When Telltale Games revealed it would be doing a 5-Part Batman Series, like what they did with Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us, and Borderlands, many were excited from the get go. TellTale titles are known for their stories and deep characters, and one engrossed in the lore of Batman? It had to be good. Right? Well, after playing the whole season of Batman: A TellTale Series, I can say that though it’s flawed in some ways, it’s still a really fun adventure.
WARNING: Major Spoilers Ahead!
Game Name: Batman: The TellTale Series
Platform(s): PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC (reviewed)
Publisher(s): TellTale Games
Developer(s): TellTale Games
Release Date: August-December 2016
Price: $24.99 (Whole First Season)
What’s clear from the outset is the numerous, and I mean numerous, inspirations TellTale took when making its game. From Batman: The Animated Series to the Michael Keaton films, the Nolan Trilogy, Batman V Superman, and even the Batman Arkham games, many aspects of those universes can be seen here. From how Batman looks, sounds, the characters he interacts with, how he handles situations, all are on display. It’s actually very nice, as it shows that TellTale respects the history of the franchise in regards to the media that came before it. Even though it does make some pretty big changes to the lore on its own.
From Episode 01, “Realm of Shadows”, to the final episode in “City of Light” the game tells a very deep, very dark story that is sure to shock many. But even more than that, the game delves deep into what Gotham City is, who Bruce Wayne is, and what may possibly come next. I’ve always been a story game, and it’s not hard to say that this game’s story is gripping. Not the least of which is because of TellTale’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne.
Often, Bruce is a shell, a plot device of sorts that gets built up, torn down, then turned into Batman. While this is understandable in many ways, and many mediums, the best stories are often ones that push Bruce to his limits or confronts him in unexpected ways. That’s why Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is considered one of, if not the, best Batman animated film.
For Batman: The TellTale Series, they put Bruce in a situation that I’m unsure has every happened in a way like this before. He’s forced to face hard truths about himself, his legacy, his family, his history, and even why he’s the Batman. Especially with a specific major twist that occurs is sure to rub some people the wrong way, it’s hard to deny the impact that twist had on the episodes.
The true story itself though is about Bruce Wayne trying to make Gotham safer by getting Harvey Dent elected as Mayor. While this seems simple, it becomes clear very fast that even this simple act draws attention from all over. Both from the light and from the darkness. What follows is the trials, tribulations, and consequences of the actions these two (among others) take to “save Gotham”. New friends are made, old friends become enemies, and Bruce/Batman is pushed to the breaking point.
Like all TellTale Games, your choices both as Bruce and as Batman decide not only your fate but the fate of others. When Carmine Falcone arrives at your mansion unannounced, do you shake his hand, or refuse it? When a scandal hits you, and Harvey is told to distance himself, but he still needs your support and money, do you help him, or insult him? Each choice means something, even if only dialogue. I’ll admit, I don’t understand why they kept telling me that “so and so will remember this” when by the end of the game only one or two characters were left in some way and yet nothing happened to show me they did remember it. But, it’s a small nitpick I guess.
What was no doubt exciting for many were the numerous inclusions from the Batman comics in the book. Harvey Dent was a standout for me. As we got to truly see his slow (and very unfortunate) rise from being A district attorney and mayoral candidate to full-on Two-Face…minus the facial scar…for now. I liked how it was indeed a slow burn, one that made you feel every time you saw him get closer to that edge. And once he crossed it? Dear gosh. I won’t spoil a big moment, but it was very shocking what Harvey did.
Then you have Selina Kyle (voiced by the amazing Laura Bailey), who plays and sounds just like you expect her to. Yet, she has some surprises of her own. While I don’t doubt that many tried to “get” with her in-game, I hope they didn’t miss the nods to the comics and shows in how she and Bruce interacted.
Also, Oswald Cobblepot, who had a big change from the comics to this series. An old friend who comes to talk quickly becomes one of your biggest adversaries in the game. One who is willing to not only play dirty but rub it in your face when it’s the most painful.
Finally, Alfred was a big standout. He had a huge role to play in the series and got to show some sides of himself that Alfred honestly doesn’t get to show much overall. His guilt over your families past, and his failure to stop it was very touching.
Now, the gameplay was really split into a few parts. Dialogue, Quick-Time Events, and Detective Mode. The first is how it sounds, the second is what you’d expect, but, it’s heightened to convey the flurry and true quickness of Batman fights. It’s much more involved than say Walking Dead. Detective Mode is complicated. Because on one hand, it allows us to see Batman as a detective, however, it’s really slow going when he does it. And trying find “links” in the gameplay each episode is annoying, to say the least.
Which sadly brings me to the down parts of the series. First, while the visuals perfectly suit the world of Batman, I had numerous bugs, glitches, frame rate drops, and just freaking weird animations that made me do double takes. The biggest one for me was during a key conversation with James Gordon, where Bruce was facing one direction, but his was looking 180 the other way. Seriously. Also, if you seduce Selina (and subsequently sleep with her), you get some very bad mesh errors. As in their heads literally, go into one another at some points. This was just the tip of the iceberg, to be honest. Add to that audio drops or miscues, QTE almost being ruined because I couldn’t react fast enough due to frame rate drops, it did hurt the experience.
The other big part for me though was the story choices. Mainly (big spoiler here…last chance to get out!) was the reveal that Thomas Wayne was a criminal and a very dark one at that. Why does this matter? Well, Batman is made because Bruce Wayne wanted to honor his parents and their legacy to try and make Gotham better. Yet, Thomas is revealed as part of the reason Gotham is so terrible right now. While Bruce does get his own reason for staying on as Batman, I still don’t like this key change. Because to me, it taints the purpose of Batman quite a bit.
Then there’s Vicki Vale, who is revealed to be the “big bad” of the series. While this twist was played beautiful, it got dark to the extent that I wonder if anything is sacred anymore. Now true, TellTale has the right to tell any story they want, which I applaud, but, there are some changes, and lines that are crossed, that make me wonder whether they were going for shock value more than anything else.
Finally, the ending of the series was kind of odd. A key choice was to be made, and I felt I made the right one, and it led to a beautiful speech…that was interrupted by a random, totally unexplained, assassination attempt on Bruce Wayne. It’s talked about lightly…then goes to a very fun tease for next season…then cuts out. As if we’re not supposed to care about that. I almost got killed! I need to care!
Overall, though, it’s clear that TellTale has done more good than bad with Batman: The TellTale Series. It has great characters, great twists, great storylines that’ll feel fun and fresh, and combat suited for a Batman game. Is it perfect? No, and I would definitely put this under the Arkham games in terms of quality. But, for what it was, it was very fun, and if you haven’t played it yet, take a day (it’ll only take like 8-10 hours to complete it all) and have some good Batman fun.
*Batman: The TellTale Series was provided to us by TellTale Games for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Batman: The TellTale Series Season 01 Review
Batman: The TellTale Series Season 01 is a great view into the world of TellTale’s Batman. Complete with beautiful worlds, deep characters, and fun twists that’ll have you guess what you did, and didn’t do, from start to finish. If you’re up for a deep look at the man under the cowl, this is one Batman adventure you’ll want to do.