Review: Telltale's Batman - Episode One

An interesting interpretation of Gotham.

Telltale’s first episodic adventure with Batman may be the most invested I have been in the character for years. This imagining of Batman perfectly blends the dark symbol of shadowy fear and politics-wrestling community figure together to create the most interesting duality between Bruce and the Bat I have had the pleasure of experiencing.

Yep, Telltale’s Batman Episode One sets the series off to a damn promising start.

 

The most immediate positive visible in Episode One is the brilliant balance struck between showcasing a gritty and dark Batman story with the tale of Bruce Wayne, a human trapped inside the complex politics inherent with public status and wealth.

From getting shot by the police for being too effective a symbol of fear to having to weigh the benefits and risks of shaking the hand of a powerful influencer, the opening episode does a great job of reminding players that these are two sides of one man. The actions of one side will certainly affect the other, and those effects are thankfully not always immediately obvious,

 

Does a great job of reminding players that these are two sides of one man

Many of the larger moral choices in Batman Episode One seem to centre around forcing players to pick between the support or rejection of powerful individuals versus altering the wider public’s perception of Batman and Bruce. Snubbing a handshake from a mobster might ensure the public knows you’re not willing to play his game as Bruce, but will likely cause him to put additional pressure on you throughout the rest of the episode. You have top decide which targets are worth painting on your own back.

I played through Episode One of Batman with a long-time fan of the comics, and we found ourselves hard pressed to make our choices, even with extended knowledge of characters and how their arcs often play out in the long term. This difficulty making choices in spite of ample evidence really was one of the strongest aspects of this Telltale adventure.

 

This is no Batman Arkham series combat system, by any stretch

Like many previous Telltale games, the combat in Batman is serviceable, but a little uninteresting. Quick time events work okay for survival situations, like those in The Walking Dead, but in real-time combat encounters, as Batman is more prone to, they feel like they are slowing down the action to give players minimal input. This is no Batman Arkham series combat system, by any stretch.

 

Planning out missions and clue connecting at crime scenes work better than direct combat. Missions revolves around selecting targets and choosing between options for engaging them, while crime scene deduction involves finding clues and linking them together to see the crime scene recreated.

While neither mechanic is particularly deep, they both fit nicelt within the world. It’s just a shame that in the crime scene deductions you can’t accidentally make an incorrect guess and harm your own chances of catching a criminal successfully: you either 100% succeed, or you don’t progress.

 

Batman Episode One also makes some small changes to the Batman world that allow it to feel fresh and new, without making it incomparable to the original material. Cobblepot is now a handsome, trench coat-clad homeless King for example, maintaining many necessary character traits while shaking up the expectations of how the character presents and initially acts.

 

Small changes to the Batman world that allow it to feel fresh and new

Telltale’s Batman Episode One suggests a strong start for a series that looks set to easily support at least it’s own five-episode-long arc, if not a whole second season. It does a great job of balancing Bruce Wayne and Batman as the two sides of the same coin while refreshing certain aspects of the lore in interesting ways. I have very little bad to say about this game so far.

Code for this game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

 

Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC/Mac, iOS, Android

Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games

Price: £18.99/$24.99

Release date: August 2, 2016

  • Strong weaving of Bruce and Batman
  • Refreshes characters and designs
  • Tough choices
  • Combat is mediocre
  • Deduction failure has no consequences

A solid start to the series and an excellent re-imagining of Batman, the episode suffers somewhat from Telltale’s usual lack of mechanical depth.

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Laura's gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them.

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