Batman: The Telltale Series (Season 1)
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Release Dates: December 13, 2016 - Complete Season (EU & NA)
Price: 14,99€ (Steam)
Batman: The Telltale Series is unlike any other Batman game that came before it, firstly because of Telltale's focus on storytelling instead of gameplay and secondly because of the game's scenery and atmosphere, which focuses on the well-being of Gotham and its citizens, despite the many villains destroying it from every side. Unlike other Batman games where beating the villains is your one and only objective, here the story focuses on understanding each villain's motivation and how they ended up wanting to hurt Gotham in exchange for an abstract concept of order.
You are no longer just Batman the superhero, as the game puts you in the role of Bruce Wayne, who is not only Batman at night, but also a billionaire trying to defend his company and his wealth from the people trying to take him down by any means necessary. In that sense you will not only beat people up in every direction in the way Batman traditionally solves any problem, but you will be involved in political games, ponzi schemes and the day-to-day issues of Gotham and its citizens. In that regard, the game is played half of the time as Batman, half of the time as Bruce Wayne, with some moments when you can choose who to go out as: Bruce Wayne or Batman, and the decisions you take in the game affect those moments specifically, as having a better relation with someone as Bruce Wayne than Batman, would mean a better outcome if you decide to go out as Bruce Wayne during a meeting with that character.
Moving on to Telltale's trademark "story tailored by how you play" there are quite a number of different paths you can take and outcomes depending on the choices you make, resulting in injured characters that you can prevent with the right choice and even smaller moments that only appear if you made the right choice. However, just like Telltale's other games, this is a system that doesn't have a long-term impact on the story, as the ending of each episode is set up in a way to unlock the path forward for the next one, and especially the finale is set up so it would continue from the same point in Season 2 for everyone. That being said, there are some decisions that will impact the outcome of an event later on and even further into Season 2, but at the same time you have those bits that are forced to end in a specific way even if the game gives you the impression that you can prevent it.
I feel like I say this with every Telltale game I review, but the Telltale engine is basically outdated by a large margin at this point, as the gameplay hasn't changed since the first season of The Walking Dead in a fundamental way and action packed moments can cause stutter in some scenes regardless of your PC specs. That being said, if you like the way Telltale Games play, Batman is pretty much the same thing, using quick time events even more often than other series as Batman's nature leads to combat a lot of times, prompting you to press a button, a sequence of buttons or moving the analog stick in a direction for things like dodging enemy attacks. On top of that you have the dialogue which usually has the traditional 4 options response, with one of them always being silence and the limited exploration sections which just like in previous Telltale games means clicking on all the dots on the screen to find out what you're looking for and get observations from Bruce about the rest.
The one element unique to Batman are the puzzles, which are usually triggered during an investigation as Batman is trying to figure out what happened in a location and put the events in order. Those are definitely a breath of fresh air in a game mostly dominated by quick time events, but sadly there are only a few of those moments spaced throughout the entire season. Visually the game includes lots of things from the Batman universe, including many villains, Bruce Wayne's personal life, the Batmobile and some of the gadgets Batman uses in the comics, but sadly all those moments are toned down by the fact that all of them are triggered with quick time events and even though the Batmobile appears in many scenes, you never get to control it or interact with it in any way. This is a game with a great story about Batman, Bruce Wayne and the city of Gotham, but it's far from making you feel like Batman, as other reviewers would say.
Visually the game is a combination of Telltale's style of games with the DC Batman comics, which makes this an animated comic book with multiple paths forward, however since it's built on the same decade old Telltale engine, a lot of details that you'd expect from a game in 2016 are just not there, especially when it comes to visual effects. On the bright side, the characters of the Batman universe come to life in a fantastic way thanks to the art style, as they are not inspired by the Batman movies and the actors that played them, but instead the comic books and original depiction of the artists, sparked with Telltale's own take on each one of them.
The voice acting is top notch for most characters and Batman's voice has that growling feel to it and Troy Baker did an excellent job with the voices for both Batman and Bruce Wayne, with other popular actors among the Telltale universe adding to the cast of characters, with Laura Bailey taking on the role of Selina Kyle and Dave Fennoy providing the voice for Lucius Fox just to name a few. The soundtrack fits the theme of the game perfectly, however the songs included at the end of each episode are probably less memorable than some of the songs included in other Telltale games like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us.
Considering the fact that those sections where you can choose between Bruce Wayne and Batman are drastically different, you might want to replay the game a second time if you want to get the full picture and see what other outcomes you can reach, or stick with your choices and move on to Season 2 since some of your decisions will carry over and have a small impact on some aspects of the sequel. Aside from that, there is no other replay value to the game and the entire season can be completed in around 7 hours.
Batman: The Telltale Series is a game about being Batman and Bruce Wayne at the same time, dealing with the problems of Gotham and its people from both perspectives and choosing your own way forward in a way that feels meaningful, despite having similar outcomes at the end of each episode in order to set up the new one. Gameplay wise if you have played any other Telltale game previous to this you pretty much know what to expect, since Batman is no different in that regard. If you want a Batman game focused on an intriguing story, you should definitely pick this one up, but if action is what you're looking for, you should head into the Arkham series instead.