Review: Telltale’s Batman: Realm of Shadows – C’mon, Bruce, figure it out.
Fair warning to you – this article contains spoilers for the first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series.
This is a game that I have been waiting to play since the day I first read the announcement. A dark, gritty story set in the world of Batman (something which I always enjoy). I must admit, lately I had grown tired of Telltale games; the novelty waned a little for me after the illusion of true choice was broken. I haven’t even bothered with Telltale’s Game of Thrones, instead turning to Let’s Play videos on YouTube over playing the game myself. But with this game, there was no choice in the matter. It’s Batman! I must play it.
While I wasn’t blown away by the game, I was not left feeling disappointed. Sure, the game suffers from the usual Telltale game-engine issues, and certain moments can leave you wanting, but if there is one thing Telltale excels at, it’s a story. Yes, after so many games from the studio, players have started to notice patterns in the dialogue and can spot which choices would and would not matter, but let’s ignore those issues for now, what we have here is an enjoyable first instalment into Telltale’s run at Batman, a trend I hope continues as the series progresses.
Due to the popularity of the Arkham series of games, it would be incredibly easy to fall into the trap of comparing Telltale’s Batman to those, but to do so would be an injustice (not to mention unfair). Judging entirely from the first episode, this series will be more than capable of standing up on its own merit if done right. A cast of talented voice actors in the roles of some of the most iconic characters in comic book history, some very nice graphics, and a captivating story all come together to form a decent inclusion into the Batman universe. Could it have been better? Of course, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good episode.
Straight away, the game proves that it will not shy away from the graphic violence as we see a security guard mercilessly shot through the head by a group of thugs breaking into Gotham City Hall. I think it’s fair to say that fans of the Batman franchise have come to expect a certain level of violence, and in recent years said violence has become increasingly graphic than what we have seen previously, but it’s all part of the story, and I’m not complaining, I mean these are criminals, after all. They’re not going to keep witnesses alive. I love the gritty realism in Batman, especially when it works so well with the more comic-esque aspects of the universe.
Aside from showing us a level of violence we can come to expect from the series, players are also introduced to a number of characters from Batman’s rich history. In the background of the opening scenes are glimpses of both Harvey Dent and Mayor Hill, two characters that will certainly make appearances as the story progresses. However, The greatest introduction of the prologue, of course, belongs to the titular character himself – Batman, the Caped Crusader. Immediately the excitement levels rise as we take control of the Dark Knight as he makes his way through Gotham City Hall to thwart the break-in attempt and discover exactly what they are after. Punches are thrown, bones are broken, and thugs are strung up from the ceiling as Batman does what he does best.
However, if you’re expecting a game that focuses primarily on the Dark Knight himself, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Telltale’s Batman chooses instead to revolve around the man beneath the cowl. Batman is not the only person with enemies, it would seem. Someone is out to tarnish the good name of the Wayne Family, and Bruce is not about to take the allegations against his family’s honour lightly. He has his suspicions. It’s time to investigate.
While Telltale’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne is fine, I can’t really say that it was one of my favourites. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve done a decent job handling the character, but compared to previous iterations of the character, he doesn’t exactly square up, but hey, it’s early days and this is only episode one, so there is plenty of time for opinions to change as the story continues. Oh, and while we’re discussing characterisation, let’s move onto the other folk that feature in this story. Harvey Dent. Now, Harvey Dent was probably my least favourite character in this episode and I’m not entirely sure why. I’m not really a fan of the look Telltale went with for Harvey Dent, he was a little too bulky for the character, I think. It really isn’t how I imagine him looking at all. On the other hand, both Selina Kyle and Jim Gordon looked and sounded great. Their interactions with Bruce and Batman were engaging and managed to keep my attention. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of them. Right then, there is one more character I should mention, but before I do I need to give a spoiler warning once again – SPOILER! There, done. Oswald Cobblepot makes an appearance in Episode One, but he does not currently hold the moniker of Penguin by the looks of it. Telltale have clearly taken inspiration from the depiction of Cobblepot in Gotham and the Arkham games. Here, he is a young man with a strong cockney accent. Personally, I would’ve preferred him to be the rotund, squat fellow we’re all familiar with, but what are you going to do? We’ll see how his character plays out before passing judgement.
Those of you with previous experience of Telltale games will no doubt be familiar with their control scheme. Once again we are given the same old mixture of quicktime events, exploring small areas and interacting with / looking at various aspects of the scenery. For the most part, there isn’t anything new added to the gameplay, except for one thing – connecting clues. A scene takes place that requires players to look around for clues and piece them together, an attempt to throw in some detective content into the game (c’mon, it is Batman, the world’s greatest detective! It isn’t all about beating up bad guys, y’know). I highly doubt anybody will get stumped by this little puzzle; it’s incredibly easy to figure out which clues connect, and there aren’t that many to find anyway.
One very minor feature that I liked was the choice of colour for the Bat-Tech. It really has no impact on anything other than the aesthetic, but it’s the little things that can really add to a game. It helps to make the game feel just a tad more personal. Myself, I went for the classic blue, as I feel it suits the character of Batman better, but I love the red, it looks fantastic, but still – blue felt more natural to me. As I said, it’s a minor feature, but still, every little helps.
So, wrapping up, I genuinely believe that both die-hard and casual fans of the Batman franchise will get a good kick out of this game, especially as the story progresses. In my humble opinion, Telltale’s Batman won’t go down in the Annals of Batman history as one of the greatest adaptions ever seen, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still quite a good game to play if you want to kill a bit of time. I’d say check it out.
If you have played Telltale’s Batman: Realm of Shadows, let me know in the comments below what you thought of it. Did you like the portrayal of the various characters? What did you think about the cliffhanger?
And so that is me done for another review. I will see you all next time.
Telltale’s Batman: Realm of Shadows is available now.
Image Credits: Telltale, DC, Warner Bros.