Previously on Batman…
The cliffhanger in Episode 1, revealed that Bruce’s parents were involved with Mayor Hill and Falcone, two established corrupt characters in the comics. With well-established story arcs, characters, and settings based on the comics, Telltale has chosen to explore a least common approached story: Bruce’s parent’s origins. There have been several perspectives of the Wayne family, but Telltale has plenty of intrigue to keep players digging for the truth.
Most Batman games focus on the dark knight, a form that even non-comic book readers are familiar with based on the films or animated series/films. Telltale’s approach is unique in that Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, is the main focus of the series. It’s obvious that Batman is trying to follow in the success of two other popular Telltale games, The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead based on the comics series Fables (Vertigo) and The Walking Dead (Image Comics), respectively. So far, two episodes have been released and have been met with high praise. If the writing continues to be consistent (unlike the frame rate), then Batman will most likely rise to be in the top 5 Telltale games.
So do I need to know anything about Batman to enjoy the game? No, you don’t. Like most games heavy in lore, any names or references will be understood by those knowledgeable of the lore. However, for players who know very little about Batman (myself included), the extra detail does not detract from the story. In fact, I would consider the story from Batman: A Telltale Series to be similar to any alternative universe stories found in the comics or shows. With fresh plot twists, Telltale ensures that Batman fans and newcomers will leave the game with something memorable rather than rehashed material.
Children of Arkham
In Episode 2: Children of Arkham, Bruce is determined to delve deeper into his parent’s shady past. Players will find themselves interrogating Mayor Hill and Falcone from the previous episode, however, the manner of interrogation (at least with Mayor Hill) is fully up to the player. The choice between donning the Batsuit or remaining as Bruce can be tough. By Episode 2, you feel closer to the man within the suit than the persona he wears. Regardless of lacking the interactive crime scene investigations as Batman, the visuals of fully drawn out fight scenes make up for it completely. One fight scene involves Bruce and Selena Kyle duking it out in a bar against Cobblepot’s thugs, whereas the other fight scene involves their alter egos.
By the end of the episode, players will have encountered two of the so-called ‘Children of Arkham’. At first, the Penguin played out to be the villain of the series, but the plot thickens with a new, mysterious figure. Whether or not the mysterious villain is based from the comics or shows, the strange costume makes it interesting in guessing who the man behind the mask is. This could be Telltale’s version of Scarecrow, but my guess is as good as yours.
Lastly, Telltale is infamous for placing difficult decisions to make in each of their episodes that will ultimately affect the direction of the story. In Episode 2, it’s obvious to see the consequences of saving either Harvey Dent or Selena Kyle. If Harvey Dent is not saved, he will inevitably become Tw0-Face, whereas if Selena is not saved, she just glares at Batman and scurries off like an injured kitten. I didn’t really feel like my decision was difficult to make in this scenario, but there are still 3 more remaining episodes to see how my decision played out.
At its core, the story definitely outweighs immersion and frame rate issues. Frame rate was a huge issue for Episode 1, yet continues to persist in Episode 2. A few instances where immersion was broken stemmed from choppy NPC interactions. At one point, Commissioner Gordon approaches Harvey and Bruce to shake their hands. Instead, Gordon proceeds to shake Dent’s hands twice. Another comical moment involved Selena Kyle’s stylish exit after the bar fight scene. Selena uses one of her gadgets to seamlessly slide up a building. Somehow she avoids all the protruding stairs and windows. These types of issues can either be seen as frustrating or laughable, but let’s hope that Episode 3 is more polished after its release.
There have been some Telltale games that allow you to revisit the episode you already completed and skip to a certain portion of that chapter, however, Batman does not allow for it. In order to rewatch the other possible ending for Episode 2, you would have to restart the entire episode. This isn’t a big issue, but requires players to view the other ending somewhere other than their game.
Overall, Batman: A Telltale Series is a fun ride for fans of the series or newcomers. There’s a great combination of action sequences and dialogue to keep players on their toes throughout the episode. A few hiccups from the frame rate decreasing during heavy cinematics is a bit frustrating, but the game recovers quickly from these issues.
Episode 3 does not have a release date as of yet, but the release date is expected to be in November 2016. Stay tuned to the Noobist for updates on Batman: A Telltale Series!