Batman: A Telltale Series Episode One Review – Nearly broken, but not all is lost

If it weren’t for a host of bugs and technical hurdles, Telltale’s newest series based on iconic DC Comics hero Batman would be unequivocally recommendable. Unfortunately, severe port issues keep back an otherwise cool take of the Caped Crusader.

When the word got out that Telltale would be working on Batman next, it seemed like a weird match. Considering how action-focused the more recent games like the Arkham trilogy have been, it seemed like a tough sell seeing anything that strayed from that path for a Batman game. But luckily, Telltale was smart in how they have adapted the classic character to their modus operandi, splitting the game into two distinct sections that are introduced rather well in the premiere episode. First, you go shoulder to shoulder with the big bat himself, as he crashes the party of a group of mercenaries storming Gotham City’s mayor’s office in the dead of the night. In this part, you’re treated to much more flexible action controls than what was featured in previous Telltale games such as Jurassic Park, The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us: by making use of button combinations in a similar fashion to a slowed down fighting game. Failing a prompt won’t fail the fight right away, but with enough errors, Batman does go down for the count.

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Still, even with all the fighting in the Batman section, you won’t be shunned away from using the forensic tech that the character is known for as he gets further into investigating a sinister plot taking place in the decadent Gotham City. While it isn’t as involved as an old school adventure game would be, with simpler evidence linking in order to build a crime scene, Batman’s investigative parts go way more in depth than any of Telltale’s previous titles. While it’s very hard to actually fail this part per se, it’s far more involved than before in terms of puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles and uh, speaking, Bruce Wayne’s golden tongue is put to use to great effect in the sections of the episode in which he hangs the cowl in order to attend a fundraiser for mayoral candidate Harvey Dent. Yeah, that Harvey Dent. It’s the part of this game that opens it up for interesting possibilities — it takes place early enough in Batman’s career where most of his enemies haven’t exactly become villains. At E3, Telltale made a point to say they’re not aiming to strictly follow the comic book events and canon, which is made very clear with the relationships Dent keeps in this episode, something that the shining image of the comic’s white knight D.A would abhor.

The Wayne sections in this first episode stick to forming relationships that are sure to play out in a variety of different ways depending on your dialogue choices, especially in regards to a certain character who crashes the party. At a later point in the episode, Bruce is face to face with a friend long unseen who puts Wayne against the wall in regards to who he’s willing to back. In another spot, you’re given the choice of seek support of a prominent figure in the city’s press in regards to the building drama surrounding the Wayne family. Such break or flee moments play out more naturally in this episode that what was seen in other examples of Telltale’s catalog, while still keeping it well within the realm of believability. Granted, there’s an obvious path that comic’s Batman would take, but since you’re the one building his persona, how far are you willing to take it?

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Considering how exciting the possibilities are with this new season, it’s disappointing to see how broken the game is in its current state. On a high end PC that far surpassed the recommended specs, while running the game for near two hours of gameplay, it crashed to desktop over five times. There were also severe technical issues that ranged from deep dives in framerate to scenes not playing. Also, some characters refused to animate during dialogue.

As it stands, at least on the PC front, Batman: A Telltale Series started out on uneven footing. It’s a fun but technically unstable game that delivers an unique take on the Batman lore, building its own canon in the process, which should be interesting to follow in future episodes. Here’s hope it gets properly patched and issues are resolved before part 2 arrives.

score_three-and-a-half-stars

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