Telltale Games is exceptionally good at marrying comic books and video games to create highly stylistic episodic adventures.
They've bought point-and-click adventuring back into the 21st century having updated Sam and Max in 2006 (from the older Lucas Arts title Sam and Max Hit the Road) and released it as an episodic title on the Nintendo Wii. Since then, Telltale Games has graced us with brilliant games as The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead Seasons One and Two, Tales from the Borderlands and way more.
So of course the dark underworld of Gotham deserved the Telltale treatment. They've even gone so far as to get in the voice-acting heavyweights, such as Troy Baker who has voiced Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite, The Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins and Attack on Arkham, and Two-Face in Arkham Knight.
On the surface, Batman — The Telltale Series — Episode 1: Realm of Shadows is everything you've ever come to expect from Telltale. Their signature style oozes from every cel-shaded pixel, every shadow creates depth and a wild variety of characters bring the game to life. The choices you make in the game, how you interact with people and react to them during conversations will color the way the game plays out.
It seemed that during Episode 1: Realm of Shadows, Batman was very much in the driver's seat. A large part of this episode felt like there was only so much pointing and much more clicking. I was so involved in the story that I didn't really notice I was the one in control of it. There aren't that many parts that let you control Bruce/Batman, instead, you're being his brain. I felt like I coasted along after what felt like roughly three hours of quick-time event combat, and deciding which conversation route to go down.
Batman is a notoriously reclusive hero, and Bruce even moreso. In this new story we get a much deeper look into Bruce's history, and despite the years of countless beatings in the name of vigilantism, he's still messed up over the deaths of his parents. It's not just something that drives him to eradicate crime in Gotham.
During the Bruce scenarios we're given a look into the man and the business side of Wayne Enterprises. Who will he support in the upcoming elections? Will it be your friend, Harvey Dent? Will Bruce form an alliance with the crime-lord Falcone? There's even an interesting meeting with Oswald Cobblepot, not yet the shrunken sewer dweller we knew from Tim Burton's gothic films, but a seemingly normal man, if maybe a bit mental. It'll be interesting to see how his character plays out over the coming episodes.
The Batman scenarios introduce us to the threats Gotham holds. There is a segment where you can survey the scene with your gadget-eyes in order to create links between enemies and determine a battle plan, which is exactly the kind of stuff you know you've always want to do as Batman. I want to be able to see through walls, and shoot heat-seeking batarangs at people, tie them up by their feet and leave them for Gordon to pick up.
All the better, we're gifted with a scene we almost never see in the comic book world. The fabled chance meeting and recognition of the man behind the mask. That kind of fan service only endears this episode to me, as it's playing to these kinds of wants once in a while that makes these games successful in the long run.
Combat is fought by following on-screen instructions, pressing a corresponding button or pushing a stick in a certain direction. Unfortunately, the combat is stilted as the game tries to give you time to input the instruction, which really crushes the flow of flying arms and legs we've come to love about the Batman. It's only a little shame when the set-up for some of the most ambitious attacks are really cool.
When you are able to take control of Bruce, it's only for short moments throughout Episode One. Walking him around to investigate the Batdesk, or around the park to follow up on a lead — it's unmistakable. Bruce Wayne has a hell of a stick up his butt. His walking animation is so stiff and straight-backed, it doesn't feel natural. During Realm of Shadows, these moments were reasonably infrequent but still something that caught my eye and I found a bit strange.
Crowd Play is the newest mechanic feature for the Telltale Games. You can play the game alongside up to 22 other people you invite to join in, and they can vote to make decisions along with the game. Supported by mobile devices and browsers, its a way to make the game more interactive for viewers. Since Telltale games are usually highly popular on Twitch when they're released, this is a good tool to engage your viewers. As is with most of Telltale's episodic games, your choices are saved and compared against other players' choices at the end, even when you play alone.
It's hard to not fall in love with any of the episodic offerings Telltale provides us with. It makes a welcome change to try to manage the political side of the Wayne business, rather than it just being the reason he has tons of money. Some important decisions in this episode are going to have much larger consequences down the line, and Bruce Wayne's world is about to unravel.
Batman — The Telltale Series — Episode 1: Realm of Shadows is already a stand-out game among a recent glut of Batman games. This episode feels significantly shorter than episodes from other franchises, but it isn't. Three hours just flew by and you won't miss any achievements because they're all chapter based. You can buy the episode separately, or buy the bundle where new episodes will be playable as they're released.
- Classic Telltale Style
- Managing Wayne business and political sides
- Great set up for future episodes
- Combat is stilted
- Bruce walks like a scarecrow
This review was performed on Xbox One using a code provided by the developer.