Why Telltale’s take is the definitive video game Batman
By this point, there are numerous ways to don the cape of DC’s Dark Knight. Whether it’s by immersing yourself in Christopher Nolan’s cinematic trilogy, giving thugs a beatdown in Rocksteady’s open world actioner, or taking a trip down memory lane with Adam West’s campy TV translation. For me however, one thing’s for certain. The definitive video game version of Batman is Telltale’s – a sentiment only solidified more so when looking at the continuing second season: The Enemy Within.
Turning the familiar into the unexpected
Ask anyone about Batman’s backstory, and they’re sure to relay to you in some form or another the events which took place in Crime Alley. Thomas and Martha Wayne’s death are core to the Batman character, giving Bruce the thrust to take justice in his own hands. Yet while Telltale’s version of Batman maintains this as a jumping off point, other familiar lore elements aren’t as solidified, giving the writers to explore, experiment. Often, with great success!
In Telltale’s Batman, for example, the Riddler was a villain that plagued the streets of Gotham long before the Batman came to town, resulting in a different dynamic between the two. We see in the second season’s opening episode that the Riddler feels he has the right to treat Gotham and the people within it however he likes, while Bruce (still feeling the repercussions from Lady Gotham’s failed masterplan last season) must inspire them and prove otherwise. Similarly, Oswald Cobblepot is a childhood friend of Bruce and Thomas Wayne’s purity is muddied otherwise.
Telltale’s willingness to tweak and iterate on these previously established concepts in this way might infuriate DC diehards, but I would argue that these subversions are the main reason for any dedicated Batman fan to experience something new. Where else other than spin-off stories featured in the comics are you going to find such ambition? If you want the Batman in his purest form the ‘90s animated show will always be there. But for those tired with what they already know, Batman: the Telltale series has you covered.
Choices that reflect Batman’s duality
Though it might sound cliché, the real mask for Batman has always been Bruce Wayne. Before Telltale’s Batman, few mediums had given us ample opportunity to play and interact in this world as the true mask, too often relying on Batman’s hardcore brawling as a gameplay crutch. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy as much as the next guy, but the ability to step into a pair of loafers as Bruce instead of the conventional bat boots would have been a nice change of pace.
Due to the nature of Telltale’s adventure game format, this duality is allowed to shine more than ever, and is a natural fit for Batman. At certain points throughout various episodes are you able to approach scenarios either as Batman or Brice Wayne, often resulting in wildly different outcomes and circumstances. In my first season, Harvey Dent unfortunately succumbed to his alter ego of Two-Face, largely as a result of my actions as Batman. What I hear from others however, is that should I have been a bit more caring as Bruce, this needn’t have been the case.
The comic book aesthetic
Obviously Telltale’s engine lacks a little when it comes to technological wizardry, but what their games lack in this department is easily made up for by a great art direction. Batman: the Telltale series continues this tact, thanks in part to the graphic novel-like aesthetic first established in the first season of The Walking Dead. Simply put it’s great to see a more sketched version of Gotham and these familiar characters brought to the screen. At its best, you feel like you’re flicking through the pages of a comic book as the season progresses from scene to scene.