Telltale follows their take on The Walking Dead: Michonne with another comic book adaptation – DC’s Batman. The game reverts to Telltale’s standard five-episode format, the first of which, entitled “Realm Of Shadows” was released this past Tuesday across multiple platforms.
Realm Of Shadows’ opening chapter jumps straight into the action, with The Dark Knight foiling an armed gangs attempt to break into Mayor Hill’s office in Gotham City Hall. The action sequence is chock-full of quick time events; utilising face buttons, directional thumbstick movements and a combination of the two. Telltale also makes use of Batman’s utility belt, with a targeting system in place for his Batarang and line launcher / grappling hook. Having disposed of the gang, Batman encounters Catwoman, who in this canon is new to Gotham (and is unbeknown to Batman). There’s a fight between over an encrypted drive, which is the episode’s Macguffin.
The majority of the episode switches perspective to Bruce Wayne, with conversation tree’s and the usual decision making, and takes in locations throughout Gotham – Wayne Manor and the Batcave, a press conference for the opening of the Thomas & Martha Wayne Memorial Hospital, an open air cafe. The supporting cast are introduced throughout the episode; including, amongst others, the Wayne family’s faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth, Gotham D.A and mayoral candidate Harvey Dent, Vikki Vale and mob boss Carmine Falcone – who acts as this episode, and possible the entire series’ big bad.
After plenty of tense conversations, along with initialising the decryption of the drive; Bruce – as The Caped Crusader – investigates a lead at Gotham’s dockland area. Batman arrives in the aftermath of a heist gone wrong, and must piece together the preceding events by linking evidence together. With the investigation complete, Batman replays the events using a kind of three dimensional Bat-Vision. The sequence also has an interrogation scene – where Batman can either show mercy to, or beat a confession out of, a stray goon about Carmine Falcone’s link to the heist.
Bruce returns to Wayne Manor and, having decrypted the drive, learns of Falcone’s master plan. The finale featuring another QTE fight sequence, with Batman infiltrating Carmine’s nightclub and busting some heads. The chapter ends with Falcone divulging a secret about Bruce’s family past that will call his raison d’etre into question. Before the credits role, TV reporter Jack Ryder recaps recent events; with the big decisions you’ve made throughout the episode being weaved into his report.
Graphically, Telltale’s Batman is faithful to the source material; the game literally looks like the pages have been brought to life. Wayne looks suave, with impeccable hair and outfits, Batman looks like the Ben Affleck version of The World’s Greatest Detective. The Batmobile looks like the Tumbler from Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy, although does have its own tricks up its sleeves. The scenery and skylines look like they’ve been taken from the New 52 series of comics. All knit together seamlessly into a believable world. Animation is fluid, with only a little slow down during QTEs.
There are no complaints in terms of voice performances. Troy Baker’s Batman has more of the Affleck growl than Kevin Conroy’s gravelly delivery. The rest of the cast do equally well with their screen time, making the characters their own. The musical score are sweeping orchestral affairs, and the accompanying sound effects feel right.
Realm Of Shadows feature a LOT of conversation, with action and investigation sequences few and far between. I personally enjoyed the episode from start to finish, but even as a huge Bat-fan I have to admit that the seemingly endless conversations that occupy the bulk of the episode bogged down the pacing. The reason is obvious following Falcone’s revelation, as all the talking had built to something big.
My major whinge is that I found the Batarang / line launcher aiming mechanic to be a tad clunky. The target is displayed as a decent-sized circle, with the cross hair attached to the centre with a dotted line. The idea is to put the crosshair into the circle and press the shoulder button to trigger the weapon; however, this is easier said than done.
I like what Telltale have done with their take on Batman, having drawn on a range of sources, mixing them all together, which results in a unique yet familiar feel to Gotham. Telltale have taken care to craft a world that will be familiar to both hardcore and casual fans alike. I also like that Telltale allow the player the opportunity to see Bruce Wayne’s inner conflict, balancing his billionaire playboy image with his nightly escapades. This initial episode sets the scene and story very well; and the cliff hanger leaves so many questions.