(Note that the video I mentioned back in my review of episode 1 may well still happen, but for now I’m doing a written review)
Telltale have been on a steady decline since The Wolf Among Us. None of the games they’ve released since that have been bad, per se, but Walking Dead Season 2 couldn’t hope to rival its amazing predecessor, Game of Thrones was a story that, while interesting couldn’t really affect much at all in the wider canon and Tales from the Borderlands would have worked just as well as a miniseries on Netflix. Batman could have potentially fallen into those same traps; low interactivity so there’s less chance of the player messing up his whole flawless, inhuman mystique and not being able to rock the boat too much in an existing, well-documented canon. To top it off playing as Batman is likely to mean a whole lot of QTE fistfights. Fortunately, the game manages to avoid those pitfalls and is the best thing Telltale has done since TWAU.
The story Telltale has written is, for the most part, strong, and goes to some genuinely interesting places. It starts with the classic “Young Batman vs The Mob” arc involving old hand Carmine Falcone and Harvey Dent running for mayor and moves on to a scandal involving Thomas Wayne potentially being shady and generally awful and a new villain closely tied to Arkham Asylum, but with an actual deep connection rather than that flimsy shit they came up with for the Arkham Knight. It introduces other villains sparingly, focuses on developing Bruce Wayne and his relationships with other characters, and isn’t afraid to get really rather dark and brutal at times. It does unfortunately peter out towards the end, but it has enough strong character moments to keep it at least worth seeing through. The aforementioned focus on Bruce Wayne is the game’s strongest aspect: while Batman gets to do very basic crime scene investigations and lots and lots of beating the shit out of people Bruce Wayne has to navigate increasingly dire, tricky social situations; his friendship with Harvey and position as his campaign’s financier, the scandal involving his Father and his name being dragged through the mud, and repeated encounters with Selina Kyle are all situations where Telltale’s bread and butter of conversations and choices come into play, and are by far the most interesting parts of the game. Potential consequences pop up suddenly but in ways that make sense in the context of the story; for example things you’ve said to Harvey are all put in a different context when he stops taking his pills midway through the series and his dissociative identity disorder hits him hard. There is one weak link that stands out like a sore thumb however, and that’s The Penguin. Oswald Cobblepot is now a skinny, conventionally handsome young man in a greatcoat with military training and, crucially, Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend. He’s linked to the new villain and was affected by Thomas Wayne’s aforementioned shadiness, but it’s just an excuse for Bruce Wayne to have an antagonist and The Penguin himself is just irritating and has more of a Joker thing going on than anything. Also he’s cockney for some reason, and his accent is awful.
Gameplay wise the only USPs here are crime scene investigations and deciding whether to approach situations as Batman or Bruce, when you’re in a position to choose. The latter is a good addition that feeds into the whole idea of actually being Bruce Wayne. The former is a nice idea that has no real depth to it, but its inclusion adds a bit of variety to Batman’s scenes. Basically you find clues and connect them in pairs, and Batman recreates what happened with super duper hologram vision. The bulk of Batman’s sections involve beating the shit out of people with quick time events, and planning out the fastest and most efficient way to beat the shit out of people with quick time events, then doing so. The game does try to replicate the tactician and detective sides of Batman but they don’t add anything in a practical sense. The choices here are a tad less dramatic than other Telltale games because Batman doesn’t kill people (unless you’re defending Batman V Superman on the Internet) and by the very nature of the story he’ll come out on top in the end, but they’re still good, and again Bruce Wayne does have some genuinely tricky situations to navigate.
Overall Batman is good. The actual Batman scenes are mediocre but pick up when he isn’t just punching people, and the stuff with Bruce Wayne is fantastic. Certain characters are weak and the latter parts of the story are definitely weaker than its beginning, but it’s a good Batman story that understands the characters and does some new, interesting things whilst deftly handling classic elements. Best thing Telltale’s done since TWAU, definitely check it out.
by James Lambert