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Batman - The Telltale Series Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Although the villains aren't always interesting and the puzzles are lacking, Batman - The Telltale Series is a strong debut that hints at even better adventures to come. I really enjoyed spending time getting to know Bruce Wayne in a way we rarely see in other games, and I hope the series continues to explore the billionaire's psyche. Now let's see how much damage the Joker can do. Rating: 78%
Batman - The Telltale Series
Batman - The Telltale Series Batman - The Telltale Series Batman - The Telltale Series Batman - The Telltale Series
  • Review Score:

  • B+
(NOTE: Batman - The Telltale Series wrapped up earlier this week and I want to talk about it. But warning, this review is chock full of spoilers for the entire series, including the season finale. If you haven't finished the game, then I recommend you turn away right now. Go pick it up, I enjoyed it and gave it a strong review. For everybody else, including the people who have no intention of ever playing it and just want to hear about the story, welcome to a spoiler-filled review of Batman - The Telltale Series.)

How important is Batman? That seems to be the driving question in Telltale's Batman series, a game more concerned with Bruce Wayne than his crime-fighting alter ego. We're given a broken man who has no problem beating up a whole gang of henchmen, but impotently stands by as he's fired from his job, stripped of his fortune, publically humiliated and forced to watch his family get dragged through the mud.

I found myself thinking a lot about Batman's importance while playing through Telltale's thoroughly satisfying new series. We all know that the caped crusader is good at bringing down super villains, but I started to wonder if Bruce Wayne needs Batman more than Gotham City does. Whenever his life is crumbling apart and things couldn't possibly get any worse, the billionaire playboy opts to shield himself (both figuratively and literally) using a menacing costume and a whole bag full of tricks. If not for Batman, Bruce would be forced to confront the horrible things happening in his life and find a healthy way to move forward.

More than anything else, what I like most about Telltale's series is that it finally gives us a chance to dig into the mind of Bruce Wayne. So many of the movies and video games have treated the philanthropist as an afterthought; a thing you have to acknowledge in order to get to more man-in-suit crime-fighting. It's refreshing to see a game devote so much time to the relationship between the man and the cape.

Because we both understand and empathize with Bruce as a real person, it makes his setbacks all that more painful to watch. It all starts with the revelation that that Thomas and Martha Wayne were not as squeaky clean as some would like you to believe. Before they were tragically gunned down behind that theater, the elder Wayne had ties with the mob and may have even sent people to Arkham Asylum against their will. This is a lot for Bruce to process.

Unfortunately, this is also playing out in the media, with a mayoral race happening in the background. The rumors and innuendos circling around the Wayne estate has caused a rift between Bruce and Harvey Dent, who up until recently had been using the billionaire's money to gain the upper hand against the sitting mayor. This rift was further severed after a tragic encounter with a light bulb, leaving Dent scarred and schizophrenic.

Batman - The Telltale Series (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

And then there's the Penguin, who is presented here as a former schoolmate of Bruce and a smooth-talker with a knack for always being at the right place at just the right time. He's a world away from the short, obese version we typically see, and Telltale has managed to make him terrifying in a way most other movies and games have failed.

This series does an excellent job subverting a lot of the pre-conceived notions you have about the characters in Batman, especially when it comes to Vicki Vale. As somebody always waiting for the other shoe to drop, I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't see her criminal involvement coming, and it led to one of the best cliffhangers of the year. That said, her alter ego, a brand new character known as Lady Arkham, looks like it would be more comfortable fighting Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid than stuck in a Batman game.

Of all the changes made to the fiction, it was Selina Kyle who ended up remaining the most grounded character. She acted exactly how I expected every step of the way, never once deviating from the Catwoman we know and love. She's used wisely here, allowing us to discover another side of Bruce we rarely see. What's more, the game gives longtime shippers the chance to see these two masked heroes make sweet, sweet love.

This being a Telltale release means that bedding Catwoman isn't the only choice you'll have to make. The series is constantly testing Batman, giving the player a chance to shape the story around their actions. If you want to be the cold-bloded anti-hero who isn't afraid to kill, then there are options to make that happen. That said, it never quite goes full Zack Snyder, but you have some freedom to create the Batman you want to see.

Batman - The Telltale Series (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

This is a young and inexperienced character, somebody who is still honing his craft and finding his place in Gotham City. This not only gives both Bruce and Batman a lot of room to grow, but gives the writers an opportunity to introduce well-known characters in unique ways. I especially like the way they incorporated The Joker, who has yet to nail down his gimmick. This game gives us the rare opportunity to team up with one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, and it sets the table for what I'm sure will be an incredible confrontation in future seasons.

And speaking of confrontations, I like the way the series handles the three main villains. Instead of turning it into the over-the-top cluster you typically see at the end of a comic book action film, we're given three completely different and emotionally satisfying fights. We get a taste of the ridiculous when Cobblepot steals Lucius Fox's experimental gear and wears a digital monocle. It's a largely frivolous fight that is more cathartic than anything.

Bruce Wayne's tussle with Two Face, on the other hand, is a completely different story. The game forgoes the usual rock-em, sock-em action and instead becomes about the two men connecting. It's a perfect way to handle a character not necessarily known for being an expert at close-quarter combat, and is a stark reminder that there is more than one way to defeat your foes.

Batman - The Telltale Series (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Of course, all this is simply setting up an epic final confrontation with Lady Arkham, who has become a slightly more sympathetic character after we learn about her tragic backstory. As quick-time fights go, this one doesn't disappoint and lasts for a good long time. But more than anything else, it forces the conflicted hero to finally choose a side -- the man or the mask.

And that's precisely what this game does so well. It forces Bruce (and, by extension, the player) to finally confront the importance of Batman. This is a man who doesn't just like to fight crime and keep the city safe, there's a psychological need for the cape and mask. When everything is crumbling around him, Batman is there to save the day and make things right. Bruce needs Batman as much, if not more, as Gotham City does.

As a tale of a broken man becoming the hero we know and love, Telltale does an excellent job with the material. That said, I couldn't help but feel like everything was small in scope. For a game with three larger-than-life villains, the story is surprisingly contained and never goes as over-the-top as you might expect. There simply aren't that many surprising twists and a lot of the build-up felt familiar.

This was especially true when it came to the story of Harvey Dent, a character destined to turn evil at some point in the story. The game wants you to choose how to deal with him on a personal and business level throughout the first two episodes, but the whole time it felt like my actions were inconsequential. I couldn't imagine a scenario where Dent isn't horribly disfigured and becomes a psychotic killing machine with a lucky coin. The same can be said for Selina Kyle, the soon-to-be Commissioner Gordon and the rest of the characters we know from many decades' worth of movies, TV shows and comic books.

Batman - The Telltale Series (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

It also doesn't help that these three particular villains are all boring in their own way. Cobblepot is easily the most entertaining to watch, but he isn't given much to do. He ends up being more of a puppet than a Penguin, and most of his scenes involve wholly unbelievable boardroom politics. On the other hand, Lady Arkham has all the makings of being an incredible new addition to the rogue's gallery, but she lacks charisma and energy when dressed up as Psycho Mantis. Vicki Vale is a significantly more interesting character, and I was sad to see that side of her go halfway through the series.

Of the three villains, Two Face is the most compelling. He's conflicted like Bruce and actually evolves as a character the longer the series goes. He's a great guy to have in the Batman universe, but kind of a boring super villain. It takes several episodes before Two Face even shows up, and most of his carnage is reserved for the very end. What this game needed was somebody more outrageous to balance out the blandness.

And on the topic of making additions, I wish the investigation scenes were a bit more involved. Batman basically walks around connecting similar clues in an attempt to piece the crime scene back together. This is a neat idea, but it's a bit on the simplistic side. Even Rocksteady's Arkham series had Batman doing more than connecting the dots. Telltale is a company that has made four point and click adventure games based on CSI and one adapted from Law & Order, so I was a little disappointed to see how barebones the detective work is in Batman. Hopefully they'll do more with that in future seasons.

Although the villains aren't always interesting and the puzzles are lacking, Batman - The Telltale Series is a strong debut that hints at even better adventures to come. I really enjoyed spending time getting to know Bruce Wayne in a way we rarely see in other games, and I hope the series continues to explore the billionaire's psyche. Now let's see how much damage the Joker can do.
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