A Big shoutout to Xbox for this one, they gave us the code to this!
A Few Years after...
Bruce Wayne decides to become Batman, Gotham is blanketed by a rise in crime, Harvey Dent is campaigning for Mayor and criminals of all kinds are stepping out of the shadows. This is the background to Telltale Games Batman. A new take on the Caped Crusader, and a great addition to their stable of games that includes the Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands, and The Wolf Among Us.
If you're familiar with a Telltale Game then I don't really need to explain how they work. If not, well, consider them part action, part investigation, and consequence driven gameplay in the style of some of the old point and click games of the past. If you're not a fan of Quick Time Events, then these aren't going to be the games for you.
Sign up if you're a fan of twisting stories, great characterisation, interesting applications of QTE mechanics - and meaningful choices that have far-reaching consequences across each episode of their series. Yep, just like the others, Batman is an episodic game - with Episode 1 out now, and 2 soon to follow on September 20th.
Part Man, Part Monster
There's a lot of moral choice to playing Telltale's version of Batman. You've given ample opportunity to play the crime-fighting billionaire as a brooding vigilante, doling out beatdowns, breaking arms to get to the truth - or you can show a little more compassion to your enemies and give them the benefit of the doubt. Unlike Rocksteady's Arkham Batman, you're not getting involved in full on 3rd person battles vs. Goons and bosses - here you're going to do battles in cinematic QTEs, with impressive choreography and a genuine feel of the Dark Knight's prowess, as often Batman uses his brain as well as brawn in combat.
The way you approach a lot of the conflicts, be they physical, or mental/verbal is going to set the tone for future encounters with A-list villains, and B-list Mooks. It'll also have direct ramifications on what Gordon and the rest of GCPD think of you as Batman. Not to mention Alfred, who is as ever, expertly handled as the voice of 'resigned' reason in Bruce's ear.
You're also going to play the social side of Batman, balancing between the vigilante and the billionaire as you play through each episode. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a 50/50 balancing act, when I say balancing - I mean you'll decide on Wayne's approach in social situations, is he as brooding as his alter-ego, or is he more playful/playboy?
Again, the cast of characters is going to remember this, and like in the Witcher - what you do/say may well come back and bite you later on.
Balancing the mental attitudes of Bruce and Batman should lead to some interesting conclusions and events.
Dark Knight Detective
Batman is the Dark Knight, he's also the World's Greatest Detective - this is something I've always felt was lacking from the Arkham games, as much as I love them. In Telltale's take on the Dark Knight you'll get to piece together clues and investigate crime scenes, drawing Sherlock Holmes' style lines from things that connect, sometimes linking two or more clues together to solve a particularly tricky scene. This is far more interesting, intuitive, and fun than just scrubbing back/forth between some VR footage looking for a branch-off point to lead you to the next clue you can interact with.
Brains and Brawn
In many of the action scenes you'll get to line up your approach as Batman before the whole thing plays out, setting up opportunities by linking thugs with environmental objects - once you're ready, you can set the whole thing off and then play through the cinematic battle as the various elements unfold. It's a nice touch, lending more weight to the idea that Batman just doesn't run in fists flying and Batarangs whirling.
A slight wrinkle in the cape
If I were to pick any kind of wrinkle at all, it'd be in the frame-rate, it sometimes drops now and then and halts ever-so slightly. It's a minor thing, because the game looks as good as any of the other Telltale games and evokes the perfect atmosphere of Gotham, and Batman, with great character designs and some superbly made environments.
To be honest the frame drops are only slight too on the Xbox One version this was reviewed on.
The game also features Crowd Play, an interesting experience designed for 6-12 people in the same room. It doesn't really work with Twitch/Streaming services due to latency issues. You can play a couple of ways, one: the host can override the other players decisions, or two: the players have complete freedom of control in choosing the decision. In the event of a tie the host chooses.
I've got a good feeling about this series, and it's off to a cracking start, introducing some great moments and some really solid action in this episode. The voice work and acting, along with the music and the writing are stand-out, bringing Gotham to life and nailing many aspects of my favourite Batman show of all time: the Classic Animated Cartoon Series starring Kevin Conroy.
Only this time you get Troy Baker as Batman.
I can live with that, I'm excited to see what part 2 brings to the table, and to see how my choices carry over.
At the end of the Episode you'll also get a summary of the choices you've made, and the choices others have made as well.