My name is Darius Byrd and I’m Batman. No, this isn’t a tell all about my life as the Dark Knight and how I jump from rooftop to rooftop fighting crime and making criminals afraid of bats by wearing a Batsuit. Or that I’m really a billionaire playboy with the money and resources to build fancy technology and call my car the Batmobile. I wish this was my life, though. If I win the lottery I might make it my life. However, this is about Bruce Wayne, the real billionaire playboy who goes out at night dressed as a bat and protects Gotham City from crazy ass criminals like the Joker, Penguin, Two-Face and more. In Telltale’s newest game Batman: A Telltale Series you are placed into these shoes as not only the Dark Knight, but also his alter ego, Bruce Wayne.
Episode One: Realm of Shadows came out on Tuesday, August 2nd for the Xbox One, PS4, PS3, 360 and Steam. If you’ve played a Telltale game before, then you know that their games are more about telling a story than about burying you in fast paced action. So if you were looking for this Batman game to deliver the punches that only Batman can bring, then you’re better off playing one of Rocksteady’s Batman games. But don’t skip out on this one. What this game looks to do based off of the first episode is to tell the story about the man behind the mask. What’s great about this is that it isn’t a story that you’ve already read, like The Killing Joke or Hush. It’s an original story that is set in what seems to be early in Batman’s career. (Can you call being Batman an actual career?) But without all the combos and detective mode of the Arkham series, is this a fun alternative to it? For me, a resounding yes.
The game starts out with Harvey Dent, who is the D.A. of Gotham, running for mayor against Hamilton Hill, the incumbent mayor who can’t stop lining his pockets with mob money. Bruce Wayne wants a better future for Gotham, so he is putting his support and money behind Dent. Mob boss Carmine Falcone doesn’t want to give up his grip on the city that easily, and he lets that be known when he crashes Bruce’s fundraiser for Harvey. Also at this party is Bruce’s childhood friend Oz Cobblepott, who isn’t back for a pleasant walk down memory lane and who could forget the mysterious cat burglar that makes her mark on Gotham by giving Bruce a pretty cut on his face.
Telltale upgraded their normal engine for their games for their first foray into creating something where the primary audience is PS4 and Xbox One users. It still has the usual exploratory gameplay features but since Batman is the world’s greatest detective, there is a newly added detective mode that puts the player in Batman’s boots. We only had one chance to use this mode, but it’s only the first episode so it’s safe to say that we’ll see this feature in the rest of the episodes. My one hope for this part of Batmaning (I made that word up) is that some of the future mysteries are more difficult or could have branching outcomes. However, my favorite part of this episode comes towards the tail end, but if I say any more I’ll spoil it for you.
While this all sounds good, the heart of any Telltale game is the story and the conversations you have with other characters in the game. This is where Bruce comes in. Not being able to hide behind the mask, he’s faced with tough choices, such as his first meeting with Falcone or answering a text from Alfred. In these conversational choices, you get to build “your” Batman. The Telltale patented cel-shaded look plays well with the source material, giving it a fresh off the page feeling. The voice acting has been phenomenal, with Mr. He Only Does Everything Troy Baker leading the cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne. The episode has a slow start, especially with some of the conversations at the very beginning but picks up speed and quality towards the latter part of the episode.
“Realm of Shadows” is a great start to what looks to be a great series from Telltale. Will you be the Batman that plays by the rules of the law, or will you show the city that Batman is a legend that is meant to be feared? Without getting too much into the story, this is a very personal journey for Bruce where not only his reputation but his family’s legacy is under fire. How he goes through the flames and who he becomes after it is up to you. My Batman stood by his morals but wasn’t afraid to strike fear by using extra violence to make a point. Who will your Batman be? In the Arkham series I got to play as Batman and do Batman things, but in this Batman story, I get to see things from both sides of the masks. This is my Batman story, and can’t wait to see how it ends.