Batman: The Telltale Series (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 14.11.2017

Review for Batman: The Telltale Series on Nintendo Switch

It was only a matter of time before Telltale got its hands on the Caped Crusader. More than most franchises, Batman lends himself to Telltale's signature style of storytelling. With a long history, a colourful rogue gallery, and arguably DC's strongest supporting cast, there are so many possibilities for an interactive Batman narrative. Like with most stories, there are few better places to start than with the beginning. Batman: The Telltale Series re-imagines the Bat's first interactions with Gotham's seediest cohorts. It is worth remembering, however, this is a Telltale title and Telltale titles typically fall into the same traps of superficial choices, inconsistent writing, and story/gameplay imbalances. Is the Batman moniker enough to inspire some newfound creativity for the studio, or is this simply another erratic approach at capitalising on a popular franchise?

Telltale season premieres always tend to be the most magical. The world is still being established, character roles aren't cemented fully, and the illusion of choice is at its least transparent. Come episode two, the magic is typically preserved by acknowledging choices made in episode one, but it's clear at this point not much changes between episodes in regards to decision making. If episode three doesn't attempt to cut the branches on any choice trees, it begins to push the story forward to its climax. Episode four acts as setup for the finale and is typically the most "gripping" in terms of action, while the final episode is a free-for-all with a major decision. If the series ends up having a second season, very little will matter in-between titles. This is the standard Telltale formula, which Batman: The Telltale Series quite predictably follows.

Now, it should be said that there is nothing wrong with a formula. Season one of The Walking Dead thrived with this blueprint, but it's also worth noting that that had something Batman doesn't: one writer per episode. Like formulae, stories by committee aren't inherently bad; the greatest TV shows have a room full of talented writing minds, after all, but it does open the floodgates for inconsistencies to creep in, whether there be inconsistency in authorial voice or simply quality. "Too many cooks spoil the broth," so the saying goes, and Batman's Telltale adventure is a broth filled with ingredients that don't reflect a cohesive whole.

Screenshot for Batman: The Telltale Series on Nintendo Switch

It is worth mentioning that, despite many problems surrounding it, Batman: The Telltale Series excels in its high points. Bruce's codex is a great way of seeing into the mind of the character, the character designs are incredible, and the plot never feels derivative of any other big Batman stories, even though his first year has been covered extensively at this point. More importantly, Telltale has managed to take story beats that have been done to death and make them wholly unique. Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face is simply common knowledge, fully ingrained in the cultural lexicon, but being able to actually experience Bruce's perspective as his friend falls adds a new layer of depth that cannot be present in any other medium outside of gaming.

Likewise, Batman and Catwoman's relationship is nothing new or exciting, but Troy Baker and Laura Bailey play off each other exceptionally well. New dynamics between characters are also at play; a welcome addition that will be sure to make things interesting for long-term fans. Bruce Wayne and Oswald Cobblepot are now childhood friends, and The Joker has been seemingly replaced with a rather amicable "John Doe" who sits most of the season on the sidelines - a nice departure from how most Batmans tend to force The Joker into a central role.

Screenshot for Batman: The Telltale Series on Nintendo Switch

While the character concepts are great, problems tend to arise where they usually do in a Telltale title: the decision making. More than ever, choices feel completely pointless. It makes sense in some areas. Of course, Harvey Dent needs to become Two-Face - that's simply a part of the mythos, but for a game that's pushing alternate dynamics, it doesn't exactly have the weight that it should. The idea behind forcing Dent down the path of evil is one that's likely intentional on the developer's part. It allows players to feel Bruce's guilt. If this were the only instance where choices didn't matter, it would stand out as one of Telltale's finest moments. Unfortunately, this is just one of many scenarios that simply cannot be avoided.

The first three episodes are a bit better than the last two, purely by not succumbing to the plot insanity that the last two episodes do. It's admirable what Telltale is trying to do with old characters, but it doesn't feel fully thought out in this regard. There is one major plot twist involving a character, but the twist itself seemingly comes out of nowhere. A twist should play on knowledge that is already available to the audience, not come out of nowhere. Thankfully, the writing isn't always this bad. Most character moments are well done and the actual quality of dialogue is commendable. It's the story and pacing that undermine otherwise great characterisation.

Screenshot for Batman: The Telltale Series on Nintendo Switch

While the first four episodes are a mixed bag of good ideas with poor exceptions, the fifth episode stands out as one of the worst episodes Telltale has put out, and arguably the worst finale yet. What should have been a careful conclusion to the season's themes and storylines is instead a painfully rushed race to the credits. Arcs aren't given the attention they need, but breezed through as if to be checked off a list for completion's sake. Episodes of build up are thrown out the window just so the season can be wrapped up. Batman: The Telltale Series struggles to get to its ending, but it is at least considerate of what a story needs to be before episode five, even if things often get out of hand or messy. It's worth noting that the final episode took the shortest amount of time to write, and it absolutely shows.

As a whole, Batman lends itself to the Telltale format rather well, which makes it all the more disappointing when his series can't deliver. This is a very middle of the road entry for Telltale, featuring great character work and dialogue, alongside one of its worst narratives yet. If nothing else, the first four episodes are an interesting take on Bruce Wayne's first year as the Caped Crusader, and it's always possible that Telltale's Season Two will try to present a more coherent storyline.

Screenshot for Batman: The Telltale Series on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

While Batman: The Telltale Series pulls off a novel retelling of the titular Bat's origin, it still falls into the same traps that plague much of Telltale's catalogue of games. Low stakes choices, inconsistent storytelling, and short episodes all culminate in a season that squanders all its potential by the finale. This is especially disappointing since there are genuine high points. The relationship between Bruce and Selina is handled excellently, and the concept behind Harvey Dent's downfall is arguably more iconic than ever thanks to the intimate nature of the game. Unfortunately, these moments aren't enough to save the story from unearned twists and a lacklustre conclusion. Batman: The Telltale Series is worthwhile enough for Batman fans looking for an original story sporting a fresh-faced Bruce Wayne, but this is one series that will struggle to win over any Telltale detractors.

Developer

Telltale

Publisher

Telltale

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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