Batman: The Telltale Series is an episodic game arriving in August. Our Alan Stock is here for ComiConverse to tell you what to expect based on Telltale’s game history.
On August 2nd, Episode 1 of Batman: The Telltale Series swoops onto PC and consoles. After the disappointing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie earlier this year, will this five episode Batman game put the franchise back on track? The last great Batman games; the Arkham series, by developer Rocksteady, were critically acclaimed and focused on action and navigating the environment with Batman’s tools. Telltale has a lot to live up to, but their foray into DC’s universe will offer a slightly different change of pace – their style is a heavily narrative-based graphic adventure.
So what can we expect based on Telltale’s previous games?
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Start off by watching the trailer above.
Batman: The Telltale Series:
Bruce Wayne delving into mysteries, a dose of action as Batman, plenty of conversations and a little menagerie of Gotham characters. The game is set in the early part of the Batman story and is unconnected to any other Batman canon – it’s standalone, giving Telltale more freedom in their storytelling. According to people who played the demo at games show E3 this year, it was a signature Telltale balance of exploration, multiple-choice conversations, tricky decisions and action sequences punctuated by quick-time events (button reaction tests). Game time will be split between Bruce Wayne and Batman roughly 50/50, with consequences hinted for Bruce’s sections when he overreaches as Batman. The story will focus on a mystery and the player performs somewhat of a detective role in this, which worked well in previous Telltale title The Wolf Among Us. Predictable enough for a Telltale game, but with their pedigree, it should be one to watch out for.
So what is that pedigree?
Telltale have been involved in some massive entertainment franchises, from Game of Thrones to The Walking Dead. Batman marks their third comic/graphic novel treatment and their second time working with DC, following The Wolf Among Us (set in the Fables universe). Their recent games are bestsellers and have been received with critical acclaim. Over the years they have matured into a studio which delivers compelling storytelling and action, combined with player choice which actually makes a difference to the story. Another iconic aspect of their games is their episodic nature.
With sometimes months between episodes, and each episode only lasting a few hours, the wait can be excruciating – especially if it ends on a cliff-hanger!
One of the reasons that Telltale has been successful is their treatment of existing franchises. They work carefully with the creators and writers to make sure their games compliment the source material and don’t stomp over existing storylines in the canon. This can be tricky with ongoing media series like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones – the games can’t affect the main characters or core plot in ways that might conflict with the overarching storyline. In those games, Telltale dealt with this by introducing new, unknown characters they could slot in and around the events from the original series. Main characters from the TV/comic series are included in the games from time to time, but the plot doesn’t impact their core story, whereas the game-specific characters have no constraints – even being killed off in some cases, as you might expect considering their source matter!
In The Wolf Among Us you played as main character from the Fables comic, Bigby, and other key Fables characters were heavily featured. But, in order for it to not impact the ongoing Fables comic storyline, it was set as a canon prequel to the series. With the new Batman game, however, you play directly as Batman/Bruce Wayne. As Telltale are not tied to any existing canon storylines on this series, they’ve massively freed themselves on where to take the story. We are promised a unique Batman tale which apparently “holds no punches”, the game is rated R, and they have been working with DC to create something new. “There’s going to be a lot of things which are very different to the established canon” said developer Richard Iggo, talking to the Daily Star.
Telltale games are primarily about story and drama, and they’ve made a point of player choice affecting this. Choices or reactions you make in conversations and action sequences, even early in the series, can have a direct impact on the story, even if it doesn’t reveal itself until later episodes. This makes for very compelling gameplay and your choices in conversation or action usually have a tight time limit. Often the choices are agonising and fit the theme particularly well, especially in The Walking Dead where you’re frequently faced with difficult choices. For example, in one stressful scene, zombies are attacking and you have seconds to decide which of two teammates to help.
Do you help the young boy who is trapped and about to be bitten, or the guy holding back the fence where the zombie horde is about to break through?
At the end of an episode, it’s Telltale tradition to display what your major choices were and then compare them with what other players chose, which makes for some interesting reading.
In Batman, Telltale has said some difficult choices for the player will have to be made, for instance when Batman decides how to deal with villains and how to behave as Bruce Wayne – Gotham is watching. Hopefully some of these choices do impact the story in meaningful ways – Telltale is sometimes guilty of events resolving nearly the same regardless of your choices. It can be disappointing to replay sections of a game, picking a different choice, only to get a similar result. This is understandable from a development point of view (creating content for every choice combination would be crazy), but spoils the illusion of control. However, Telltale games have been improving in this regard with recent games having genuine consequence to your decisions – and with the reigns off on an entirely new canon to work with, hopefully Batman will have some real diverging storylines or endings affected by your choices.
If you haven’t already, you may want to check out some of Telltale’s previous series, which often crop up in bundle deals. The studio is extremely busy at the moment, a new game season of The Walking Dead is due out later this year, Game of Thrones next year and an unrevealed project working with Marvel. Exciting stuff! The concept of a Batman game series by these masters of the interactive narrative is an alluring one. With Telltale’s expertise, especially looking at their faithful treatment of The Walking Dead and Fables, comic and game fans alike should be excited.
On the 2nd of August, keep your eyes on the sky – Gotham city needs you.
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Source: TellTale Games