BATMAN: The Telltale Series - Episode One: Realm of Shadows Review
The Dark Knight gets the Telltale treatment with an exploration of the man behind the cowl.
Telltale Games takes a crack at everyone's favorite bat-themed vigilante. We all know the story, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his parents as a kid during a mugging gone awry. The tragic event motivates an emotionally traumatized boy to turn himself into a weapon of justice against the parade of costumed villains that wreak havoc across Gotham City.
Unlike other Telltale titles like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, you're really never shaping Bruce's personality with the decisions you make but more on how the public views both Bruce and Batman. It's an interesting approach to giving the player agency over the perception of Batman without fundamentally changing who the character is.
For example, Batman captures a mercenary who's got information you need and not a lot of time to get it out of him. As Batman you have two choices; you can go the fear route by scaring the holy hell out of the guy to give up the goods or just you can go kinda nuts and break the guy's arm. Both actions result in the same outcome except the level brutality will be noted by both friend and foe alike.
Speaking of foes, Episode One lays the foundation for Batman's rogues gallery. Starting with the usual suspects like Catwoman taking things that don't belong to her, Carmine Falcone doing his best Goodfellas impersonation and there's even a surprise appearance by the (weirdly handsome) Penguin. Their backstory and motivations have been slightly modernized and are all somehow involved in Gotham's dangerous political scene.
Episode One is basically an episode of Scandal starring Bruce Wayne.
Realm of Shadows focuses more on Bruce Wayne and the motivations behind his nocturnal activities. Gotham City has seen better days. Crime and corruption run rampant and Bruce's alter-ego can only so much. The new approach into making Gotham great again comes in the form of Harvey Dent's mayoral campaign with the endorsement of Gotham's favorite son, Bruce.
Episode 1 has you play mostly as Bruce Wayne navigating Gotham's perilous political landscape. Things get interesting when the politics get dirty and the Wayne family legacy of philanthropy gets involved in a scandal. I was not expecting to have my favorite parts of Episode One were charming potentials donors at a fundraising and tap-dancing probing questions at a press conference.
The stellar voice acting performances combined with the graphic-novel look really make Realm of Shadows feel you're watching a Saturday morning cartoon. Troy Baker leads the cast by doing a fantastic job of portraying the duality of Bruce/Batman. There's a good meltdown scene that proves that Baker has got serious range as an actor.
It's good to fight crime again.
This Batman story lends itself well to the Telltale style of storytelling. Realm of Shadows is more about how Bruce deals with relationships and how he handles problems without punching them in the face. Things get real interesting when it's revealed that Bruce's folks might not the shining examples of good he thought they were.
Don't worry though you'll still have chance to pound on goons and use some killer gadgets. You don't actually spend much time as Batman but when you are him, it's used effectively. The ass-kicking that you do is mostly done in the form of fairly easy quick-time events. There's even a real impressive sequence where you are actively working a crime-scene. It's good to see Telltale reminds us that Batman is also the world's greatest detective. Hearing Batman work the evidence and piece together what happened like it's an issue of Detective Comics is pretty neat.
What I really enjoyed about Realm of Shadows is that you are actively creating the Batman mythos yourself which is something we really haven't seen yet in a Dark Knight game. Whether your choices pan out though, we won't know until the next couple of episodes. Either way, good start. I look forward to seeing how my decisions play out in the the next episodes have in store for the Caped Crusader.
Batman: The Telltale Series is off to a good start by showing us you can have a Batman game without actually having that much Batman in it.