Playing Batman as Full-on Cheesy Hero in Telltale’s Series

I have a soft spot for playing a hard-ass in video games. Anytime I get dialogue choices and moral decisions in games like Knights of the Old RepublicMass EffectinFAMOUS, or Telltale Games series, I go Sith on everybody. I don’t like to persuade with my heroism; I resort to threats. My characters call people on their bullshit, intimidate to get respect, and act like they own every dungeon or spaceport they walk into. It’s really fun, in part because that’s not at all how I would act in real life.

But playing Telltale’s Batman series, I decided to play the hero like I’ve always seen him: a good guy who believes in the law.

She just tells it like it is.

First off, don’t think that my other characters are bad. They’re not. They’re heroic in their own ways — renegades with big mouths who actually have their hearts in the right place. That’s how I like to play my Mass Effect Commander Shepard, for instance. She bristles when reporters pry into her affairs, plays bad cop whenever she gets the chance, and isn’t afraid to poke somebody in the shoulder to get their attention. But she doesn’t commit genocide. She doesn’t insult the people she cares about. She’s trying to do good, just with her own tough spirit… and questionable methods.

But in my mind, Batman is more of a classic hero. He wouldn’t punch a reporter the way my renegade Shepard does. He wouldn’t risk innocent lives while getting the job done, the way inFAMOUS‘s Cole and Delsin do. I can’t pretend I’m an expert on Batman’s character, as I know him mainly from a couple of comics and a few movies — but I like that he’s a vigilante working with good cops like Gordon to bring people to justice, not just delivering his own.

That’s why I decided to play Batman as a truly good guy. Half of the series, he’s in full Batman cape and cowl, chasing down criminals; the other half, he’s Bruce Wayne, struggling with bad public opinion and his family’s dark past.

batman-4In both scenarios, I made Bruce even-tempered and insightful. He didn’t yell at people, insult or threaten — he saw the good in everyone and believed in the criminal justice system. It was fun, playing a hero as a real hero. It also meant that he could get really, really cheesy at times.

“Sorry about that.”

As Bruce, he pushed friends and enemies to see their own good sides in numerous conversations. Talking to Selina Kyle — a.k.a. Catwoman — he insists that she’s more than just a thief, that she saved his life because deep down she’s a good person. When his friend Harvey Dent, running for Gotham mayor, calls him to say that he’s going to turn on him for the publicity, Bruce shrugs and says it’s cool, he gets it. No matter what Harvey does to him, he takes it like a champ because that’s what friends do, and he believes in Harvey through it all.

Meanwhile, when he dons the cowl by night, Batman doesn’t beat people into submission or threaten to kill them. Even a man as terrible as the mobster Falcone deserves justice from a judge and jury. So he keeps his fists in check. He tries to reason with people — even the series’ main villain, in the very last episode. He even saves criminals from death when he can.

In situations where I could choose between action and thought, I tended to choose the thoughtful approach, too. For instance, at one point Bruce can either pay off the cops to let him through a barricade or ram his car into the barricade, and I chose the former option — so did just over half of players, according to the game stats. In another moment, Batman chooses to expose his identity rather than attack — and some 70 percent of players went that route, too.

Of course, the character of Batman doesn’t have to be so perfect. He can be pretty sinister in some iterations, and I actually find superheroes like Captain America and Superman much more traditionally “good guy” than Batman, who wears black and tries to strike fear in the minds of criminals while simultaneously being a symbol of hope. But what can I say, I like Batman being earnest and civil this time.

batman-1The biggest insight I drew from this playthrough is that despite the cheesiness of hearing Batman say things like, “I know you’re better than that,” to bad people, being this nice felt natural to me. It was like a relief, not having to choose the insult option and see how it played out, whether it pissed somebody off, whether my character would lose a friend or ally or start a war. It felt like a real, old-fashioned hero’s story playing out on the screen.

It’s interesting, how we have this inclination to be good, to do the safe thing, to play it smart. And also to be the hero. I honestly believe that most of us tend towards kindness, and the fact that most players choose “Paragon” routes in video games seems to support that idea.

The fun of playing “bad cop” in a video game, for me, is that it’s very different from the real me. I wouldn’t be able to be that tough in real life. Yet I can’t help but keep my characters’ hearts in the right place, because otherwise I just feel bad about it.

That’s why playing Batman as so traditionally good in this series felt so refreshing to me. I can’t promise I’ll always act like such a role model in games, but when playing a classic superhero like Batman, I kind of like being cheesy about it.

— Ashley

8 thoughts on “Playing Batman as Full-on Cheesy Hero in Telltale’s Series”

  1. This is one of those cases where we’ve had the exact opposite experience. Now, I haven’t technically played this series, but I did watch my friend livestream it all, and she had CrowdPlay turned on for most of it, so I had a say in her decisions.

    Normally, I play the goodie two-shoes in games. At most I might be chaotic good, playing fast and loose with the rules and attacking corrupt authority, but my characters are usually archetypically heroic. However, in Batman’s case, I almost always voted to brutalize criminals and generally be a mean SOB. My preferred interpretation of the character is that he’s a very disturbed man, but he’s been able to channel his demons toward a more productive end — almost like Dexter Morgan. I mean, you’d have to be a bit messed up to dress up as a bat and run around beating up criminals, wouldn’t you?

    The one exception is Selina. I always voted to be as nice to her as possible. Partly because I always just end up seeing Laura Bailey as Jaina Proudmoore, and partly because I like the idea of being a gentleman in every reality.

    1. Haha that’s funny we are so opposite. I like your interpretation of Batman, though. I would have never thought of him that way, but yeah, running around as a Bat beating up criminals is not exactly normal behavior haha.

  2. I generally tried to play him pretty “good guy” too in my run. As Tyler suggests, though, even in a more badass/Frank Miller-inspired run I would probably still have the soft spot for Selina. She’s one of my favorite characters in DC’s collection (I definitely like her more than Batman), and I’ve always found her reluctant acceptance of the good in her far more compelling than when she is played as just a villain.

    Side note: the current Batman books are written by Tom King, perhaps my favorite writer of 2016 in comics (his 12-issue maxi-series books The Vision and Sheriff of Babylon are some of the best things I have ever read). Well worth consideration, especially the arc starting in #9 (runs through #13). And if you like Catwoman like I do, then #14/#15 (one out last week, one out next week) is a two-issue mini arc focusing purely on the relationship between Cat and Bat.

    Are you going to try playing through on a separate save file to go all Dark Knight on Gotham? Or are you one of those play-through-once-and-that’s-my-canon people when it comes to these interactive narratives?

    1. Ooh thanks for the comic book recommendations, I always need those! I’ll check them out. I love Catwoman too and have read almost nothing from her, so I can’t wait to read those! I do not plan to replay these games at all. I like to play Telltale series once and make it my canon, then I’ll just look up alts online if I’m curious haha. Were you satisfied playing him as a “good guy” in your run then, or are you replaying at all?

      1. No problem! I’d also definitely recommend looking into the Ed Brubaker run on Catwoman, which has been released in trade form (Vol. 1: Trail of the Catwoman; Vol. 2: No Easy Way Down; Vol. 3: Under Pressure). Brubaker’s approach is more hardboiled/noirish (that’s his genre — he’s written Criminal, Fatale, The Fade Out, as well as creating The Winter Soldier for Marvel).

        I enjoyed playing him that way but I really wanted to see how things would go differently if, for example, I brutalized bad guys or refused to be a doormat for Harvey. I will probably replay, which is not something I’ve done much of in TTG before (except Wolf Among Us, because they had some achievements you could only get by making certain choices I hadn’t made in my initial run). Not because I’m dissatisfied, but because I realize I’ve only seen a fraction of the lines/exchanges they wrote and I’d really like to see how various choices play out.

  3. I have yet to do renegade runs in games that allow you to do it. I guess I’m more traditional and prefer classic hero runs all the way through. :) I played my Bruce Wayne as good guy all the way through, but not immune to being flawed either. When it came time to choose whether or not Bruce spends the night with Selina, I chose the sleep with her route. It’s messed up to have Harvey’s best friend sleep with the girl Harvey is seeing, but to me, it made sense to let Bruce have a moment of weakness. Their attraction is undeniable and in that moment, I couldn’t really see Bruce resisting. This is why I really like playing games like this one. It forces you to think what you would do in that moment, whether or not you’d personally make a choice like that in real life.

    1. Yeah that’s a great point, and that scene is one I went with too! When Harvey came in later I realized what Bruce had done and felt a little guilty, but that’s the nature of these games. They do get you thinking and dealing with consequences in a realistic way.

  4. I adored this game: And let me say, this was the first game that I am reconsidering some of my initial choices. Of course I was a “Paragon” Batman because it seemed fitting, but there were a few things that I just wish I had changed. (Selena and Harvey being the ones I went back and forth on the most). What would have happened if I DIDN’T do certain things – would it have helped him? Ugh.
    Anyway, great review.

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