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Move over, Two-Face: something wants to dethrone you.
Time after time, developers venture to nail the duality of Batman’s psyche and gracefully author both the Caped Crusader and Bruce Wayne. Many titles excel at being a Dark Knight game, but hardly ever capture both personalities. Batman: The Telltale Series accomplishes such a feat, allowing players to hop between the two personas often, exploring and shaping the identities as they see fit. Awaiting them, though, are glitches and errors galore, possibly leaving even the most diehard Batman fans disappointed as scenes crumble under their own weight.
Is this really a Batman game, or is it simply a game with Batman in it?
Similar to all Telltale games, Batman released episodically, and consists of quick-time events, environment investigations, and branching dialogue. Crime scenes and dodgy questions from colleagues make this play style a perfect fit for a Batman tale. As expected, days are spent as playboy philanthropist Bruce Wayne, while nights have players don the cowl of the Dark Knight. What makes this dynamic interesting, however, is that actions taken as one personality can minutely affect events as the other. Varying interactions between Bruce, Bats, and the characters around them are what make the game enjoyable: you may end up picking extreme actions just to see how the scene will play out.
Stringing together these unique interactions, sadly, is a subpar and disappointing plotline. Batman stories have always hinged on their wide range of neurotic, memorable villains. While Telltale’s Batman reforms certain characters into something new and fresh, it can often go too far. Hardly any villains stay true to their comic book origins, and as a result, none of these characters feel like the same ones that fans know and love.
Nothing is safe from these changes, whether it’s the new handsome, young Penguin; a reworked Harvey Dent; Bruce’s mysterious, altered past; or a small cameo from other rogues. I didn’t walk away satisfied with the narrative at hand. Instead, I was hopeful that a sequel would mend these mistakes and show a memorable nemesis. With no truly familiar villains, and a new enemy that is shoddily written specifically for this story, I can’t help but ask myself: is this really a Batman game, or simply a game with Batman in it?
Telltale’s Batman is a game that leads the perfect double life.
Muddling this experience even further is a myriad of technical problems and glitches. Framerates constantly drop below 30 FPS, distracting from the scenes and causing headaches. Cut scenes have an assortment of problems. Certain performances have an odd shadow that envelops the main subject of the scene. Clips are interrupted by sound effects and voice lines that are not correctly synced with the video. At any given moment, the game could completely crash: it puttered out on me twice, both during climactic moments. Telltale’s previous releases carry similar problems, and were never known for their graphical fidelity.
However, Batman released as the first game developed in Telltalte’s brand-new, hopefully-this-will-fix-it engine. It’s mind-boggling that Telltale churned out two or three entire episodic games this year, built a new engine, yet still released a game that crashes and glitches whenever possible. During a time in which small studios with smaller budgets build more expansive, mechanically complex games, Telltale should be ashamed.
At its very core, Batman: The Telltale Series is a good game. Keeping Gotham safe as both Bats and Bruce will satisfy fans and casual players alike. The various roads a scene may take will constantly intrigue. The story, though, lacks the true heart of all Caped Crusader tales: the sinister and psychotic villains. Furthermore, Telltale’s shiny new engine debuts itself with bugs and crashes. Telltale’s Batman is a game that leads the perfect double life. One moment, it dazzles as a charming, satisfying Batman experience; the next, it sputters along with a plethora of technical difficulties, and spews an odd, hollow plot from beneath its masquerade. Batman: The Telltale Series is good, not great: a very middling result from such an ambitious, well-established studio.