Telltale’s Batman — Episode One: Realm of Shadows.
(Spoiler Warning Ahead! — I will do my absolute best to not go on a spoiler spree and ruin everything unnecessarily but with a game like this I’m going to need to talk about certain aspects of it in order to explore it.)
To get the nasty stuff out the way, Telltale’s Batman is another game released in almost unplayable condition on PC and the Digital PS4 Copy I played didn’t really do much better. During a sequence which involves you investigating a grisly crime scene in warehouse, the game crashed my whole PS4. Terrifyingly my screen went black, my PS4 roared in protest as an error code came up and my console restarted itself.
Outside of that I had all sorts of issues which I can’t tell whether they’re performance issues or just bad design. The animation is very jerky and stiff with lifeless faces, there are some rough textures in places and the visuals are clearly compressed and the subtitles can’t seem to keep up with the dialogue. But I am happy to say that the game could well be just a few patches away from a solid experience. Outside of those (hopefully, fixable) technical issues the game provided some trademark, strong, voice acting, dialogue and storytelling from Telltale. While the quicktime events are not particularly enjoyable, the action sequences are all fantastic to watch and I did also enjoy the art direction, even if the graphics and animation realising it weren’t particularly good.
The game allows you to attempt the balancing act of being Bruce Wayne and Batman, although the focus here is more on Bruce Wayne which makes sense with the kind of gameplay experiences Telltale provides. For a certain kind of audience, Telltale’s tone and approach is also likely to have people on their feet cheering in adoration. All the grimdark, brooding that appeals to people of the age of 14 only is removed and in its place is a legitimately hardboiled feeling detective story, one with real weight that puts you under immense pressure and has you contemplate the morals, ethics and potential backlash of every decision against a wonderfully excruciating timer. The history of the Wayne family, the shape of Gotham after Thomas and Martha Wayne’s deaths and even the choices you make when approaching crime fighting as Batman provide a level of complexity that truly does the best of Batman justice.
Along the way you clash with the mobster Carmine Falcone (and his goons of course), Harvey Dent, a cockney hipster Penguin and Catwoman. As this is just a review of the first episode, I can’t yet comment on how much Telltale lives up to a “choose your own adventure” style experience this time around but I can confirm that I made an enemy of Falcone as Bruce but chose to spare him as Batman, teaming with Vicki Vale and using the media to take him down rather than with Jim Gordon and the GCPD’s help (which marked the only decision I made in this opening episode which went against the grain of the popular choices).
We’ll see how that plays out down the line, next time, in my review of Episode Two. See you then!