Batman: The Telltale Series
Alliterative twins, Telltale Games and Travellers Tales, have demonstrated that they have found a successful formula and stuck to it, and like Procter and Gamble with their fine offering of cleansing products, no-one can argue with success. Travellers Tales can produce a series of commercially viable third-person perspective LEGO theme games until the cows come home, and no bovines show signs of pining for the ranch. Likewise, Telltale, since their contribution to The Walking Dead body of intellectual property, has faltered only occasionally. From Minecraft to Borderlands and any “I.P” in-between (look forward to Gillette Mach 3: The Telltale Series) Telltale has spun gold into platinum, and now it is Batman’s turn.
Just to get this out of the way, I generally enjoy Telltale Games output and will put this entry favourably on par with the first season of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The game appears to be heavily influenced, not only by the source material, but also by the Netflix series, Jessica Jones, both in terms of the primary antagonist and the Cobblepot character, along with the constant conflict between relationships and the greater good (don’t worry Batman will always be a good little socialist). The game showed that Telltale really does have a golden goose, and it legitimately created a desire in me to see Gatsby: The Telltale Series, same for Warhol and Hunter S. Thompson.
A very welcome addition is the investigative system Telltale has created to enable you to link several different items of evidence to progress the game. This new system, either implemented by Bruce Wayne or The Batman, can also be used to advance plan combat actions, and in both cases is an thoughtful addition. Unfortunately this same system makes use of a sloppily controlled pointer system which has your mouse, (or controller -- I did check), flailing about the screen like a tin toy in a magnet shop. The linking device does fall short in all but three scenarios, where you realise the conclusion on arrival to a scene, even ones that present an urgent response, but have to slowly drudge your antagonist through a painfully fruitless and obvious conclusion (Citation: Episode 5.3).
A similarly needless area in which the game falls down is it’s under-pinning technology which still causes Telltale Games to drop frame rates during even the least graphically taxing moments. It is clear from their output that Telltale is a group split between innovation in interactive storytelling and some technically inept but internally powerful group of developers who refuse to confront their inability to perform. This brings down the product in the most basic sense, but also undermines the direction of the game, where obvious rules of cinematography are ignored due to technical shortcomings of their Playstation 2 era engine.
As long as Telltale is fat, dumb and happy they will not address this flaw in their company, and why should they, for the strength of their story telling exceeds expectations and there is no reason why this Batman series should not run for years to come.
- Phil Fogg