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Review: Telltale Games begins new Batman saga with ‘Realm Of Shadows’

This year has been a challenging one for Batman fanatics.

After the wildly disappointing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the middling Suicide Squad and a downright awful adaptation of The Killing Joke – it’s hard to imagine getting excited about a new story featuring the caped crusader.

The story of Bruce Wayne has been told by our culture an uncountable number of times. It is an infinitely repeated story of loss, betrayal and justice that could be considered modern myth. It would take a bold developer to believe they have a new take on this well-worn character.

Telltale Games has been around for many years as a developer of adventure games, but found a new life in 2012 with the release of The Walking Dead. A uniquely cinematic take to the concept of interactive narrative, its original take on the zombie phenomenon created a new genre. Since then, Telltale’s style of story-based games (mixing quick time events, dialogue selection, and light puzzle solving) has been applied to numerous other huge franchises – from Borderlands to Game of Thrones.

Batman: The Telltale Series marks the studio’s bravest (and boldest) adaptation to date.

While not an origin story for the man himself, “Realm of Shadows” starts our story fairly early in the larger series of events that define Gotham’s history. Bruce finds himself propping up the campaign of a young D.A by the name of Harvey Dent, who has aims on the Gotham Mayor’s office. The mob boss Falcone is terrorizing the streets with an unbelievable scope of power. As Gotham defines their relationship with Batman, the player’s choices will define how the people see their Dark Knight.

Gameplay is minimal, with combat accomplished by pressing buttons in time with on-screen prompts. The real meat is in the dialogue, attempting to truly role play the man behind the cowl.

But with so many characters in this story having fates well defined by popular culture (namely the events of Nolan’s The Dark Knight), it can be hard not to play with impeccable foresight.

The key to Telltale’s past stories have been the illusion of choice, feeling like each choice could define the fate of our characters. That’s never been less of the case than in Batman. It’s all too easy to predict where this story ends up, which drains it of drama in key moments.

Instead, the choices presented to the player resolve around what style of hero you want to be for this forsaken city. Do criminals deserve a violent fate that matches their actions? Should absolute truth be delivered to the people, or allow them to believe a convenient lie? These are unique angles for the franchise, and raise my hope for what might happen in future episodes. Telltale has always shown a talent for the morally opaque, and Batman may just be the perfect canvas for these skills. Expect future episodes to hit on a monthly basis.

Those who have played previous Telltale games already have a pretty clear picture on Batman, and likely already know if it’s worth their time. A few major improvements can be observed though, namely the in-game engine (which is still a tad ugly, but miles better than previous buggy games) and the ability to make choices as a group (with each participant voting with their smartphone or laptop).

For everyone else, Batman: The Telltale Series is looking to be the best Batman adventure of the year.

Follow Chris Berg on Twitter @ChrisBerg25

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Chris Berg

Chris Berg