Are you a fan of Batman? In fact the answer doesn’t matter because whether you are a fan, someone with a passing interest or hate the DC character (what the hell is wrong with you?) then I can guarantee one thing – you know, at least roughly, about the events with Bruce Wayne’s parents which lead to him becoming the Dark Knight.
TellTale start their journey into this franchise with that exact story but with a little difference in regards to how it plays out. Let’s be honest, regardless of how you see it, it’s a story origin that has been told countless times, comics, TV shows, animation, games, 10 movies and then you have the spinoffs such as Gotham. All of which have told the same story but have done enough for things to seem slightly different. That’s the crux of episode 1 – we’ve seen ALL of this before but it’s all rejigged just enough to feel new.
TellTale have the same burden here that Gotham has most recently experienced (and overcome successfully) in that with a deep reservoir of instantly recognisable characters and locations how do you differentiate between them and what has come before enough to be different but to keep enough of the character that keeps the fanbase happy.
The first episode of this Batman series gives us Harvey Dent, Selina Kyle, Oswald Cobblepot, Carmine Falcone, Alfred Pennyworth and James Gordon. Whilst some of these work better than others – Cobblepot is a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne (much like he is a friend of James Gordon in Gotham) who returns to warn him of a revolution making its way to Gotham – it’s hard to give them much more story and character than we already know.
Let’s have a quick look at the storytelling that Telltale employ within their version of the Batman. To be honest, it’s going to be exceptionally because if things are not broken why try fixing them and TellTale firmly subscribe to that ethos. You know the episodic storytelling structure where decisions have an impact later on from their previous titles such as The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones, Back to The Future – ok pretty much all of their games. Yep that’s right here in Batman.
The Wolf Among Us shares a lot of its DNA with Batman and pretty much sums up how TellTale have approached the Dark Knight and the case of someone implicating the Wayne Enterprises into the seedy underground crime syndicate of Gotham. It’s hard not to see similarities between the two when at the heart of it both are detective stories.
The overlap in play is also evident between the two, when lengthy scenes of angsty characters mingle with “Who’s responsible?” style interrogations of criminals and the general public. Very often you will feel you are just along for the ride and to watch situations unfold rather than actually taking charge and controlling the scene before you. On the flip side, this has always been part of the charm of TellTales episodic games for me.
With all the previous titles, it’s no surprise that by the time you finish episode one, the simple mystery at hand promises to be far more complicated and convoluted than initially thought. With a minefield of potentially wrong decisions, some of which have to be made as a snap decision without too much thought, you are often left wondering if you just made the right one or not. This is compounded when you see “X Character will remember this” in the top left hand corner of your screen, which will no doubt only bear fruit in future episodes when you have completely forgotten about it.
One disappointing aspect thus far is that the promise from TellTale that the game will allow you to choose whether to approach situations as either Bruce Wayne or Batman doesn’t actually arrive in episode one. Instead you get a lot of game time with Bruce in episode one, which does allow you to understand more of the consequences that power and wealth have upon the evil of Gotham. I would have just like to have been the Bat a little more.
Overall, episode one sets the table for what is to come in the future. For the characters in The Walking Dead and, to a lesser extent, The Wolf Among Us this was required. I can’t shake the feeling that time has been wasted here on characters that we all know and love. To sum it up in laymans terms, I needed episode one of previous TellTale game to get excited for upcoming episodes. I was already psyched for Batman and having to go through two hours of set up left me feeling meh.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 7/10 Format: Xbox One Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Batman: A Telltale Series by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 5 days. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.