DoorMatt Gaming Review: “Batman – A Telltale Games Series (2016)” (So far…)

batandcatTelltale games was formed, somewhat anonymously, as a game developer and producer in July of 2014. While the company was founded by a trio of former LucasArts (the developer behind Monkey Island, innumerable Star Wars Games, and others) employees Dan Connors, Kevin Bruner, and Troy Molander, the path of the company wasn’t designed or planned to be anything like the industry giant’s. Rather, Telltale from the very beginning sought to do things differently. Telltale Games has slowly built a name, and niche, for itself within the gaming industry for a variety of reasons, the easiest to point out of which is their approach to video game storytelling and the stories they tell: episodic content of licensed properties.

From their early development of CSI titles for Ubisoft, Telltale has very rarely broken from this formula and it hasn’t failed them yet. Telltale has created titles based around Wallace & Gromit, Monkey Island, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, The Wolf Among Us (based on Bill Willingham’s comic series Fables), Minecraft, and, perhaps most famously, two seasons (an upcoming third) and two specials based upon Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comics. With all of those properties attacked, and the results being widely loved and praised, what could they possibly do in 2016 to top what has come before?

The answer came at the Game Awards in December 2015…

Reaction was strong, very positive, and created great anticipation. From the art style to the choice of story, curiosity abound and we finally got our first taste when Episode 1 – “Realm of Shadows” was released on August 2nd. I could go on and on and on about what was great about each episode (1 and 2 – “Children of Arkham”) so far but that would get us widely off topic. What is worth discussing is what this series has gotten right before I get into Episode 3, which was released on Tuesday (10/25).

brucewayneWhat I love most about Telltale Batman is that it is the first Batman game to capture the proper feeling of Batman. That’s not to say that good Batman games don’t exist – The Arkham series by Rocksteady still stands as the relaunching point of Batman as a video game commodity – it’s just that none of them have really offered such a complete take on my favorite comic book hero. What many Batman fans love about the character, myself included, is that Bruce Wayne is such a deeply flawed persona that in many ways is much more interesting than the one he patrols rooftops as at night. Taken from a June 2016 playboy.com article by Alex Avard:

“There are dozens of Batman video games, but none have the angle Telltale has taken with the beloved character. As demonstrated by my first glimpse into the gameplay of this five-part series, the studio is treating the DC license as an opportunity to undertake a grounded character study of the man behind the mask: Mr. Bruce Wayne himself.”

Batman as a comic was not just about what the character did with his time under the cape and cowl. Rather, it was often about Bruce Wayne and his struggle to fulfill his obligation to his parents, himself, and his city. The fact that Telltale offered REAL options in their series to accomplish just as much playing as Bruce Wayne as you can as Batman shows that, for one, their storytelling continues to be something other developers should strive for and two, their are more ways than one to create the best approach to the Batman mythos. Aside from this new angle, all the familiar characters are there (Gordon, Selina Kyle, Harvey Dent, etc…) with new story twists for all of them. Couple this with a story that is… different, for lack of a better term, and you have a Batman game that has created something new with a decades old character and a game that has fully exceeded expectations.

Now, for Episode 3 in proper. The third of five schedules episodes, “New World Order” isn’t a misdirect – it is a new world for Bruce Wayne. After the events of the first two episodes in the series, Bruce’s world is being turned upside down. Without delving into deep spoiler territory, Bruce’s family legacy has been destroyed, his friends are hurt, his company is in shambles, and people are dying. Episode 3 sets the stage well, requiring you to utilize both sides of Bruce’s psyche to get to the bottom of what is happening: The Dark Knight and the cornered Billionaire. Action abounds in this episode but all of it in ways that feel rewarding and a natural progression of where the story is going for the characters and as a whole. And, in classic Telltale fashion, the episode ends on a large cliffhanger that will leave you frustrated that episodic game storytelling is still a thing.

13679938_10153788536223597_8984223050530435721_oIt is very difficult to discuss this episode without giving too much away but, if you have played the game thus far, let me know what you think. Am I just jaded by how much I love the Caped Crusader? Am I wrong in declaring this perhaps the BEST Batman game made yet? Leave some comments, share with friends, and let me know other things you might want to hear about!

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