Telltale Games has made quite the name for themselves with their point-and-click style adventure games. From the award winning The Walking Dead to The Wolf Among Us, this team has shown time and time again that they can deliver fantastic stories with deep and engaging decision-based gameplay. When it was announced that Telltale would be taking on the iconic Batman franchise, fans could already picture just how the developer would tell stories of the Dark Knight. Being taken to “Wayne Manor” at E3 2016, Telltale eventually revealed the secret entrance to the iconic Batcave within their booth to show the first half-hour of their new adventure game, Batman: The Telltale Series.
The game opens up to a security guard that is minding his own business, only for the next moment of his life to be taken from him with a brutal shot to the head. A group of armed robbers make their way through the entry hall to break into a vault in what appears to be a corporate building. Even though it’s only one death, the game already sets the tone just by showing how cold-blooded the criminals of Gotham, no matter how common, could be. As the group starts talking, they start to question whether “he” will show up. Suddenly, the scene is shifted to Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth, voiced by Troy Baker and Enn Reitel respectively, discussing the reckless actions of Bruce’s nightly vigilantism. It soon becomes apparent that the robbery attempt is actually from a previous event and that the present scene with Bruce and Alfred is framing the narrative of just one night as Batman.
As the crooks are making their attempt, Batman makes his first appearance, the player controlling the aim of his zip-line to make his way across to the building and kicking through the window to take down an unsuspecting thug. Using stealth and the darkness against them, the scene plays out with several quick-time event button presses to take down the criminals one by one, using his grapnel gun to string up the bad guys. Getting down to the final criminals, Batman uses his batarang to disarm one of the assailants and engages in hand-to-hand combat.
Obviously, this isn’t the Batman: Arkham series, as combat will be displayed through more quick-time events, moving at a slower pace so players can react accordingly. Despite that, the display of the fight is both engaging and cinematic, showcasing Telltale’s brand new engine with higher visual quality. It is up to the player to make Batman a better fighter, as wrong inputs and waiting too long to make them can give the enemy the upper hand. When Batman fights well, a bat-shaped energy gauge will fill up on the bottom left corner of the screen, as filling this up will allow for a finishing move to end the fight with the press of a button. It’s a nice way to really make fights a bit more interesting in the game and makes it easy for players to see what the end goal for the fight is.
Finishing the fight, Batman moves to take on the final thug, the one tasked with opening the vault. Unfortunately for Batman, he doesn’t stop him in time and the vault is opened up, only for a new culprit to appear already inside: Catwoman (voiced by Laura Bailey). After a brief exchange, including Troy Baker’s interpretation of the Batman voice with a slight robotic tone, it’s shown that Catwoman has already grabbed the valuable item the other thugs were after, and one unconscious criminal later, Catwoman attempts to escape via the rooftop, Batman quickly closing the gap.
With some interesting dialogue between the two iconic characters, it’s clear that this is their first meeting, though both seem to be aware of the other through various media. They start fighting, exchanging blows almost equally, Catwoman landing a scratch to Batman’s face as the police make their way to the rooftop shortly after. Batman manages to use a batarang to secure a satchel containing the stolen item against a wall, clearly leaving it for the police to collect. It’s worth noting that though this is clearly early in the Batman career, Commissioner Gordon, voiced by Murphy Guyer, seems to have already met Batman, as he orders his men not to shoot. Regardless of the order, it isn’t long until one officer’s finger slips and the trigger is pulled, firing a round into Batman from behind. Despite this, Batman continues to fight Catwoman, again having the option to finish the fight when the meter is full.
During the scuffle, both Batman and Catwoman end up falling off the building, with Batman using his grapple gun to catch himself, being given the option to catch Catwoman. Though there are fail-safes to prevent certain characters from dying, this instance can show what kind of Batman the player wishes to be. Whether Batman chooses to catch Catwoman or not, Catwoman will remember what the player chose. So if the player decides not to catch her, Catwoman will save herself, but she will know that Batman has no problem with letting her fall to her death. What characters will be safe from death in the game is unknown at this time, but it is likely that Batman won’t have a direct hand in a death considering his stance against killing, though if this game truly wishes to let the player be the Batman they really want, Telltale may throw a curve ball.
Finishing this scene with Batman, the game takes a full shift to the Bruce Wayne narrative that framed it as a flashback, having Alfred preparing Bruce for a party at his mansion. The scene shifts to District Attorney Harvey Dent, voiced by Travis Willingham, giving a speech at the party as it becomes clear that Harvey is running for Mayor of Gotham City. Feeling like Bruce won’t be attending, he is suddenly surprised by Bruce appearing fashionably late in the foyer. It’s clear that the Bruce Wayne moments are going to be mostly dialogue focused, as players can also choose what kind of Bruce Wayne they want. They can be kind and sincere, a bit more lighthearted, or they can be rude and obnoxious, even giving off signals to other characters to show what kind of character he really is.
As the party continues, Bruce and Harvey engage in more conversation, the two clearly having a history and Harvey showing just how much he relies on Bruce for his campaign. An elderly couple approach the two and begin talking to Bruce, talking about how they knew his parents and how the old families of Gotham City should stick together. These characters are clearly snobs, but in order to make a good impression for Harvey, the player can choose to endorse him to make him look better to the couple. Again, all characters will take note and remember the options of the player, so the player has to decide how they wish for the character interactions all play out. Bruce also has a chance to speak with Gotham City reporter Vicki Vale, voiced by Erin Yvette, as she attempts to interview Bruce, though off the record.
As the party continues, the crime lord Carmine Falcone, voiced by Richard McGonagle, enters the hall. Apparently invited by Harvey without Bruce’s knowledge, Harvey explains that he wanted to gain support in the criminal underworld as well. Bruce doesn’t seem to agree, and it’s clear to the other party attendees (including Vicki Vale) that Falcone is an unwanted guest. As he makes his way into the room, he speaks about how he wants to buy the house, clearly putting on a show of how rich and powerful he is, though still not impressing Bruce. As he approaches Bruce, he introduces himself and extends his hand for a handshake. Again, it is up to the player how they wish to show their version of Bruce Wayne, so the player is given the choice to shake Falcone’s hand or not, though the game makes it clear that everyone is watching what Bruce does at this moment, specifically highlighting Ms. Vale.
In our demo, Bruce chose not to shake Falcone’s hand, making him remember the insulting action. Harvey isn’t a fan of the choice either out of feat that it will hurt his campaign, and as Falcone wishes to speak to Bruce in private, the player can choose to have Harvey accompany him or not, though in this playthrough, Harvey sat out. Falcone finally shows his true colors and tries to intimidate Bruce, wanting to become business partners like he has with most of Gotham’s other businessmen, though clearly just wanting to make himself more powerful. He even mentions how he knew Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, saying that he worked with him often, clearly rubbing Bruce the wrong way as the next dialogue option includes a warning about not talking about his father. If the player stands tall and doesn’t let Falcone intimidate Bruce, then Falcone will tell him to watch his back, clearly, Bruce not seeing the last of the crime lord.
The end of the demo showed but a small glimpse, but already, I’m left wanting to see more of the story, more of the choices, and even more of the iconic characters. It is unknown who else from Batman’s rogues gallery will appear in this title, but Telltale has shown that they have the creative minds to tell intricate stories with multiple characters involved. They said that certain scenarios could be approached as either Bruce Wayne or Batman, so player choice clearly has a big effect on how the game plays in key moments. Like an interactive comic book coming to life, Batman: A Telltale Series should be on the radar for any Batman fan. At the moment, the first episode of the game is planned to release digitally this summer, though a retail disc with the full five-episode season is planned later this year. So far, platforms confirmed are PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android, though it may become available on other platforms in the future. We’ll hopefully have reviews for each episode as they release later this year.