Hey, Internet. I’m up-to-speed with what’s trending, therefore playing a game from 2016. That’s a good guess – I am playing Batman: The Telltale Series. How did you know? In the words of a Mr L. Kravitz, what I really wanna know is – is it any good? If you’ve got to catch a bus, or you don’t do reading, the quick answer is yes. It’s terrific.
If you haven’t played a Telltale adventure game, then I’m afraid you’re missing out, sister. Least, in my evaluation. Their library of point and click adventures are really engaging and hurl the genre forward. Unlike anything by LucasArts or Sierra, the point and click element is a little more simplified – often having minimal objects to interact with and one or two options at that. The main difference, in my opinion, is the lack of any inventory to make all sorts of weird concoctions, like tampons and marigolds or praline and dick.
In Batman: The Telltale Series, the game is 100% story-driven. Yes, there are a few different trajectories that the story can take. Still, it’s mostly linear, giving you a path of saving one of two characters or choosing a side. It doesn’t impact the game in terms of Gamersville as there are no trophy challenges other than completing each chapter in order, and no game overs. Well, only if you dawdle during an action sequence, then you deserve it. Instead, it tells a tale which I find refreshing. Sometimes I take the easy option so I can experience a decent story, where other times I want bona fide action like Metal Slug 3 and whack up the challenge. There’s no difficulty mode in Batman: The Telltale Series but the emotional investment in the characters. Which might not be a challenge for some of you sociopaths.
…/Enter Witty Title/Think About It/Scratch Oneself
Some might find these Telltale games quite sleepy or redundant, but I see your point and raise you mine. They are the closest thing to an interactive movie, methinks. Without it being anything like Night Trap. You are put into situations and pick from a range of dialogue options to kickstart the conversation and drive the plot forward. Between these conversation pieces are often quick-time events where you press the button displayed on-screen or move in the direction of the arrow shown. It has been the formula for Telltale games such as The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones, and no different for Batman: The Telltale Series.
It begins with a tutorial/intro sequence as Batman, foiling a robbery of thugs, then encountering Catwoman. This is primarily an action setpiece featuring QTE elements – moving the analogue stick or pressing the sequential button in time. As stated, there is no difficulty setting, but it’s quite hard to fail the sequence. Despite the lack of challenge, it all plays into the story really well and seamless. Think interactive cutscene with value. After this entrance, you switch back to Bruce Wayne – spoiler alert – he’s Batman. Your role here is to engage with guests at Wayne Manor and choose a dialogue response from a selection of three – one of which is a ‘…’ response should you want to remain silent. There is a timer for giving your answers – if you don’t respond, it defaults to silence.
There are a few gadget sequences dispersed across the series – using Batman’s detective skills via a CSI-type crime scene to track down crims via the Wayne Tech network. Don’t expect anything too complex or challenging – again, the focus is on the storytelling, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll be cross-referencing anything with GameFAQs for a walkthrough. It’s simples. With some of the crime scenes, you investigate a point of interest and then link that to another you think may be connected. If you get it right, Batman recreates a holographic reconstruction of the event, enabling you to progress through the story. By the way, the colour of your tech can be chosen from the beginning. I chose purple but was a bit gutted you couldn’t change to anything else in later episodes as I wanted to mix it up. It’s purely aesthetic and has no benefit other than making Bats and his gear look pretty. That’s it.
Episodic Character Arcs
As a series, the game is split into five episodes – each episode has about five or more chapters. There are no save points, no real breather points other than pressing options to pause. Also, there isn’t a way to skip a scene if you’ve already done it. Mildly annoying if it’s a long sequence. I’m reviewing this because it came under the PS Now catalogue with all five episodes. Ordinarily, you get the first one, then must purchase each one separately or get the season pass. I literally downloaded all of them in anticipation so I could binge it like a Netflix series, but they aren’t humongous files.
I believe I started episode one on Friday night and finished episode five today, Monday. I could have quickly done all of them in a day but a) what’s the rush? b) I do other things than play games. Sometimes. Trophies are unlocked each time you complete a chapter and a platinum for completing all five episodes. Quite easy then as there aren’t any trophies awarded for going a particular path or saving this character instead of that one. But I’m not suggesting playing this game for the achievements – the story is fantastic.
Will I go back to it? Sure, but on a casual basis just to see how things would pan out if I saved one character instead of another, or wore socks with sandals instead of the pumps. Not having achievements for taking different paths was a bit ‘meh’, but again, really wouldn’t deter me from endorsing this title. I was quite tempted to buy this on the Switch a while ago and will most likely add it to my library to have the physical release (heh). Having my finger on the pulse, I realise that there is a sequel that came out for it Batman: The Enemy Within. I’ll be buying this too, once I have tracked down a copy of Tales from the Borderland. The only copy I’ve seen looked like it was a prop from an item you would purchase from a man who wears a wax jacket and wraps goods in a brown paper bag. It was filthy and had its own little eco-system inhabiting it. Grim as you like. I’ll keep hunting, but the gaming priority this week is Death Stranding. Whatever that is.
For a non-comic book fan, this was just as engaging as someone who knows their Colonel Sulpher’s from their Cornelius Stirks. My Batman knowledge is probably the strongest out of all the DC characters. I grew up with Adam West’s Batman, Tim Burton then later, Christopher Nolan films. Arguably, it was the Rocksteady Batman series that enlightened me further into the world of Batman. I read through all the codex and even watched Batman: The Killing Joke. Batman: The Telltale Series also has a codex for the characters you meet and greet. While reasonably brief, it got me moist enough to want to watch some Batman films again. Hell, I might even read a comic. The sad(?) thing about it is that I was thinking about playing this game when I wasn’t playing it. I love a good story, me.
Sounds Like Batman, Looks Like Batman, It has Gotta Be…
Take the story out for a minute, what does it look and feel like? The visuals are the same as most of the Telltale games like The Walking Dead – a bit like Borderlands but with its own signature. The character models are excellent. I liked the interpretation of some of the more well-known characters such as Oswald Cobblepot and Jim Gordon, though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Oswald’s voice acting. Ignoring Oz, the voice talent was superb – with Batman/Bruce Wayne sounding like Adam West and Alfred on par with the best voice actors out there. From the nuanced animations to the tones of their voices, Batman: The Telltale Series evokes a lot of moods, and none of those is hunger, lust or disappointment. Tell a lie. Bringing in the option to kiss Selina Kyle and then comparing your action with the rest of the world – oh, the shock: 95% of people also did the same thing. I wonder who the target audience is here. Pervs. And yes, I chose to kiss her, but only because of her personality – nothing to do with the PVC suit or smouldering eyes.
Bad points? I’m not going to break down a game like I’m a professional or anything, or be like the BBC (that’s British Broadcasting Corporation – less of the smut) and give a ‘fair’ view. I’ll just be honest. There wasn’t much I didn’t like about it. My motivation always has, and most likely will be for the rest of my life, be about story. Until next Tuesday at 1:34 pm when I’m smooched to death by the folk at a Catwoman convention. But that’s in the future. Batman: The Telltale Series fires on all cylinders in that department. I guess from an adventure fan from ye olde world, I would have liked a bit more variety with the investigation sections. Also, for the dialogue to have changed the story significantly – perhaps like Detroit: Become Human. But I’m just being picky. My biggest disappointment would be that I’ve finished it.
Disclaimer: My superhero expertise is above average at best. Other than a few videogames here and there, the MCU and collecting Panini stickers in my youth, I’m no authority. That said, I do know story, and this is brill. The character development is excellent, and even without any knowledge of the Batman universe, this covers a great deal without dumbing it down or clumsily reinventing the wheel. You wait, I’ll have some Batman fans tell me I’m wrong, but it’s all opinion, innit.