Batman: The Telltale Series “Realm of Shadows” (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Episode one of Telltale’s take on the Batman mythos sees Gotham’s caped crusader in his younger days. The story opens with a group of red masked (the Red Hood gang?) mercs infiltrating the offices of Mayor Hill to get their hands on a hard-drive. While Bats makes short work of these goons, a nimble footed cat-burglar makes her Gotham debut… seemingly set to nab the same hard-drive.
It’s another origin story and from the looks of it, the folks at Telltale are keen on weaving their own mythos. It’s a tale as old as time; we’ve seen it animated, in live action, animated, and of course in the comics. Immediately setting itself apart from the extensive media already telling the same story, Telltale gets a bit creative with how they interpret the story of an orphaned kid with an intense sense of justice.
Set in a time before the supervillains, before the Joker, Batman’s primary foil is the corruption in his city. Mayor Hill is in bed with the mob, Carmine Falcone rules the city with an iron fist, and the GCPD still views Batman as a menace. Gotham is yet to rally behind the symbol of the bat. Bruce Wayne is trying to get Harvey Dent elected to the mayors office while dealing with the return of criminally fueled childhood pal Oswald (the Penguin) Cobblepot and making heads or tails of the encrypted hard-drive Catwoman tried to steal.
The themes of corruption and family secrets prominently drive this first episode. After turning down Falcone’s offer to fall in line, evidence comes to light linking the Wayne family to shady offshore accounts tied directly to the Falcone family.
Despite being a story we all know, Telltale manages to give it a fresh spin. Flashbacks to the day his parents died while weaving in the characters who eventually will play a large role in Batman’s future help establish this “pilot” episode. Not much really happens, and there is much more Bruce Wayne than Batman in this episode. I was a bit let down with the lack of Batman scenes, it played heavily on the drama involving Carmine Falcone, Harvey Dent’s run for mayor, and a brief run in with Oswald Cobblepot.
Going in, I didn’t expect this new series to play heavy on the action. Telltale games are known for weaving a compelling story while staying fairly light on the action. Despite this, even with the game’s narrative driven format, Batman: The Telltale Series has its fair share of action. Combat is pre-scripted with actions linked to QTE style gameplay. Landing punches, kicks, and gadget based moves are dependent on the player’s reflexes.
Ever the detective, I was pleased to see that they didn’t forsake Batman’s role as the DCU’s greatest detective. Using his gadgets, you are tasked with solving mysteries and utilizing his extensive arsenal of high-priced toys. Nothing ended up being an incredibly difficult head scratcher, I was hoping for more of a challenge… but hey, this is just the first episode.
Much like other Telltale games, the notion of choice play heavily on the way the story is presented. While this is Batman, and of course you shouldn’t expect to be given the chance to act too far out of character, you do have some choice in how you interact with the world around you… from seemingly small choices like choosing whether to shake Carmine Falcone’s hand to more brutal choices like whether you should break a sniper’s arm after already subduing him. While there isn’t a set path for how your Batman will play out… you could be the young and brazen Batman who shows no mercy to Gotham’s criminal element.. or you could be the calculating Batman who knows when to break and when to leave it be.
If you’ve played Telltale games before, the gameplay should be familiar. The game’s interface is intuitive and easy to understand. Visually, it retains the animated look of Telltale’s library. This game is beautiful and part of me wishes I could play a Batman game in this art-style with the gameplay engine from the Arkham series.
Episode one does a good job telling the story and establishing the world we are in. Surprisingly, they don’t dwell too much on the past which allows the player to really jump in. This is a younger Batman, still a superheroing rookie. While comics like Batman Year One and games like Arkham Origins tell a similar tale, Telltale’s entry stands on its own two feet in glorious fashion. Despite the pluses, the slow crawl of the first episode does leave much to be desired… NEED MORE BATMAN.
+ Simple gameplay
+ Fairly action packed
+ Interesting story
+ Not bogged down with parents death scene which we've seen a million and a half times...
- Not enough BATMAN... for a BATMAN game
- Sexy Oswald Cobblepot is weirdly unsettling...