Batman is certainly not new to the video game realm. There have been dozens of games starring The Dark Knight, but it wasn’t until the Arkham games from Rocksteady where we finally saw the famed superhero get games worthy of his legend. One could be forgiven for believing that it would be a long time before we’d ever get even a halfway decent Batman title, but it appears that lighting is about to strike twice with Telltale Games’ take on The Caped Crusader.
Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode One, ‘Realm of Shadows’ can be seen as a sort of Year One version of the character. Batman is known in Gotham City, but considering how the police are still mistrustful of him and how he meets Catwoman for the first time, it is easy to tell this isn’t the experienced Batman we all know. The conversations Alfred has with Bruce Wayne where the old butler expresses deep concern for his master also give us an indication that Batman hasn’t been operating for very long.
Since this is a Telltale title, the game is centered around dialogue choices and Quick Time Event sequences. One would think that QTEs would blunt the impact of combat, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite the mechanics, you still very much feel like Batman as you beat up thugs and use your equipment to uncover clues at crime scenes. In a way, the QTEs portions are a perfect marriage of gameplay and cinematics because you enjoy both the thrill of being and watching Batman.
On the flipside are the sections where you have to make specific dialogue choices. In previous games from the developer, players would feel a great deal of anxiety when making difficult choices. This isn’t the case here. Since you are playing as Batman, that uncertainty you’d normally feel is gone. Batman behaves in a very specific manner so it was relatively easy to make decisions based on what he would do. While this did take away the tension you’re supposed to experience when making tough choices, it was also very liberating to play as a character who has such a strict moral and ethical code.
Despite the fact that it says “Batman” in the title, the game is equally as much about Bruce Wayne. The game sets up an intriguing story centered around the Wayne family. This story is so good that I’m surprised the comics have never delved into something similar. It paints the Waynes in a completely different light and sets up interesting scenarios for future installments. Playing as Bruce Wayne didn’t have the same flash as playing as Batman, but it was every bit as engaging.
Though I enjoyed this title very much, I do have to admit to not being fully used to Troy Baker as Batman. Baker is one of the very best voice actors out there and he brings his usual level of talent and professionalism to the table. The problem is that I honestly believe — because I have heard Kevin Conroy as Batman for nearly 25 years — that everyone else who takes on the role sounds wrong. Again, Baker does an excellent job, but it may take me a few episodes to get used to him as Batman/Wayne.
The other voice actors also bring their A-game and help immerse us in the world of Gotham City. Harvey Dent, Alfred Pennyworth, Catwoman/Selina Kyle, James Gordon, and Carmine Falcone are all played expertly by their respective actors. It also helps that the script and its dialogue are both clever and delivered with sincerity.
Graphically, this is easily the best looking Telltale Games title yet. While some of the old animations we’ve seen from other series are still around, the overall presentation looks like nothing the developer has ever produced. Not only are the characters brought to life in a wonderfully cell-shaded style, but the very city of Gotham seems to come alive with vibrant colors that contrast with the atmospheric fog and deep shadows. Despite some minor dips with the frame rate, the game looks and runs impressively.
Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode One, ‘Realm of Shadows’ is an exceptional beginning to a new Batman franchise. I fully expect more of Batsy’s rogues to show up over the course of the season, as well as for the plot surrounding the Wayne family to deepen. I knew I would enjoy this game when it was first announced but it honestly exceeded my expectations. It looks like Telltale has another winner on its hands.
This review of Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode One, ‘Realm of Shadows’ is based on a digital copy for the PC which was provided by Telltale Games.