The following is a compilation and excerpts from our previous five episodic reviews of Batman: The Telltale Series – Season One. If you’ve read the entirety of our previous reviews, there will be a slight summary at the bottom before the final score for the entire season. Otherwise, all of the information found within the episode breakdowns are taken straight from the previous five reviews we wrote on the game. This review is simply to aid those that are looking to purchase Batman: The Telltale Series – Season One as a complete package now that all five episodes are readily available and in physical form. Read on for our complete review of Batman: The Telltale Series – Season One.
Title: Batman: The Telltale Series – Season One
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Mobile
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Release Date: December 13, 2016
Copy provided by the Publisher for the sake of this review
EPISODE ONE: REALM OF SHADOWS
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.
EPISODE TWO: CHILDREN OF ARKHAM
Right from the start of Children of Arkham, the changes Telltale is making to the Batman universe are evident. The Wayne family, excluding Bruce, is nothing like how we remember them to be. Their murder in Crime Alley is also slightly different than the story we are all used to hearing time and time again. Telltale is going to great lengths to make this story interesting and unique, and so far, it’s working. Bruce Wayne is struggling to come to terms with the past that his parents had, and the fact that it was hidden from him for all these years. That of course brings an interesting plot choice into the mix between Bruce and Alfred, one that may or may not have more to it in future episodes.
The emphasis Telltale has placed on the human side of Batman is something I particularly enjoy about Batman: The Telltale Series. It isn’t just about being Batman and running around as the Caped Crusader. We spend more time playing as Bruce than we do as Batman, especially during Children of Arkham. It’s fun to see how Bruce interacts with all of these characters when not hidden underneath a mask, and it offers up some truly compelling gameplay and story telling.
Episode 2 has stronger choices for the player to make than Episode 1 did. Choices that will really test the morals of the player and how they want to shape Batman in this universe. Batman can really start teetering on the line of being a hero in Children of Arkham, and it will either earn him the trust of Commissioner Gordon, or not. There’s also some great dialogue choices and main choices dealing with Selina Kyle once again, and this particular story line has me intrigued for the final three episodes. Telltale has done a great job building on the sexual tension between Bruce and Selina, but it’s up to the player to decide how they will proceed with this.
Telltale is also being extremely careful with the characters they introduce to the story, how they introduce them, and why. Oswald Cobblepot, who we met in Episode 1, fully becomes the Penguin during Episode 2, and it’s a delight to see. Also introduced is their version of the Scarecrow, who has always been one of my personal favorites of the Gotham villains. I’m hopeful that Telltale won’t fall back on the same old characters we’re used to seeing in every rendition of a Batman story though. Robin, The Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, Bane, etc. are all more than welcome to sit this story out. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a few more characters introduced to this universe before the five part series comes to a conclusion, but it’s nice having only a handful of characters to see where Telltale can really take them. Plus, it leaves more open for future seasons if they continue the Batman universe.
It’s a shame that the engine being used has so many problems with it. The same slowdown and stuttering is still present, and honestly just isn’t going to do away until Telltale has time to do an overhaul of the engine. It does make playing through certain sections of each episode rough, but it in no way takes away from the brilliant story that is being told. The combat sections still move along nicely, but I did notice a few spots during the bar brawl when it was struggling to move along. This particular battle scene is also my absolute favorite part of the entire episode, as it was handled extremely well. Including the aftermath and scene that follows.
The final choice that is given to players is a tough one to make, and ultimately is going to have the most effect on the story moving forward into Episode 3. There was only one correct choice with the way I’ve been playing Bruce Wayne, but for others, it may not be so simple. This has always been something I love about the stories that Telltale has been doing for years. The hard hitting moments like that are what keep me coming back to their games, and it’s always interesting to see how others respond during those situations in the stats shown while watching the credits.
EPISODE THREE: NEW WORLD ORDER
Batman: The Telltale Series continues to impress me with each new episode that is released. I was skeptical after playing through Episode 1, even though it did have its good moments as well. Children of Arkham was great from many standpoints, and really set up the last three episodes to build off of it and be just as fun to experience. New World Order starts off really, really slow though. It’s a huge change of pace from the way Children of Arkham was designed. You’ll begin this episode following Bruce Wayne around as he deals with the repercussions of the end of Episode 2. There is a lot of storytelling to be had in the first twenty minutes or so, and while the story is interesting and has me hooked, I still would have liked something else to happen to break up the flow.
Episode 3 really picks up and goes full speed ahead toward the middle, when Batman does battle against one of his more famous villains from the comic book series. Basically from that moment onward, the episode really just keeps getting better and better. New World Order also does an excellent job continuing the plot with both Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (Catwoman). Their interactions here, and the way they are depicted at certain points of the episode, are some of my favorite moments between these two characters ever. Telltale Games has been building to a certain thing to happen between these two, and I’m very pleased that they didn’t shy away and kept the momentum going with it. The story between Bruce and Selina has a lot more to tell though, so hopefully it continues until the end of this season.
The two scenes that take place directly after this battle involving Catwoman are also perhaps my favorite work that Telltale Games has done to date. Each of these two scenes was handled perfectly, and depending on choices made during Episode 2 and the choices you can make during this point, the outcomes and what happens could be very different. I also really enjoy that they are giving the player freedom to set up Episodes 4 and 5 how they want them to go, to an extent. There are still obviously scripted things that are going to take place no matter what. But, there’s a small twist that Telltale is throwing into the formula.
When Telltale announced the release date of Episode 4, they included in the press release that depending on certain choices players made in Episode 3, Guardian of Gotham can end at different points for different players. Some people may get more out of Episode 4 than others depending on what happened during New World Order. I actually really appreciate this model, and think it may be the first time Telltale Games has done something like this. It makes me want to play through the initial episodes even more now to see if I can get a completely different outcome in Episode 4, and ultimately Episode 5.
One of the greatest things about Telltale Games crafting their own story in the Batman universe is the freedom they have to do whatever they want and take the story places that others haven’t before. This is more apparent than ever at the end of Episode 3, when a villain we have seen before, but hasn’t really been a major player in the past, gets thrust into the spotlight as the leader of the Children of Arkham. It’s also a person we are extremely familiar with, and I honestly did not see this coming. Thinking back to what transpired in the first two episodes, it makes complete sense now, however.
EPISODE FOUR: GUARDIAN OF GOTHAM
Episode 4 picks up almost immediately where Episode 3 left off, with Bruce Wayne having been drugged by Lady Arkham. Bruce is feeling the effects of the drug still, and is currently locked away inside of Arkham Asylum. Unfortunately, within those walls are a ton of people both Thomas Wayne and Batman have made sure were locked up. And due to that, many of them want to take a shot at Bruce and even some of the guards are willing to take bribes to let it happen.
Guardian of Gotham wastes little time in introducing The Joker, or as he is called in this episode, “John Doe”. The Joker saves Bruce from being badly beaten by a group of thugs, and then shows him around Arkham Asylum. Telltale explores a friendly relationship between The Joker and Bruce Wayne, but sets up their usual connection by dialogue choices and some of the interactions near the end of that particular scene. I was a little disappointed that The Joker is only in the beginning of the episode, but Telltale Games is clearly setting stuff up for the season finale, and possibly even a second season depending on how well this first season did.
While I found the appearance of The Joker and what they could possibly do with that story arc going forward to be exciting, Guardian of Gotham ultimately feels like a bit of a letdown, after coming off two fantastic episodes in Children of Arkham and New World Order. The major choices presented to the player in this episode don’t feel nearly as meaningful as they did in previous episodes. The one at the very end of the episode is the most meaningful one, as it forces you to choose between two key figures important to this Batman story. But, as is usually the case with Telltale Games releases and is something I was hoping would change, the choices made up to this point all seem to be coming together toward the same conclusion no matter what. I experimented with a few different routes trying to force certain outcomes, but ultimately could not produce the desired results I was looking for.
One of the biggest violators of this is what happens with Selina Kyle, otherwise known as Catwoman. She is barely even in this episode at all, which is a huge letdown after her emotional connections with Bruce and their remarkable interactions and scenes in both Episode 2 and Episode 3. From what we can tell, no matter the choices made in the first three episodes, the same scene will always play out in Episode 4. Perhaps there is a certain string of choices and events that could lead to a different scene or dialogue happening, but we could not find it, and research seems to indicate that it always ends up this particular way. Now, we are fully aware that there is still one episode remaining in this series, so there is still room for something more to happen, but it just felt like the wind was taken out from underneath the wings on this particular element of the story.
The typical Telltale Games performance issues seemed to be a tad bit worse than the previous episodes in Batman – The Telltale Series, with slowdown happening way too often and the usual graphical jitteriness in certain spots. We have come to look past some of the more minor complications that these games and episodes usually have, and really only touch on aspects when they are more prevalent than usual. Guardian of Gotham is one of those examples where it’s worth mentioning.
EPISODE FIVE: CITY OF LIGHT
City of Light picks up where Episode 4 left off, and because of that, it will start in entirely different places for everyone depending on the choices you made in Episode 4, especially near the end. It does a good job tying everything back together, and setting Batman off toward stopping Lady Arkham as she tries to lay waste to the entirety of Gotham. Telltale Games has shown their darker side before, especially in The Walking Dead series that they also do, but this episode has a much darker tone than the rest of the episodes in Batman: The Telltale Series. Depending on some of the choices you make as either Bruce Wayne or Batman, certain events can play out that make it even darker as well. It was refreshing to see this side of Gotham and the Batman universe within the game world, and it was handled well enough that it didn’t feel overly out of place. And it never felt too gruesome either.
The action sequences are once again some of the best that Telltale has done to date, and even with the occasional slowdown that players have come to expect from the engine Telltale uses for their releases, the combat is quite fun. The final battle in particular goes on for a very long time, but keeps the button prompts changed up enough for the player to actually feel engaged, and watching the action unfold in front of you is a real treat. We are trying to tread lightly so as to avoid any spoilers about the finale of City of Light, but the way the final blow is handled and what happens immediately after is rewarding enough for sticking through the entirety of the first season of Batman: The Telltale Series. There is one choice that you can make during the final battle that was tough to call, but ultimately I felt there was only one right solution After doing so, the conversations that take place afterward provide more context to why Batman did what he did.
One of the strongest points in City of Light, at least for me, was the scene that takes place between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle on the open road. I was fairly critical and disappointed with how this entire story arc played out throughout Episode 4, so it was nice to see Telltale Games touch on the subject once again in Episode 5. This actually felt like the resolution their plotline needed, and depending on the choices you make while talking to her, the end result can be very different in tone and with what happens. There is also room for Selina to return in future seasons if Telltale decides to go down that route thanks to this scene. I’ve said it before, but the relationship between Bruce and Selina shown throughout this season is some of the best work I’ve seen done between those two, and it would have been a shame not to have this scene in City of Light.
SEASON ONE SUMMARY
Batman: The Telltale Series – Season One is definitely one of my favorites to come out of Telltale Games in recent memory. Known for their ability to tell amazing stories, Telltale Games crafted a world I wanted to physically be invested in as Bruce Wayne to try and make it a better place. The friendships and relationships you can build throughout the five episodes makes this game a real pleasure to play, and I would highly recommend it as a complete package to any fan of Batman or Telltale Games. Unfortunately, certain episodes do have their hiccups when it comes to stability and performance, and that alone is enough to hold it back from being the best game released by Telltale so far. But don’t let the engine’s shortcomings keep you from playing what is otherwise a great fit in the Batman universe.