Batman Episode 1 - Realm of Shadows Review
Batman Episode 1 - Realm of Shadows Review
Gameplay that can’t be summed up by saying, “Well, it plays like a Telltale game." Batman is Telltale’s sharpest game to date.
Posted: 08/22/16 | Category: Review | Developer: Telltale Games | Publisher: Telltale Games | Platform: Android, Ios, Xbox one, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Windows, Mac

Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure
Release date: August 8, 2016

Did you know that Batman’s parents are dead? If you didn’t, you’ll definitely know by the end of Realm of Shadows, the first episode of Telltale’s Batman series. Characters attempt to bring it up in so many conversations that you really start to wonder how Bruce Wayne hasn’t completely snapped. And I say “completely” because Telltale gives the player more than a few chances to play Batman as the unhinged vigilante he’s so often portrayed as in Gotham’s news.

The thing about all of this is that — and I really hate to admit it — Batman: The Telltale Series is actually good. I’m sick of Batman. I react to Batman news the way the Red Hot Chili Peppers react to new recreational drugs; I shrug and move on. This is a character that has been brutalized by pop culture in the past decade, so how interesting could Telltale really make this series?

Storyline
 

Penguin and Batman are close friends from childhood. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then try to imagine a baby Danny DeVito playing with a baby Michael Keaton. It’s weird, but somehow a perfect fit for this moderately retconned Batman universe. Unlike previous entries in the Telltale omnibus (looking at you, Michonne and Game of Thrones), Batman doesn’t appear to be hamstrung by the crippling nature of these so often corporatized franchises.

The story establishes a solid foundation in Episode One: Realm of Shadows. Bruce Wayne is helping Harvey Dent (the man who becomes Two-Face) run for office. Batman’s parents are dead. Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) is Bruce’s childhood friend and has returned to Gotham for some nefarious trickery. Batman’s parents are dead. Carmine Falcone, the local mafia lord, is continuing to drop hints that Thomas and Martha Wayne (Batman’s parents who are dead) may have been involved with a criminal element in their past (back before they were dead.)

While there is a significant amount of development to be done, there are two important aspects to the story that have gotten me all giddy:

1)  This being Telltale, they could technically continue to retcon information. Our choices may actually end up affecting whether or not Harvey Dent becomes Two Face or if he continues to be the Knight in Shining Armor that Gotham deserves. And what if Batman discovers that Thomas and Martha Wayne (again, the dead parents) were actually involved in criminal activities? This is a rare chance for Telltale to enjoy pulling the carpet out from under an audience that is already intimately familiar with the basics of the Batman universe.

2)  Batman can be a psychopath. I broke every arm. I punched every person. I hurt everyone. Er, well, Batman did. One of the things that always struck me about the Christopher Nolan Batman franchise was the news coverage of our hero. They painted a bleak image of a dangerous man, yet we watched Christian Bale struggle with his desire to save lives. My Batman, the Batman Telltale allows, is a rampaging thrill-seeker, and when the Gotham journalists and police say that Batman is a dangerous lunatic, well, I believe them. Because he is. Probably because his parents are dead. 

Gameplay
  

Thank you, Telltale. Thank you so much. I’m wiping tears off my keyboard as I type this. Thank you for finally giving us gameplay that can’t be summed up by saying, “Well, it plays like a Telltale game."

Batman’s detective skills play a major role as he struts around crime scenes tying clues together. The puzzles have been simple so far, but I’m going to chalk that one up to ‘Tutorial Syndrome.’ Regardless, it’s a nice change of pace to locate every clue and then begin piecing together the crime. This slower contemplative gameplay is also utilized to great extent during a penthouse assault. Batman takes inventory of the guards, and then makes individual decisions regarding his plan of attack.

The hand-to-hand combat has also been greatly updated from previous Telltale games. A battle early on with Catwoman quickly establishes this as Telltale’s go-to action title, as both Batman and his villains act and react in ways that feel more tightly choreographed than...ahem...some dumb swordsman in Telltale’s Game of Thrones.

I’m also thrilled that Telltale has finally created choices that feel substantial. When Batman takes a prisoner he has the option of hitting a barrel to frighten the man or the man’s stomach, or bludgeoning the man in the face with a pipe.

That's a real choice.

And maybe none of this is going to matter. Maybe Telltale is going to fall into some old rut and tell a conventional story. Maybe none of these choices, none of my gameplay strategy, none of Batman’s moral quandaries are going to pay off, but after one episode I’d say that the potential for greatness has been firmly established.

Audio and Visual
 

Batman is Telltale’s sharpest game to date, and while that’s not saying much, the game definitely looks good. Batman moves with a powerful heft during the fight scenes and the audio complements the brute force of his physicality. 

There are some standout voice actors here as well. Richard McGonagle, famous for his role as Sully in the Uncharted franchise, plays the mob boss Carmine Falcone with a treacherous amount of glee, and fellow Uncharted 4 alum, Laura Bailey, makes a brief but standout appearance as the ever-popular Catwoman.

But how about Troy Baker as Batman/Bruce Wayne? He’s good—neither bad, nor amazing. Baker has had some extraordinary roles in the past five years, but thus far he hasn’t had a chance to really prove himself as Batman, especially considering how he’s following in the steps of Kevin Conroy who voiced Batman in Rocksteady’s Arkham series.

Conclusion
 

Batman’s parents are dead, and he’s out to clear the Wayne family name. Due to some creative retconning of old characters, Telltale’s Batman has a chance to make a game with branching paths and choices that truly matter. But we’ve been here before, so it’s important to manage our expectations as the series develops. Gameplay and AV receive a significant upgrade this time around as it appears Telltale is finally tired of doing the same thing over and over unless, of course, you count telling us that Batman’s parents are dead, which is apparently still the talk of the town.

Again, dead parents. 

Grade: B+
 
Story not hindered by previous titles
+ Graphical enhancements over previous games
+ Exciting and smart gameplay
 
- Lengthy ‘Episode 1-esque’ exposition
- Repeatedly hearing that Batman’s parents are dead
 Logo 
 
Trailer:
 

 

System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows 7 64Bit Service Pack 1
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz
Memory: 3 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GTS 450+ with 1024MB+ VRAM (excluding GT) - LATEST DRIVERS REQUIRED
DirectX: Version 11 
Additional Notes: Not Recommended for Intel integrated graphics
 
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