Every time I hear Telltale Games have a new game in the pipeline I can’t help but to get excited. They’ve earned a reputation as masters of the craft of interactive storytelling in video games, and rightfully so – their work in the likes of ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Wolf Among Us’ have shown that they certainly know how to produce a game that manages to keep you hooked from start to finish.
Whilst they’ve worked with various exciting IPs over the last few years, the announcement of Batman: The Telltale Series had me more excited than ever. I’ve loved Batman ever since I was a kid, so the thought of playing out one of his adventures and having the ability to mould the story how I pleased certainly appealed to me, especially with Telltale Games behind the helm. Whilst Batman: The Telltale Series delivered everything I expected from a story and gameplay perspective though, it has plenty of technical issues that hindered my overall experience with the game.
I don’t really want to go into too many story details seeing as it’s the meat and bones of Batman: The Telltale Series, but it’s hard not to when it’s the most pivotal thing that needs to be discussed. However, going into the game knowing how events unfold takes away from the overall experience, plus there’s also the fact that your choices massively affect how things play out meaning it’s an experience that’s essentially personalised for yourself. I don’t even want to discuss the first episode seeing as it has a bombshell reveal that’s unique specifically to this Batman universe and sets up the events that unfold in the following episodes.
Without going into too much detail, it’s essentially an adventure that offers you the challenges that both Batman and Bruce Wayne face. It’s less about the choices you make but rather who you make them as, which is a nice change to the typical Telltale Games formula. I’m used to seeing people ‘remember’ what I do in these kind of games; now it’s more of a case of them remembering WHO I did these things as, which brings an interesting twist to the whole dynamic.
Much like Rocksteady before them, Telltale Games have been given free rein in establishing a universe and story that is unique specifically to their video game. Don’t worry, you don’t have to recycle the whole ‘Batman’ origin story all over again, but heroes and villains have been given new looks and personas that make their introduction in this tale all the more interesting.
There are plenty of villains on show throughout each of the game’s five episodes, with the likes of the courageous yet broken District Attorney Harvey Dent (aka Two Face), the slick and devious Penguin, the mischievous yet good-hearted Catwoman, and, of course, everyone’s favourite psychopath The Jok- I mean, ‘John Doe’, making an appearance. Each villain has an all new origin and look to them this time around so it’s a fresh take on each character, something all the more appealing to seasoned Batman fans who want to see something a little new brought to the city of Gotham.
Telltale Games have always had a big focus on the relationships shared between characters in their video games, which is something that actually works really well in the case of Batman: The Telltale Series. The relationship Batman shares with the likes of Two-Face, Catwoman, and The Joker have been heavily explored in other mediums and is often one of the main focal points – being able to actually help sculpt these relationships this time around makes the experience all the more enticing to Batman fans.
Batman: The Telltale Series’ focus on giving Bruce Wayne as much of the limelight as Batman lets you see these relationships in a new way too. Every villain you encounter can be met as Bruce Wayne, giving you a new perspective on them that’s often missing when they’re faced up against the more intimidating ‘Dark Knight’. It brings a more human interaction that isn’t always as apparent when it’s a ‘hero versus villain’ scenario, something that brings out each character’s personality in a way that’s not really seen in other mediums. It’s a real credit to Telltale Games’ storytelling abilities, but it’s also something I found a lot easier to appreciate being a life-long Batman fan.
From a gameplay perspective it’s more of the same, with plenty of QTEs and simple puzzle solving taking place. If you’re tired of the whole Telltale Games button mashing formula then you’re not going to find anything that’ll reinvigorate your fatigue here – at least from a gameplay viewpoint anyway. The new detective moments where you have to essentially reconstruct a crime scene are pretty interesting, though they’re all fairly easily solved with little to no ‘detective skills’ required. Still, if you’re not tired of quick button presses in these kinds of games yet there’ll be enough to keep you entertained throughout each of Batman: The Telltale Series’ five episodes.
Unfortunately, I had the displeasure of playing Batman: The Telltale Series on PC. Maybe Batman games aren’t destined to run efficiently on PC, I don’t know, but there were certainly plenty of issues to be found. The game suffered from frame skipping, long load times, sound cutting out or playing out of sync, graphical errors – seriously, sometimes the game would require a reboot just to get it to function properly. I even had to drop the resolution of the game to get it to run at a decent frame rate, something all the more insulting when you consider I was using a decent spec gaming PC to run the game that hasn’t struggled with much more demanding titles.
Another particularly odd issue I noticed was that the game didn’t recognise some of the story choices I made, instead progressing as if I’d done something differently. One instance that stood out was when Alfred mentioned that I’d given Vicki Vale a certain piece of information, but it was actually something I withheld. It didn’t have a massive effect on the overall story for me, but it was a little odd and did worry me that some of my other choices may have been neglected.
I did notice that as I progressed to the later episodes there seemed to be a slight improvement to the game’s performance, but by then the damage had been done. It’s hard to forget (and even harder to forgive) all of the technical issues that plagued my earlier experience with the game, regardless of whether or not they started to clear up by the time I reached the conclusion.
Batman: The Telltale Series hasn’t earned a place as my favourite Batman video game, but I definitely had a lot of fun playing it. It continues Telltale Games’ trend of bringing an interesting interactive adventure to much-loved IPs, though admittedly this one is a little closer to my heart given my love of Batman. It also bucks the trend of the traditional Batman game by putting the focus on Bruce Wayne as opposed to the Caped Crusader himself – it’s a genuinely interesting change.
The only real disappointment that I had was with all the bugs and glitches that plagued the PC version of the game. I don’t know how it plays on console, but I’d recommend you steer clear from the PC version of if you can help it. Despite the issues I had with the game though, it hasn’t stopped me being excited for the next season. Let’s just hope that Telltale Games find a cure for their technical issues by then…
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 13/12/2016
Format(s): PC (Reviewed), Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Mac, iOS, Android