written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
So I know I reviewed the first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series already, but I made a decision after playing the second and subsequently the third chapter. Instead of running a review on each individual episode, I instead want to review the whole season as a whole.
Since I already touched on it in the previous article, I won’t go too deep into the visuals, gameplay, and voice-acting. Feel free to check it out here, but if you prefer the TL;DR approach… take this:
- visually very “Telltale” so of course they look good!
- Troy Baker (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Laura Bailey (Selina Kyle/Catwoman), andTravis Willingham (Harvey Dent/Two-Face) shine bright.
- controls are very “Telltale” full of QTE and some interactable moments.
Okay! So let’s get into this! Batman: The Telltale Series is another take on Batman’s origin. I know I know, you’ve had enough of the parents die outside the Monarch Theatre moment to fill a depressing snuff film titled “How to Make an Orphan and Subsequent Superhero.” But like Uncle Ben dying in Spider-man’s story or Luke discovering the burning remains of his aunt and uncle… these moments are needed to make the hero, but I digress.
The city is corrupt and Batman is still myth as the game opens with the city and the police yet to make up their mind about the mysterious vigilante. Carmine Falcone grips the city, paying off everyone from elected officials to street-level police officers. This firmly puts Falcone in Bruce’s crosshairs, that is until a devastating secret about the Wayne family’s past sends his focus on Falcone’s organization to the back-burner, instead forcing him to deal with the mysterious Children of Arkham and their enigmatic masked leader.
The story is full of Batman’s rogues with some playing more support roles and others standing against Batman as a primary villain for a chapter. The first big-bad you encounter is Oswald “the Penguin” Cobblepot. A very different take on the classic Bat-villain, the Telltale version of the Penguin is less the rotund birdman he is in the comics and instead is realized as a slim, good-looking English bloke with a very hipster hair cut. Oswald and Bruce grew up together and despite distrusting him initially, Bruce considered him a childhood friend. Another main villain who starts off as a friend before going full foil is Harvey “Two-Face” Dent. Introduced in the first episode, Harvey starts the tale as Bruce’s friend who relies on Bruce as a benefactor for his bid for mayor.
The rest of the cast is full of Bruce’s allies; his ever loyal butler Alfred, head of Wayne R&D Lucius Fox, GCPD Lieutenant James Gordon, reporter Vicki Vale, and Bruce’s on-again-off-again OTP Selina Kyle all play major roles through the story.
Originally, I knocked the first episode points for being almost too Bruce Wayne heavy… something that upon further reflection I realize isn’t a bad thing. The balance between Batman and Bruce is fairly equal through the whole package, with some moments allowing you to choose whether you’ll tackle the problem as Bruce Wayne or suit up as Batman.
The first three chapters are an example of divine story telling. Despite taking some clear liberties with the source material, Telltale managed to craft an interesting new take on a Batman origin. The narrative cues and story beats flowed wonderfully leading to an eventual reveal (at the end of episode 3) that started what I call the downward spiral of the whole season. Chapters 4 and 5 felt so thematically different from the first half they could have come up with anything better than what they did here. I won’t spoil it here but I will delve into the twist and my distaste of it in the following paragraphs (that you can conveniently skip).
WE ARE NOW ENTERING SPOILER COUNTRY, MAKE SURE TO SCROLL PAST THE NEXT COUPLE PARAGRAPHS UNTIL YOU REACH ANOTHER STRING OF BOLD TEXT.
Okay, so when we get to the big twist… it’s revealed that Thomas Wayne wasn’t the man Bruce though he was. In league with Carmine Falcone and Mayor Hill, the trio calculated Gotham’s growth at the hands of innocent people. One such victim was Oswald Cobblepot’s mother, a narrative choice that almost makes you empathize with the future crime boss. Sure, Oswald is unhinged and greedy, he’s the mirror image of Bruce if he let his wealth dictate his demeanor… but as a new layer on Penguin’s origin we get the boy who lost his mother and was cheated out of his inheritance by three very greedy men.
The next twist we get involved the leader of the Children of Arkham, a twist I didn’t want to believe as chapter three came to a close. Vicki Vale steps out as the mastermind and overall big-bad of the whole story. Adopted by the Vales, this version of Vicki was born Victoria Arkham. She was sent into the foster child system after her parents met the same fate Oswald Cobblepot’s mother did. This is such a big change from the character’s history and one I did not expect. It also left a bad taste in my mouth, to me it was like they were looking for something to shock the audience solely for the sake of shocking us. I tried to look at it objectively, did it absolutely have to be Vicki? Honestly, they could have picked anyone and it wouldn’t change the overall narrative. Using Vicki was unnecessary, such a grave misuse of the character.
To make matters worse, chapter four used come of Batman’s more famous rogues… primarily the Joker… in such a depressingly lackadaisical manner, I get that this is still a young Batman… but they could have just not included them instead of throwing them in solely for the sake of name dropping.
SPOILERS OVER… ALL GOOD BAT-FANS!
VERDICT: Despite the ambitious nature of the project and the liberties they took with the source material, all in all I enjoyed the experience. The first three chapters were so good that despite how let down I was by the last two… it didn’t gravely impact my enjoyment. The visuals looked very Telltale, which feel like they were ripped directly from the funny pages. Solid performances from the cast round out a package that started stellar but ended going limp at the end. Give it a play, it’s worth the play… personally, I’d like to know if you felt as bugged by the twist as I was.
+ Interesting take on the Batman origin
+ Balanced well between Bruce and Bat
+ Stellar performance from the voice-cast
- Episodes 4 & 5
- Hipster Penguin
- Uneeded cameos