batman the telltale series episode one realm of shadows review
Everybody’s favorite brooding vigilante has had a pretty successful bat-plunge into the world of video games ever since 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum gave us the Batman game we’ve been yearning for. Seven years and several iterative sequels later, Telltale Games looks to try their hand at the caped crusader. With less of a focus on brutal beat downs, Batman: The Telltale Series introduces us to more of Bruce Wayne than we’ve ever played before. The result is a new take on well-worn territory, and with four more episodes to go, “Realm of Shadows” may be Telltale’s best opening act to date.
In Batman: The Telltale Series, we’re introduced to a more emotional Bruce Wayne still dealing with some growing pains that come with taking up the mantle of Batman. While liberties are taken with some characters, it’s still early in Batman’s career. Memorable villains like The Penguin and Two-Face are still being nurtured, and Bruce’s closeness to Jim Gordon is still a ways away. The focus on this act is squarely on the corruption of Gotham City thanks to the likes of Carmine Falcone.
This is a Telltale Game, meaning the classic practice of the illusion of choice again starts to rear its ugly head. However, due to the nature of this being based off Batman, an existing character and pop culture staple, this may be the most interesting twist on the Telltale Games formula. If you want Batman to have a little more violence and forcefulness in his altercations, the game lets you run wild with that. If you’d rather play the game by the book, that route is ready for you, as well.
Unlike other Telltale games, there’s a lot more emphasis on button prompts during action scenes. It’s the most playing I’ve done in a Telltale game, even if it doesn’t really matter if you mess up a couple of times along the way. The crutch that comes with a game like this, featuring all sorts of choices and dialogue options, means that this Wizard of Oz-esque illusion has to keep going, even when you mess up. Matching most or all of the prompts grants you a more glamorous finishing move, in a way that definitely has inspirations in the Arkham series.
Being the world’s greatest detective, it wouldn’t be right if the investigative portion of Telltale game didn’t quite feel like Batman. With crime scenes being able to be linked in Batman’s thought process, it provides a really neat way to build the scenario from Batman’s point of view.
Visually, this is a stronger offering than what Telltale’s brought to the table in the past, though it can still feel rough. What is more interesting than the graphical fidelity is actually in Batman’s innate ability to track his enemies. It’s not full-fledged Arkham detective vision, but certain scenes play out very interestingly thanks to some of Batman’s augmented reality gadgets. It blends well with the evidence linking.
Overall, if you were tired of the Telltale process, this might not add enough to change your mind. If you’re a Batman buff, this may be a neat take on the dark knight that we haven’t seen a whole lot of. With four episodes on the way, Telltale’s laid a very interesting foundation that yearns to be built upon. For now, this opening act of Batman: The Telltale Series leaves a good first impression.