Adventure game veterans, Telltale Games- responsible for the excellent game serial based on The Walking Dead comics, turn their attention to the Dark Knight Detective.
I just can’t get enough of Batman. Behind Daredevil, he is, when done right, my favourite superhero. It possibly gives you an insight into my pent up frustrations that they are both mildly psychotic, very flawed characters.
Batman has had many different incarnations over the years. We’ve the camp Batman ’66 TV show, and its subsequent effect on the comicbook. There’s Denny O’Neil’s 1970s take on the character, complete with Neal Adams’ beautiful art. Then, of course, you have Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns- one book that redefined the superhero genre and formed the darker interpretation of the character that we have today.
There’s been dips and peaks- I’m looking at you Joel Schumacher, and sometimes they’ve gone a bit too far- Chris Nolan. And now we have another on-screen interpretation, the older, more bitter incarnation played (very well, in my opinion) by Ben Affleck.
Batman must be one of the most fluid comic book characters out there.
In the digital realm, the Dark Knight Detective exists in many forms. We have the light and mildly comedic Lego version set in a DC Universe built from the famous toy brand. There’s Warner Games the beat ‘em up version from the Mortal Kombat-inspired Injustice: Gods Among Us.
More in keeping with the darker, 1990s comicbook reimagining, Rocksteady’s Arkham games have managed to take the essence of the Batman and create a new, but familiar take on the Batman mythos.
Batman: The Telltale Series is yet another reimagining of the character, unrelated to any of the previous video games, movies or comic books. Like the previous Batman games, it too takes some liberties with the established canon of the character.
Set toward the start of Batman’s career, the first episode, Realm of Shadows, is as much about Bruce Wayne as it is Batman. Caught up in the shady dealings of Gotham’s underworld kingpin, Carmine Falcone, Bruce Wayne find himself having to enlist his caped alter-ego fight to clear his family name.
The story does a good job of introducing a variety of familiar supporting characters, with Batman meeting Catwoman for the first time right at the beginning of the game. We also have Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s long suffering butler, a pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent, Vicki Vale, the aforementioned Falcone and a young Oswald Cobblepot.
The visuals are of a similar, comic-book, style as Telltale’s The Walking Dead games. It is a shame that they didn’t opt to emulate Neal Adams’ or David Mazzucchelli’s art styles, or even that of Frank Miller and Klaus Jansen. What we have, though, is a very competent look, far slicker that the ‘paper cut-out’ art in their earlier games.
Whilst the characters still move in a very stiff manner, they are given a bit more real estate to walk about it. There’s a lot of cursor hovering to discover interesting items, but the ability to link areas of interest during investigations is inspired. Again, following Rocksteady’s lead, it’s good to see Batman’s detective skills come into play- reminding us that he isn’t just a thug.
Telltale’s Batman is slightly more violent than I’d have liked. Whilst you could put this down to this being the early part of his career, I’m not sure that Batman would be breaking arms to get answers. It seems forced, trying to be gritty but lacking the subtlety.
As a first chapter, Realm of Shadows was a great intro to this new Batman adventure. My only issue with it was that, even though it is a reasonable length, it was over all too soon.
Roll on Episode 2!