This past week I finished the first episode of Telltale Games’ second season of Batman, and I’d argue it’s their best series yet.
While I’m personally a big fan of the humor of their Tales from the Borderlands series, Batman has an unforgettable combination of epic action, a twisting storyline, and familiar characters framed in new lights. I love their take on people like Harvey Dent, Selina Kyle, and the Joker — they remain true to these characters’ personalities on the whole, yet present them in fresh contexts that make them feel new too. I also love the balance between investigating crime scenes and punching bad guys as Batman — then going home to the Batcave to research Gotham’s major players with Alfred. The series is just incredibly well-tuned.
These are just a few of the reasons Batman is such a stellar series from Telltale. (No major spoilers!)
The Battle Between Bruce and Batman
In this series, Bruce Wayne is often at odds with his alter ego Batman. You’ll have several opportunities to choose whether to approach someone as Bruce or as Batman — smooth talking as Bruce might prevail in some situations, but the Bat has intimidation on his side. It’s up to you to decide how far each will go to get their way. Batman can be pretty hands-off while leaving arrests to the cops, or beat bad guys to a pulp to get them talking. Bruce can also fall anywhere on the nice guy/jerk scale, and in the newest episode, he can even cross ethical lines in his negotiations with a notorious mobster from whom he needs some information.
It’s fun to play the two personalities off each other. I chose to give my Batman a conscience, so he is careful not to hurt anyone too much. At the same time, my version of Bruce gets his hands dirty when it’s the only way to get the intel he needs on a bad guy.
Combat in Batman is so much fun. I’d argue it’s the best in any Telltale game yet.
Part of that is because of its style: As Batman is punching out bad guys, time slows whenever a button prompt appears onscreen for you to deliver the next hit. It makes for some epic beat-em-up sequences.
Part of it is also because of the variety: There are several instances where you can choose between two moves, such as soccer kicking the bad guy or anchor punching him. (Both are gonna be awesome, so you really can’t go wrong.) In some episodes, you even get to plan your entire fight before it begins, by doing some drone-enabled recon to detect where guards are stationed and decide how best to manipulate the environment to take them down. Being able to make all of these little decisions, then watch it all unfold in real time, is uniquely rewarding.
And part of the action fun is the super meter, which fills as you perform moves correctly. At the end of a big fight, if you’ve filled the meter, you have the opportunity to deliver a super move. Just to make the already epic fight even more epic.
Crime Scene Investigations
Being able to examine crime scenes with Bat tech is a great use of Telltale’s game mechanics. I really enjoyed their past series Wolf Among Us because it revolves around a private eye who does similar investigating. Most Telltale games have you maneuver around rooms looking at things, but having a real reason to do so — picking up clues as you go — is much more interesting than mindless clicking.
As Batman, you get to look into various items around the room, then make links between things that might be connected. For instance, a close look at a body might indicate that the deceased was poisoned — which you can link to the tank of toxic gas elsewhere in the room. Most of the links are pretty straightforward, but I enjoy playing private eye.
Much of Telltale’s Batman story seems to come down to who you can trust. Bruce has Alfred at his side, but beyond that, everybody seems to have ulterior motives — or two faces. Bruce deals with his friend Harvey Dent running for Gotham City mayor, becoming increasingly paranoid, and eventually siding with Batman’s enemies. Bruce also has to weave through negotiations with mobsters, thieves, politicians, journalists — some who turn out to be friends, while others reveal themselves as true enemies.
The first season revolves partially around the reappearance of Bruce’s old friend Oswald Cobblepot, whom we already know as the Penguin — a Batman villain. And Bruce himself may be untrustworthy in some lights — like when he can choose whether or not to pursue Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman), who is dating his friend Harvey. And when Bruce meets John Doe — who looks strangely like the Joker — in Arkham during season one, he uses John to escape, only to find that John Doe will resurface in season two wanting a friendship and favors. And those are just a few examples.
The side story of Bruce learning more about his family’s background, including his father’s legacy, brings these trust issues to the forefront. I really enjoy the way nearly every storyline and new character seems to introduce more potential for conflict, as I have to figure out who to side with versus who might stab me in the back.
If you haven’t played a Telltale Games series before, this is definitely the one I’d recommend. Since it’s Batman, it’s very accessible, and it feels faster paced than some of the other Telltale adventures that feature more walking sim-style gameplay. It’s also one of the few series where I can’t wait to see what happens next. I look forward to continuing Bruce’s story, and seeing whether or not he follows in his father’s footsteps in Gotham. If you have played the series, you’ll know what I mean. =)