(Disclaimer: The following is a non-profit unprofessional blog post written by an unprofessional blog poster. All purported facts and statement are little more than the subjective, biased opinion of said blog poster. In other words, don’t take anything I say too seriously.
The following post also contains endgame and heavy SPOILERS. Be advised.
Just the facts, cause you’re in a hurry.
Retail price: 24.99 USD
How much I paid: 22.99 USD
Rated: M for Violence, Blood and Gore, Language
How long I played: 11 Hours. 5 Hours for initial playthrough and 6 Hours for playthrough going through alternate choices.
Microtransactions: Technically, yes. Episodes are packaged individually at 5 USD per episode but are sold as a season to access all the story content.
What I played on: Regular PS4 and PC.
Performance Issues: While Telltale’s Batman story might be good, MAN does it have huge technical problems. Even on my High End PC (which can run Gears of War 4 and The Witcher 3 without a problem), I was getting mismatched lip-sync, framerate drops, and long loading times. On the PS4, the game almost slows down to a crawl trying to load the scenes, the shadow effects sometimes stutter, pop-up textures and I had numerous instances where the game crashed on me and I had to restart the game. In the latest episode, a floating set of eyes and teeth were seen flying around, when I realized that was supposed to be an NPC but the bugs rendered the NPC invisible. While Telltale has released patches to fix these issues, the fact remains that a game ‘this’ graphically demanding, requiring a next gen console or absurdly high specs for PC, shouldn’t be having this number of issues, especially with Telltale’s continued embrace of cartoon graphics.
My Verdict: Not as good as Telltale’s the Walking Dead: Season 1 or Tales from the Borderlands, but not as disastrous as Telltale’s Jurassic Park or Game of Thrones, Telltale’s Batman sits comfortably in the middle of its library. Some good performances and plot turns keep things interesting, but you can’t help but feel the story is playing it safe while your choices continue to have little to no major impacts on the plot. It’s an okay Batman story for an okay Telltale game. If you’re a fan of either, go ahead and pick it up. But, for those who aren’t sure, get it on sale or watch a playthrough of it.
Batman was always one of those properties that continued to be a mainstay in popular culture. After more than 75 years in the spotlight, the story of Bruce Wayne avenging his fallen parents by dressing up as a Bat, has been told, retold, rebooted, deconstructed, parodied, mocked and had all sorts of things done to it and still more media outlets continue to tell this story again and again. Batman’s such a reliable fixture that multiple characters and spin-offs are added as a continuation of it. (Hell, by the writing of this review, DC just approved a film of the Gotham City Sirens).
So, when Telltale had announced they would be adapting it, I was excited. Telltale had made a lot of good games in the past and I had hoped I could get a fresh perspective from them. Remember, this is Batman we’re talking about. His character somehow manages the feet of being both appealing to children and adults and never really goes out of style. It’s been both a kid’s cartoon AND a deconstructive commentary with discussions of police states and anarchy. Writers such as Paul Dini and Frank Miller have tackled him. So, if anything, Telltale should bring a fresh new perspective on him.
What they settled for was more aimed at adults, but still reasonably human. It could be called Batman: Year 3. Bruce has been around as Batman for a while and the city’s still unsure about him but isn’t willing to turn away his help. Meanwhile, Bruce is fundraising his friend Harvey Dent’s bid for Mayor. But when both a mysterious Cat Burgler and the infamous mobster Carmine Falcone visit him on the same night, Bruce must find a way to stop crime as Batman and making sure his reputation isn’t torn to shreds as allegations of his family’s ties to the mob surface.
As the story continues, Bruce gets dangerously close to Selina Kyle, his friend Harvey begins having a mental breakdown and starts enforcing Draconian laws on Gotham, the terrorist group known as The Children of Arkham, led by their leader, Lady Arkham revealed to be Gazette reporter, Vicki Vale.
Bruce must find a way to stop Vicki’s plot to tear Gotham apart while also dealing with Oswald Cobblepot’s attempts to seize control of Wayne Enterprises and Harvey Dent’s slowly unraveling psyche.
The standard elements of the Telltale are there. Players choose dialogue in timed sequences and make decisions which may or may not alter the plot in significant ways. Inbetween, they can walk around small areas or hubs and interact with the environment until they pick the right combination of items to forward the story. When faced with enemies, players enter quick time events and must successfully input a series of button combinations in order to advance the plot. New to the Telltale formula is the ability to plan Bruce’s ways to attack by linking an enemy to an object. For example, Bruce may have the option of throwing a henchmen to a flight of stairs or towards a statue. In some of the exploration areas of the game, Bruce may reconstruct a crime scene using holograms in his cowl’s visor and link elements together so can create a picture of what happened.
Bruce is our character once again and little has changed about him. Still the billionaire playboy, Telltale wisely puts the character through the wringer by revealing that Thomas Wayne had ties to crime. As such, Bruce’s reputation is under constant attack and Bruce has to walk a fine line, lest he get thrashed in public. Troy Baker plays Bruce and this is the first time where I felt he was out of his depth. I really love Troy Baker, but of the two personas he has to adopt, he’s clearly more at home as playboy Bruce than the Dark Knight.
Alfred (played by Enn Reitel), continues to play the faithful butler. He doesn’t change much outside his numerous iterations in other stories and acts as the moral conscience for Bruce. The story eventually focuses on Bruce’s and Alfred’s relationship and I think it works for the most part (even if I get the suspicious feeling other stories have done this job of establishment for Telltale).
Selina Kyle frustrates me. Let’s get right down to it; Telltale obviously wants Selina to be a love interest. Even in situations where she would be turned off by Bruce (Bruce can abandon her to save Harvey in Episode and choose not to flirt with her), she still feels intimate towards Bruce and gets physically close to him. (To be fair, I get that she finds a sort of kinship with another masked individual). And Telltale gives you the option to reject her advances. However, after episode 3, Telltale doesn’t know what to do with Selina. They constantly write her out of situations and her final revelation of why she wanted to get close to Bruce (turns out she was just getting close to try and steal a gadget from Bruce) feels consistent to the character… but I couldn’t help feel that Telltale just ran out of ideas with what to do with her. They attempt to make the flirting justified and give Selina an agency of her own (Batman wasn’t using Catwoman for sex. Catman was using Batman the whole time!), but it feels so sudden and cheap. Laura Bailey does what she can for the character, but she can only do so much when the character’s written out so much for half the time.
Harvey Dent is probably the most tragic of the characters, even more so than Vicki Vale. He’s clearly a man who wants to do what’s right for Gotham but as his psyche slowly unravels, he becomes a tyrant and enforces Draconian rules such as armed checkpoints, all in an attempt to stopping the Children of Arkham. Travis Willingham portrays great range as the character, but the writing tends to be off. Harvey begins his descent when the Children of Arkham give him a drug that makes him want to do what he wants. I never really liked this angle (for the record, I would’ve preferred the Animated Series take where Harvey’s repression of his emotions creates a 2nd persona) mainly because it takes away the agency of the character as opposed to having his actions be of his own accord. Look, Batman tends to have an… icky message when it comes to mental illness (even though the game gives some much needed lip service saying that mental patients need professional help), and it just looks bad that Bruce is beating up a bunch of Asylum patients, even if some of them are homicidal maniacs. Even worse still, while the game attempts to give you moments to ‘save’ Harvey (such as preventing the incident which burns half of his face), Harvey just descends into madness anyway. Giving the player agency at these functions makes it feel like nothing can be done to save Harvey, even if you’ve been loyal to him. Worse, that stupid scene in which Harvey bumps into Bruce and Selina in the apartment just really tears me apart. (Even if you chose ‘not’ to sleep with Selina), just because it makes both Harvey and Selina emotional idiots instead of rational adults. If the character does work, it’s more because of Travis’ voicework and the series’ past involvement of depicting the tragedy of Two-Face.
Oswald Cobblepot is just odd to me. Unlike Harvey, Telltale decided to redo a new backstory and origin for Oswald, making him childhood friends with Bruce. However, since we never see the scene of Bruce and Oswald as kids (until Episode 5 and only if you chose to stop Harvey in Episode 4), the friendship falls flat. As such, you only really see a violent psychopath who wants revenge. I think he’s supposed to be a foil for Bruce; Bruce who succeeded in life as opposed to Oswald who’s out of money. But, none of the traits add up. It all feels separate from one another. At first Oswald talks about revolution. Then he takes Wayne CEO. Then, it’s revealed he’s some sort of tech expert. None of that really sticks together to make a cohesive whole. Then, the whole Penguin aspect is just sort of shoe-horned in. Look, I get not wanting to do the whole ‘half man half penguin’ thing Burton and the Animated Series did. But, getting away from the Penguin aspects is just as ridiculous as it is in Fox’s Gotham (he walks like a Penguin). They make him wear a mask that looks like a Penguin and he has computer files with penguins on it, but it doesn’t make sense. Jason Spisak does what he can, but it’s mostly just an English Accent.
Joker is easily one of the best characters in the series. An unpredictable psychopath that’s oddly helpful to you but you can’t help feel something’s terribly wrong with him. Anthony Ingruber plays him and infuses him such malice and shock that it completely steals the episode for what little screentime he’s in. The Joker’s always been a character that tends to work better the less you know about him and Ingruber’s incarnation just charms the pants off you.
Lady Arkham/Vicki Vale is the main antagonist of the series. She reveals her identity at the end of Episode 3 and her motivations slowly become apparent as time goes on. Both the victim of losing her parents to Thomas Wayne’s experiments and abuse from her foster parents, Vicki essentially plays the foil to Bruce (which Episode 5 explicitly states in case you didn’t get it), showing what a corrupt version of Batman would be. And while the mystery box usually irritates me, there’s enough pacing and pay-off to make me feel satisfied, even if the previous choices surrounding Vicki seem just like window dressing. Erin Yvette gives her just enough sympathy and malice to make the character feel well-rounded.
I should also mention the number of technical issues I encountered in the game. Granted, Telltale games usually tend to hit the lower quality when it comes to graphics and performance, but I forgave them since the PC specs were low enough to play on my old PC and the writing was strong. However, Batman wishes to up the Telltale engine by having higher spec requirements. As such, I had to upgrade my PC and test the game out on my PS4. There were numerous bugs and visual glitches in both versions while the PS4 version crashed multiple times. And while the game looked slightly ‘better’ on my PC (again, I can run the Withcer 3 and Gears of War 4 no sweat), I was getting numerous framerate drops, long loading times and dips to 50 FPS. Add to that a woeful lack of options to fix the visuals and I can’t recommend either version without a significant patch.
Batman feels like more of the same, both from Telltale and the Batman franchise. In a franchise ripe with story material, it plays it safe and mostly lands on ‘pretty good Batman story for older fans’.
But that’s faint praise considering the highs it could’ve had.