to answer this question.
Episode 1 of Batman is titled ‘Realm of Shadows‘ and it’s a pretty apt description of what to expect from the city. Deciding who to trust, who to push away, and what actions to take propel this title forward, just like all of Telltale’s games. I can’t make any outstanding judgments only being one episode in, but I did enjoy what was brought to the table.
Technically, the game is smoother than past Telltale efforts. I didn’t find much audio lag, framerate slowdown or any game-breaking glitches. By simply offering a smooth-flowing experience, it’s already a step up. In terms of content, players have taken on the video game role of Batman many times, but in Realm of Shadows we finally get to experience the other side of the coin by being Bruce Wayne.
As the often-told story goes, Bruce Wayne’s parents were savagely killed in front of him as a child. This unfortunate accident served as the catalyst to becoming Gotham’s Dark Knight, and the murder is brought up a few times throughout Episode 1.
One of my favorite moments comes down to a choice regarding what kind of person Bruce should become. After extracting information from a criminal, faithful butler Alfred urges him to not forget where he came from, and how his parents wouldn’t want him to stray onto the dark path. At this point I could choose to either honor their memory or make my Batman become colder and more cruel. It may sound a bit tired, but in the context of play it had meaning for me.
Other interesting decisions crop up, like how to portray Bruce at a political fundraiser, or how to react under fire during a press conference. It’s a rarely-seen perspective on what it means to be Bruce Wayne, and that’s got a value all its own entirely separate from being Batman.
Apart from the caped crusader, what kind of game would this be if we didn’t see a few of his allies, enemies and frenemies? Characters like Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Harvey Dent (pre-Two Face), James Gordon, Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) and a few others make their appearance. The vocal performances are from well-known actors like Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, Murphy Guyer and plenty of others, and they all mesh well with the game’s script.
Telltale’s action comes in via QTE moments, so having decent reaction times are crucial. Directional inputs come in fast, and at first I found myself missing a few because the analog stick wasn’t reading my movements correctly. After abandoning the stick in favor of the D-Pad, the issue was solved. Occasionally, face buttons must be used in tandem with the directional inputs, so players need to pay close attention to what’s on the screen — I do believe it’s possible to get a ‘game over’ if players fail one too many, but I’ve not tested it yet.
When Batman isn’t interrogating (or beating down) criminals, he’s putting the moniker “World’s Greatest Detective” to work. During specific moments, Batman drops in on a crime scene and the player has to link clues together in order to figure out exactly what happened. This light puzzle segment won’t cause anyone to wrack their brains, but it’s a good break from combat and storytelling moments.
While most of Batman is likely what experienced Telltale players would expect, it also offers something entirely new — it’s the first time multiplayer (of sorts) has been included. No, Robin won’t be swinging around with Bruce. Instead, players can engage with one another through the use of “Crowd Play”. This feature enables a viewing audience to vote on decisions for the host to make. The host decides whether or not to choose to follow the most popular vote, although there is an option to let the decision rest solely in the hands of the viewers. While I didn’t go Crowd Play for episode one, I do plan on trying it out in later episodes. (Heads up, in order to utilize Crowd Play, making a Telltale account is mandatory.)
While I can’t say much about Batman as a series yet, what I can say is that I enjoyed my two hours as both Bruce and Batman. It’s a solid beginning for the caped crusader.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Telltale Games and published by Telltale Games. It is currently available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 2 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the episode was completed. No time was spent in Crowd Play multiplayer.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains blood and gore, language and violence. I can only go off of the first episode, but I believe this game should be okay with young adults. Episode one only had a single scene where blood and gore came into play, and only a small dose. There are some swear words, but nothing over the top.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles can be turned on for every interaction and the font size can be increased as well. I played with the volume muted, and only encountered a problem when the fighting started. Players really have to focus on the screen for visual prompts if they can’t rely on audio cues.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
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