Review – Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode One: Realm of Shadows


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If you’ve ever read a comic or watched a movie and thought “Well that’s not Batman,” then Batman: The Telltale Series is going to be for you. . . mostly.

Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode One: Realm of Shadows is a great representation of what Batman is to the player, you mold your own Dark Knight and his alter ego Bruce Wayne. As is common in Telltale’s games, your choices in dialogue and actions while interacting with other characters alters their perception of you. This first episode Realm of Shadows, focuses heavily on these interactions. Rather than some of the more explorative and puzzle based sections of prior Telltale games, it is character and story driven with lots of choices on how you want to treat others. If you’re a fan of Batman and enjoy the narratively driven games Telltale produces you’re going to enjoy this one.

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The art is the same cartoony style seen in previous Telltale games, but that is exactly what a Batman series should have. It’s really like seeing a Batman comic come to life. Batman is a leaner more athletic looking version, similar to the Greg Capullo version, even the suit is reminiscent of the final design the artist did before leaving the Batman a few months back. As you make your way through the first episode, you’re introduced to various other members of Batman’s rogues and allies. Some like Catwoman or Gordon are depicted pretty closely to previous incarnations. Others though range from minor tweaks to complete reimaginings. I can say one character in particular threw me off at first, but definitely stuck at least the initial landing.

When the game starts we’re in a world where Batman already exists, this isn’t a origin story, but it is early in his career. Jim Gordon isn’t yet Police Commissioner, Harvey Dent is still the DA, and Catwoman has only just started making a name for herself in Gotham. The press, citizens, and police aren’t yet sure what to think of their new vigilante, and the criminals don’t yet quiver in fear of him. Aside from being an early adventure as it were, this is also an alternate telling of the Batman mythos. Your relationships with established characters, and as I mentioned the physical appearance are often different than you’re use to seeing.

This first episode, and most likely the season as a whole, is a story about Bruce Wayne rather than Batman, which is a wonderful deviation from the kind of Batman games we usually see. You can make your Bruce a suave, flirtatious playboy; a silent brooding grump; or even a friendly but serious and powerful figure. Personally I played my Bruce as friendly and honest with allies, but cold towards his enemies, because that’s just how I’ve always seen Bruce Wayne. Throughout the two or so hours the episode takes to complete you’ll have plenty of chances to woo or shun the masses, and some of the smallest choices can definitely come back to haunt you later on.

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As you progress through the dialogue you start to see the path the story is going, it’s not your typical Joker is killing people, or Bane is taking over the city plots. This is a mystery more than anything else, and one that has incredible consequences for Bruce and Batman. How you react to the twists thrown at you will most likely have a huge impact on the remainder of the game, with some choices potentially determining early on which characters you’ll have as allies over others.

The Batman portions in contrast focus more on combat decisions and investigation, with Quick Time Events as your mode of action for Batman to deliver his own devastating brand of justice to criminals around Gotham. While the story primarily follows the Bruce Wayne stuff, it opens with a wonderful bit of the Dark Knight doing what he does best, striking criminals with fear and fists. Much like the Bruce sections you can create your own personality for Batman. Ranging from virtuous but intimidating, as he is in Batman: The Animated Series, all the way to the ruthless and violent murderer, we most recently saw in Zack Snyders Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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We’re also treated to a wonderful voice cast being headlined by Troy Baker, who is doing a very different take on Batman from his time as the Lego version. Many voices are going to be familiar to game fans, and even more so to Telltale fans. Popular voice actors including Laura Bailey, Erin Yvette, Richard McGonagle, and Travis Willingham help bring the world of Gotham and Batman to life. The dialogue is good, but with some missteps depending on the paths you choose. A shining aspect for me was the humor, whether being told “Say Hi Bruce” to a group of party goers and responding literally or interacting with the Batmobile and have a fantastic reaction from Batman, which I won’t spoil for you.

If you’ve had any experience with Telltale games, you’ll be familiar with how they weave Quick Time Events (QTE), and time limited dialogue to flesh out the player character, without giving players unlimited decision making time. Realm of Shadows utilizes this heavily, the game opens with several fast paced sequences featuring some of the most chaotic QTE I’ve seen in a Telltale game. Generally these scenes succeed, making the combat feel somewhat more dangerous and purposeful than it has in the past. It feels as if Telltale took a lot of influence in how Batman fights from the Arkham Series. Though you’re not really the one pulling off the combos and jumping between henchmen it’s still fun and exciting to see Batman in action in this comic book to life setting.

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The downside here is the serious curve that seems to be put on the QTEs. You can completely miss several prompts and Batman still performs the actions without hesitation or missing. A gauge in the corner shows about how many times you can miss, which is quite a few. My first playthrough was on Xbox One, where I’m not as automatic about button positioning, thus missing many prompts. This never affected my gameplay as I was always able to hit enough to keep the game moving. This is great for someone new to the series or unfamiliar with the controller, but for anyone hoping for that blood pumping tension you felt in some of The Walking Dead scenes, they’re unfortunately missing. Some are also just too fast, giving you literally no time from the button appearing on the screen to it registering a failed attempt.

The other side to the Batman parts comes down to investigations and planning using various tools and gadgets. You’ll investigate crime scenes and piece together evidence, actually linking different clues at points, until you unravel the culprits. Exploring your environment, while sometimes slow and a bit tedious, is also really interesting. Looking at everything at a crime scene, or wandering around the Batcave is always a good time. There’s also a chance to use remote drones to plan out a course of attack for Batman, scoping out the area, listening into conversations, and deciding how he’ll take down enemies rather than strictly relying on the quick time events.

Overall Realm of Shadows is a solid first outing for the Caped Crusader’s Telltale Games debut and helps to blend the various aspects of the character that fans love. If the remaining episodes of Batman: The Telltale Series continue this trend we’ll easily have another acclaimed adventure game from the popular developer.

I do have to point out that reports seem to be showing the PC version of the game has had problems with crashing and frame rates. Which makes you wonder, is Batman cursed when it comes to PC?

Verdict
Batman_FinalLogo_1920x1080 Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode One: Realm of Shadows

Developer: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games

Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, *Xbox 360, Playstation 3, OSX, Android, and iOS

Released: August 2, 2016

Score: 8 out of 10

*360, PS3, OSX, Android, and iOS releasing later

Walnuts played the PC version, expect his take on it during the next episode of PodQuest.

Chris played through Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode One: Realm of Shadows twice, once on Playstation 4 and once on Xbox One. Both versions were provided for review by Telltale Games.

talks a bunch on PodQuest each week. He's also been known to write about stuff from time to time.

You can Email Chris or follow Chris on Twitter @Just_Cobb or Facebook

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