Telltale Games has been on a roll since introducing the masses to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” style of episodic game with The Walking Dead: Season One. Batman: The Telltale Series is taking that style into the world of DC Comics, where nothing is off limits in the world of superheroes. But, with a multitude of games using that same style, is it time for a change, or is it still working as well as it did when fans fell in love with Lee and Clementine? Read on for our full review of Episode 1: Realm of Shadows.
Title: Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 1: Realm of Shadows
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Mobile
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Copy Supplied by Publisher
Episode 1 wastes little time before thrusting players into the role of the Caped Crusader, as he thwarts a robbery attempt the only way he knows how. But, veteran fans of Batman will soon start to notice this world isn’t the one they may be used to, as Telltale is attempting to craft their own universe within Gotham. Two long standing villains the player will be introduced to first, Harvey Dent and Oswald Cobblepot, are a clear sign that we’re heading in a different direction than fans are used to. Especially with Oz, who will later become the Penguin.
Telltale is also showing off a side of Bruce Wayne that is rarely explored within the world of video games. Within Episode 1, you’ll spend more time playing as the man himself rather than the superhero counterpart we mostly get to control in other games. This is a great change of pace when it comes to Batman, as we get to see interactions between Bruce and characters such as Alfred and Vicki Vale. Alfred cares deeply for Bruce, and that clearly comes across throughout their conversations in Realm of Shadows, as he tries to make Bruce not forget the man he is as he is out patrolling Gotham city as Batman. And the way I’m going to go through this story, Bruce Wayne is a clear ladies man, so any chance to flirt and compliment the attractive Vicki Vale will be taken. It’s fun to see their chemistry within the game world, and I hope more is done between the two in future episodes.
One of the new features debuting in Batman: The Telltale Series is the Crowd Play mechanic. If enabled, this will allow spectators to vote on which option should be selected for individual choices. This is a really fun thing to use locally when you have a group of people gathered around the TV, but may pose a problem when streaming the game over a place like Twitch, due to the delay. If they can get that portion worked out, or at least turn off the countdown timer when using Crowd Play, it could be a really fun thing to use to engage with an audience while playing through future Telltale releases.
Another feature that is slightly different than traditional Telltale gameplay is the Investigation scenes that Batman will undertake. It’s also here where the darker side of Batman: The Telltale Series is displayed, as Telltale Games is definitely going for a more mature approach to this universe. At one point in the episode, Batman is in a warehouse and is trying to connect the dots and pieces (literally) to figure out what happened here. You have to approach each thing in the scene to examine it, and once you have all the information, you can begin linking two things together in order to solve the mystery and crime. This particular scene has bodies lying everywhere, with one of them being a pile of blood and guts after having exploded, and another with his face and eyes completely clawed out.
Other than that, Batman: The Telltale Series has all the makings of being a Telltale game. Quick Time Events are how the combat is dictated, you walk around examining objects and talking with people to advance the story along, and you have only a limited amount of time to make dialogue decisions when speaking with others. The only point when you aren’t on a timer is during the episodes major plot point decisions, like previous Telltale games. It appears as if they relaxed a lot of the QTE stuff as well, because a few of them disappeared on me so quick, I wasn’t able to hit it in time, and the game still progressed as if I had.
All that being said, the engine used by Telltale Games needs redone, as it’s largely been the same from the beginning. This has been being said for the past several game releases now, and it’s never been more true. When playing through the game on PlayStation 4, I had some points where the game would severely slow down and chug along, and one point during a scene in the park where a few colors were randomly changing in the background while talking to Oswald. The engine really needs to be overhauled, and hopefully Telltale is working on one while still producing games on the older engine for now. This engine certainly isn’t going to be able to last them forever.
Luckily, those complaints don’t take away from the fact that Batman: The Telltale Series is shaping up to be an interesting take on the story we all know and love. While Realm of Shadows certainly didn’t hit as hard as some of the first episodes Telltale Games has done in the past, there’s enough here that will leave fans wondering where the story is going and wanting to come back for more.