Summary: Enter the fractured psyche of Bruce Wayne and discover the powerful and far-reaching consequences of your choices as the Dark Knight. In this gritty and violent new story from the creators of The Walking Dead – A Telltale Games Series.
Price: $4.99 or your local equivalent
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Batman is some of Telltale’s finest work yet. At least, that’s the impression I had after completing the first episode. Recently, I feel Telltale have been creating more three-dimensional characters as we see a more multi-faceted approach to character construction. The Walking Dead: Michonne mini-series put this front and centre but the smaller amount of episodes meant it couldn’t be explored fully. There was Michonne, who was split between reality and the memories of her children and then there’s Batman, split between being the caped crusader, and the fractured psyche of Bruce Wayne, a politician and a man in the public spotlight.
If you’ve watched the Christopher Nolan Batman films then you’ll certainly notice some similarities in Telltale’s Batman story. The relationship between Alfred and Bruce, in particular, struck many of the same chords as Nolan’s take on their relationship. Telltale has always been masterful at just that; giving you the opportunity to forge relationships but also the same power to destroy them. You’ll meet a fine range of known Batman characters in this first episode alone as you encounter Selina Kyle, Carmine Falcone, Vicki Vale, Lieutenant Gordon, Oswald Cobblepot, Harvey Dent and more.
From the very first moments, you are propelled into an action sequence as the Dark Knight. I’m a firm believer that you have to open big across any form of entertainment and Telltale has done just that. In some crime-fighting cliché, there’s trouble down at City Hall and you’re there to clean the mess up, in these opening moments you’re introduced to the fear that Batman induces in the mob drones. In Nolan-like fashion, they tell the tales of the Bat before you even show up, professing their disbelief in the legends just before you swoop down and confirm all of their worst fears.
When it comes to the Dark Knight sequences, the choices and story focus heavily on the morality of the Batman that you choose to be; something which reminded me of Ben Affleck’s take on the Bat, a more violent and brutal form of justice. Alternatively, you can show mercy – something which helps the Bat’s media image and public sympathy.
When you transition to Bruce, you’re healing up your wounds as you prepare to go to a fundraiser, being hosted in Wayne Manor of all places. It’s nothing new to Batman; concealing your hidden identity in the tiresome Bruce Wayne façade but it’s interesting to see Telltale’s take on it. You soon find out that you’re the biggest backer in Harvey Dent’s mayoral campaign, a version of Harvey Dent you’ve become very close friends with. You’ll have to mingle with other Gotham elites but it’s just this that makes you appreciate the multi-faceted character that is Bruce Wayne and the different masks he needs to wear to protect his secret identity.
However, the Wayne manor is soon disturbed by the brutish appearance of Carmine Falcone and his men. They stick out like a sore thumb, the kind of gangsters that try to mingle with the top of society. Many elections nowadays centre around the issue of dirty politics and you soon realize that Gotham is riddled with corruption (Shocking news, I know) and you have to choose how you’ll receive Falcone into your home; submit to him and you’ll no doubt secure Harvey’s mayoral position but at what cost? Resist him and you’ll create an enemy that his hands in just about everything.
So, you’ve played the caped crusader, the man behind the mask and the politician. Well, you also get to play detective. In something that’s akin to the Arkham games, you’ll have your vast array of gadgets at hand to try and piece together crime scenes. However, Telltale go one step further than other Batman games. In order to get the full picture, you have to ‘link’ clues to one another in the right sequence, only then does the truth reveal itself.
Technically, the game performed almost flawlessly on Xbox One. It’s clear that the Telltale engine has been updated to support all the new features of the Batman series – his gadgets, fighting, locations etc. just don’t feel like they could have been done to such a scale in earlier Telltale games and it definitely pays off in creating a richer experience. PC users have reported issues of crashing and I can admit I encountered a game crash during a drone-flying scene but apart from that the game worked flawlessly and without the freezes that other Telltale games have suffered from.
Overall, Telltale’s Batman Episode 1 is one of the best and most complete experiences to be found in one episode of a Telltale game. The episode is directed expertly and pacing is very well executed; you’ll have time to experience all of the multi-faceted lives of Bruce Wayne but you’re also introduced to a wide array of classic characters without feeling overwhelmed. You get the eery sense that something is brewing in Gotham City and I can’t wait to find out what it is in the episodes to come.
You can purchase Episode 1 from the following links: