City of Light: Batman Telltale review

by Lars
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Batman Telltale series has finally come to a close this week with the release of the final episode, so, as promised, it’s time to follow up on our earlier review and see how the series as a whole stacks up against the studio’s other games so far.

The first point I want to make is that even at its absolute worst, this is still the freshest, most enjoyable take on the Dark Knight in game/animated form we’ve seen since Arkham Asylum. The writing is great, the fresh spins on old characters are interesting and rarely over the top. It outclasses the recent DC movies without breaking a sweat. Villains and allies alike are all flawed characters with their own motivations and reasons for madness. This final episode especially zones in on the age-old question – is the man in the Bat costume just as mad as the criminals he hunts? As character backgrounds are delved into and the true depth of new enemy Lady Arkham’s sinister plans are revealed, it’s up to Bruce to stop Gotham from tearing itself apart once more.

City of Light covers a crazy amount of plot in a very short space of time. The tense showdown with Two-Face, the outcome of Bruce and Selina’s doomed romance, the climactic final battle as the world quite literally collapses around you. Despite this, the tying up of every loose plot end doesn’t feel rushed, and, naturally, it’s all left extremely open ended. There are very few closed cases by the time the credits roll. It’s made clear that there is more on the way, even if it hasn’t been formally announced just yet. It’s good to see that the strong storytelling, despite being built on a shaky foundation, pays off in the end. My largest fear for the game, that it wouldn’t stick with the Thomas Wayne mob connection story all the way through, was also resolved, and that’s what this ending is all about. Bruce choosing if the best way to protect Gotham is as the billionaire or the Batman.

The Bruce/Selina relationship is a real highlight here with cheesy puns being kept to an absolute minimum.

Batman The Telltale Series artwork with Batman and Cat Woman side-by-side
The Bruce/Selina relationship is a real highlight here with cheesy puns being kept to an absolute minimum.

It’s still plagued by the typical Telltale problems. Batman Telltale stutters along even in basic dialogue scenes with two characters just milling around a room. When you get into the big fight scenes, it sometimes hangs and takes upwards of ten seconds to load the next action, which really takes away from how great they look. As quirky as the idea of a turn based Batman RPG is there’s no place for it in this particular game, and it often lags to the point of frustration. QTEs are far, far too easy – I didn’t miss a single press throughout the entire game – with every punch, kick, and grapple broadcasted by a huge time slowdown that gives you enough time to boil the kettle, take a crap and catch up on Facebook before you have to hit the buttons. Compared to the life and death situations of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, Batman’s combat just feels like there’s no way to fail. Maybe it’s because you’re playing as an expert martial artist instead of a little girl, but it would have been nice to have a few moments where you felt powerless against the odds, given the relative youth of this version of Batman and the fledgling establishment of his legacy.

One particularly weak aspect of Batman Telltale in my opinion is the Joker – your brief encounter with him isn’t really enough to gauge which direction they’re going to take but perhaps we’ve just been spoiled by the likes of Nicholson, Ledger and Hamill. Not just any voice actor has the gravitas to step into those giant clown shoes, but, like everything else, Telltale are making him their own, free of any other media influence. His character model is pretty classic – no smeared makeup, tacky grills or tattoos here – and it could be the intention to leave the true machinations between the Clown Prince of Crime entirely blank for now. His entrance in episode 4 was certainly ominous, insidious and foreboding, but so far, the voice, which is such a huge part of what makes the Joker so frightening, just doesn’t shine. It does the job, and bravely, doesn’t attempt to imitate any of the great Jokers before it, which is something to applaud. Before any kind of final judgment on that can be passed, we’ll have to see how the second season unfolds, and that could be years from now.

This final episode takes everything good about the series and cranks it to its full potential, leaving the previous instalments in the dust and setting a foundation with tons of possibilities for the future. We just have to hope that by the time season 2 rolls around Telltale have made some serious improvements to their engine because the recurring laggy, glitchy state of their titles is beyond the point of charming acceptability. These games are at their best when they’re pressuring you into making tough choices and reacting quickly – how is that pressure supposed to sustain itself when animation freezes at random intervals and fast-paced combat sequences need to load between every punch?

Batman Telltale is definitely something you should play, regardless of your level of love for the subject matter. It presents Gotham in a brilliantly accessible light, with complete character dossiers bringing the uninitiated into the fold with ease. There’s joy to be found here for obsessed Bat-fans or newbies. Although the story hits stutters almost as much as the framerate, this is an excellent Batman story, and the beginning of a series sure to cement itself as one of the greatest ones ever told.

The Batman Telltale TL;DR:

  • Fantastic storytelling combine with talented voice acting and authentic comic book visuals for a rollicking Batman romp with plenty of twists and turns.
  • The Joker is a little underwhelming so far but has promise for the future.
  • Telltale’s beleaguered game engine is struggling just as much as ever, with parts of this game in particular being almost unplayable.
  • Although everything is resolved, much of the plot has been left open ended, hinting at things to come.
  • Easily accessible for fans of any degree and a must-play, all in all.


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