The first episode of Batman: The TellTale Series serves as a riveting start to what could be the best Bruce Wayne story ever told.
Batman: The TellTale Series- Episode 1 Realm of Shadows
Developer: TellTale Games
Price: $24.99 for a Season Pass
Platforms: PS3, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Android, iOS
I’ll be honest: Batman: The TellTale Series is only the third TellTale game I’ve ever played. Having played StrongBad years ago and the tremendous Walking Dead this past month, I’m still moderately new to the unique and narrative-driven style TellTale is famous for.
On the other hand, I’m an enormous Batman fan. I’ve read countless comics, seen every movie, and watched most of the shows, so naturally, I was excited to see how the developers I’ve so recently become infatuated with would handle the Dark Knight. I’m happy to report that Batman: The TellTale Series is off to a fantastic start, with the beginnings of a narrative that could stand among the better Batman stories.
Taking place in an entirely new canon, the first episode of Batman builds an absorbing and intricate version of Gotham city. This gives TellTale the freedom to put their own spin on the world of Batman, with the Gotham-inspired Penguin and especially political Harvey Dent standing out. The first episode, Realm of Shadows, revolves around Gotham’s mayoral election. Though this may sound less than interesting to some, the politics and corruption that surround the election are particularly intriguing and tense due to your own personal involvement in them, as both Batman, and more importantly, as Bruce Wayne.
Your time in Realm of Shadows will be neatly divided between two playable characters: Bruce Wayne and Batman. As Batman, you use quick-time events and button inputs to choreograph fight scenes in a segmented, but fast-paced manner. These battles are impressive, as I assumed the largest obstacle for TellTale to conquer would be combining the intense battles of Batman‘s source material with the slower, heavier pace of games like The Walking Dead. TellTale tackles this with finesse, as you quickly match the button inputs on screen with anxiety-inducing speed in order to take down foes with awe-inspiring style. This combat system is satisfying both visually and from a gameplay perspective, providing Batman with unique and gratifying battles.
The real appeal of Batman is, ironically enough, the Bruce Wayne segments. As Bruce, you take on the role of a different kind of hero: that of an influential public figure. Striving to change the corruption that Gotham is built on, you back Harvey Dent, known to most fans as the man who would become notorious villain Two-Face, in his race to defeat organized crime. As you host and attend press events to show your support of Harvey, you’re presented with numerous difficult choices. Every statement you make, and every person you associate with, will have consequences. Do you shake hands with known mobster Falcone in order to help Dent get votes? Do you stand against Falcone and make a terrifying enemy? Everything you do looks to have an impact on the future of Gotham, which provides a thrilling sense of involvement that only TellTale can provide.
Even Batman himself has to make impactful choices. How you talk to, interrogate, and fight your opponents will all impact your public image as a symbol. If you break someone’s arm and threaten to kill your enemies, the police will view you as a dangerous vigilante. Showing restraint, on the other hand, shows characters like Lt. Gordon that Batman can be trusted. Batman always has you on your toes, which makes you truly feel like you have an impact on Gotham.
The visuals are the standard fare seen in other TellTale games, which meshes perfectly with Batman‘s atmosphere and source material. While other franchises may not work well with this style, Batman‘s comic book origins do, making Gotham as moody and grim as ever. Unfortunately the game has its share of visual bugs, with random model pop-ins and occasional frame-rate drops. These issues are by no means game-breaking, but they take away from the immersion every now and then.
The sound behind Batman is noteworthy, as it seems to take inspiration from a number the movies and shows that Batman fans know and love. You can hear echoes of Danny Elfman’s score, alongside the moody tones heard in The Animated Series. The voicework compliments the visuals and score wonderfully, with Troy Baker as a stand-out Bruce Wayne. It’s difficult to hear Batman without comparing his voice to that of the iconic Kevin Conroy, but Baker stands as a great Batman in his own right.
The Final Word
Realm of Shadows is a fantastic start for Batman: The TellTale Series. Despite some minor visual issues, Batman’s first episode plunges players straight into the grim streets of Gotham in a way no other game has. While the series’s overall quality remains to be seen, Realm of Shadows gives both players and Gotham hope for a bright future.
-MonsterVine Review Score: 4.5 out of 5 – Great