With 77 years under his belt, Batman as a character has been in comic books, television, movies, and games. He’s been a cheesy action hero and a gritty antihero. Is it even possible to make Batman fresh at this point?
Telltale Games, who have moved from franchise to franchise with their games, wants to answer that question.
Their recent adaptation of Batman in the Telltale style pulls from some classic Batman characters and moments. But they have managed to do the unthinkable. They have made a fresh, sometimes unexpected experience by focusing on the man under the cowl: Bruce Wayne.
The Hero We Don’t Need
So why aren’t more people talking about Telltale’s new game? Critics have praised the first three episodes for their writing, performances, and willingness to play with the Batman canon.
Part of this might have to do with the sheer amount of the Dark Knight audiences are getting.
Batman v Superman hit theaters this summer. It gave fans gallons of angst, plenty of plot holes, and whatever this is. Ben Affleck’s Batman was the best part of that movie for some people, but the movie left a bad taste in a lot fans’ mouths.
Of course, Rocksteady’s Arkham games still cast a large shadow for any future video game adaptations of the character. Gamers can even enjoy those games on current generation consoles with the recent remaster of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.
All of this adds up to one question: Do we really need more Batman?
Telltale seems to think so.
Old Faces, New Places
Despite all the Batman that fans are getting nowadays, Telltale’s newest game manages to offer something new. Some people might be sick of the Caped Crusader. But anyone who has any interest in Batman as a character should be playing Telltale’s series.
Telltale’s Batman, like all Telltale games, is a narrative driven experience divided into episodes. There are quick time event-based fight scenes and some light puzzle solving, but nothing too challenging.
The real challenge comes from the player’s interactions and relationships with other characters. These characters – Alfred, Harvey Dent, and Catwoman to name a few – should be familiar to fans. But Telltale takes these characters to interesting new places, completely redefining Batman’s – and Bruce Wayne’s – relationship with them.
Harvey Dent’s evolution into Two-Face can be a lot more tragic, based on how the player chooses to interact with him. Likewise, Oswald Cobblepot (aka The Penguin) has a personal, political relationship with Bruce that feels fresh.
And, without spoiling anything, Telltale uses Bruce’s relationship with his dead parents – something every person even remotely familiar with the character understands – and complicates it in very interesting ways. That relationship creates an all new challenge for Bruce. He has to reconsider the very moment that set him on his mission as the Caped Crusader.
That’s really interesting new territory for a Batman story to explore.
It’s Wayne’s World
Telltale is clearly still pulling from other Batman stories, but what they’re assembling is pretty special. A lot of that has to do with their format, which relies on drama, relationships, and tough choices.
All of that means that the player spends a lot more time as Bruce Wayne navigating Gotham’s political game. Bruce Wayne too often feels like Batman’s alter ego, so it’s great to see Telltale actually tell a story about how Batman’s actions influence Bruce Wayne and vice versa.
By focusing on Bruce, Telltale can tell a more human story while still offering all the same thrills of a good Batman comic. There are still fistfights, but now they sit alongside political intrigue.
Batman has survived as a character for almost 80 years because he and his world are just flexible enough to adapt. With only three of its five episodes out right now, Telltale’s Batman pushes personal drama while putting a fresh twist on classic characters and moments. Fans and non-fans alike need to play it.
It’s the game we deserve.