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Telltale Games have proven they know their way around a comic book adaptation with The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, but Batman: The Telltale Series presents a whole new level of challenge for the studio. Even though Telltale is working within their own, unique version of Gotham City, a character like Batman will always come with a lengthy list of expectations and restrictions.
Can Telltale successfully pull off their trademark choice-based gameplay with Batman, or is the iconic character too much for them to handle? Let’s find out…
Batman: The Telltale Series – Realm Of Shadows (PC, Mac, Xbox One & PS4)
The first chapter of Batman: The Telltale Series doesn’t get off to a thrilling start. In short order, Realm of Shadows treats us to Batman foiling a pretty standard break-in, Alfred doling out a lecture, and Bruce campaigning for Harvey Dent at a fancy Wayne Manor soiree. In other words, stuff Batman fans have seen countless times before. It all feels a bit lifeless, and some characters, like the game’s obnoxious meathead version of Dent, feel off.
Telltale’s new version of Gotham doesn’t feel particularly interesting or relevant either. Here in the real world, people are becoming more aware of the deep-rooted social and economic sources of crime, but Bruce Wayne continues to dumbly proclaim “criminals have ruined this once-great city,” sounding a little too much like Donald Trump for comfort. In the Batcave, we hear a steady stream of news reports about killer gangs and evil parking valets, which is supposed to make Gotham sound gritty and dangerous, but quickly tips over into parody. I realize Batman takes place in a comic book world, and strict realism isn’t required, but I feel like Telltale has it in them to do something better than this.
Thankfully, the episode begins to find its footing around the halfway mark as Telltale introduces more original concepts. Oswald Cobblepot (who no longer looks even remotely like a penguin) is reinvented as an old friend of Bruce’s from a once-prominent family, who’s returned to the city to ignite a revolution. It’s revealed the man who killed Bruce’s parents, Joe Chill, was mentally ill, and it’s hinted that Arkham Asylum and Gotham’s shameful treatment of people with mental disabilities may be at the heart of its “curse.” Catwoman skips all the usual secret identity nonsense and immediately identifies Bruce Wayne as Batman upon meeting him, leading to a scene that pops with sharp lines and sexual tension. Rather than having Gotham turn against Batman for the thousandth time, they instead turn on the Wayne family, with Batman largely remaining a public hero. This is all smart stuff, and if Telltale builds on these unique elements in further chapters, they have a shot at creating a truly worthwhile Batman tale.