Batman: The Telltale Series

I’m awfully mixed on Telltale games. On the one hand, it feels like other game developers should steal their schtick and give more dialogue and player choice in story-driven games (to the credit of BioWare folks, Mass Effect was doing this before Telltale came on the scene). On the other hand, I’ve had mixed feelings about the games I’ve played from them. The Walking Dead: Season 1 was very well done, but suffered from being in the nihilistic universe of The Walking Dead. Game of Thrones, like the show, started out strong before being pretty awful by the end. And while people raved about Tales from the Borderlands, I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it. But since Batman: The Telltale Series was a free Xbox Gold download, I decided to finally give it a shot, and I’m glad I did.

Once you set aside the poor production values of these games (for all the artistry in the character models and gameplay, the graphics are glitchy as hell; this game came out in 2016 and since that time no one thought to patch it so that textures aren’t blurry or that the smoke from Gordon’s cigarettes looks right), the storytelling conceit of letting your dialogue options and actions guide the story works because Telltale forces you into difficult conundrums. It was incredibly smart to make the biggest conflict of a Batman story not external, but internal–what you do as Bruce Wayne matters just as much (if not more so) than what you do as Batman.

I also really like the big narrative swings this game makes. I won’t spoil anything, but Telltale was willing to throw out a lot of canon and predictable beats to really force Bruce/Batman into some difficult positions. This is trickier than their other games where they’re creating a character from scratch. A Batman fan knows how Batman is supposed to behave, but Telltale managed to work that into their thinking so that you’re not simply going “What Would Batman Do” (WWBD) with every choice. You have to decide what kind of Batman you’re going to be: the symbol that inspires hope or the symbol that inspires fear. It makes for a great storytelling device and helps separate this Telltale take from the Batman comics, movies, TV shows, and previous video games.

I’m now very excited to fire up Batman: The Enemy Within and I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 videogames

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