Telltale games are like long, drawn out journeys where your friend takes a break one month at a time to prepare for another 2 hours of hiking because he prefers the episodic model of walking. Part of me would almost recommend waiting for a Telltale Series to finish until playing (or maybe for Telltale to stir the episodic-boat and release one of their endeavours as a full game), but the other part doesn’t have enough discipline to quell the curiosity, because even when you’ve done it all before, they’re still quite good.
Telltale’s Batman has been one of the more punctual and prompt payments of episodic homage since they started doing these. We haven’t had to wait around for each like it’s Half-Life 2. Waiting for the multi-faceted plot to finally untangle its dark web of political lust and champagne scheming is the only patience required.
And it has by and large, been a story worth waiting for. Batman is simply one side of Bruce Wayne shown more evidently - his resolute determination and psychological need to gain control over the tragedy of his past-circumstances by trying to gain control over present ones. But this series has been about Batman out of costume; the nonchalant business knight and how his dealings affect those of Batman’s. It’s built a story from the little things and played for new circumstances by dallying with established beliefs. While there are many sub-foes, the real nemesis is someone I don’t think has had the privilege before - being so auxillary you wouldn’t normally think to make them a villain.
So while I’m partial to the novelty, this was a storyline that pressed my tolerance for narrative refreshment. A lot of effort was put into making this miscellaneous character a villain, but they never really ascend their miscellaneous roots. I was shown a seagull and told it was a Zapdos. But I’m going to stop being picky and give credit where due, because this character’s motivations were amply explored and psychologically justified. While the big reveal from episode 3-4 was somewhat left-field, I can understand why someone would turn to villainy considering the past Telltale gave them.
Though Batman himself is rather slow in picking up on the signs. Even when you’ve fully comprehended the evidence presented, Batman’s insists on procedure, taking you through another round of connect-the-dots to satisfy the greater good of accessibility. They’re not exactly detective grade, and I’ll take these any day over Rocksteady’s captain obvious clue-finder-vision, but Episode 5 really published how these sections eventually regress into multi-choice questions you can never lose. I know Telltale games are about flow, and putting a hard challenge in the middle does tend to put a batarang in the works, but how about adding difficulty options for those who want a tougher test?
And I say the same for quick-time battles. Bouts in Episode 1 were swift and hard to keep up with, but ever since they’ve been predictable. I do want a narrative to enjoy, though I also want to feel like Batman in every aspect. I’m already making his life choices, I might as well suffer his injuries too.
I’ve always enjoyed Telltale stories – Batman included. But what I enjoy most about them is what I discover about myself; my default mood, the decisions I’m prone to. According to this series I’d absolutely clean up as a half-assed CEO/crime strategist and not so much as a romantic sage. And while Bruce Wayne is a projector by which we can learn about ourselves, we simultaneously get an intimate look into the deciding decisions around the man who is Batman.
Most stories of the Dark Knight talk about Bruce Wayne’s psyche by way of Batman, though Telltale chose to discuss Batman’s psyche by way of Bruce Wayne – all the while weaving a malleable experience for a character who’s not meant to be flexible. It’s not the best Telltale series I’ve played, but it’s a new approach to a cape well-worn, and tangible assurance Telltale don’t simply blanket their design mantra over every license they attain.
Ben received a digital copy of Batman - The Telltale series from Telltale for review.