As with virtually all Telltale games, Batman: The Telltale Series is a unique, original take on the story of the titual franchise marred by the weight of the name "video game." Technical issues and a lack of gameplay hold it back from being something truly impressive, though fans of the developer will of course forgive it for its very obvious sins.
+Creative and original story
+A few unique/interesting sequences that take advantage of the title character
-Frame rate issues
-Obvious animation issues
-Gameplay glitches in several versions of the release
One of the most interesting, and unexpected, reveals of last year's E3 was the announcement that the kings of interactive story-telling, Telltale Interactive, was working with Warner Brothers to produce a game experience under the franchise banner of Batman.
Hot on the heels of titles under staple franchises like AMC's The Walking Dead and HBO's Game of Thrones, it seems that there's no property that Telltale hasn't been able to brand with their unique spin.
With all that heat behind their lineage though it's important to remember that the medium is, very much, a double-edged sword. While the team at Telltale are extremely gifted story tellers, the lack of interactivity in their titles can leave some wanting, especially considering the more traditional interruption of what a "game" is.
For my money, you couldn't ask for a better property for interactive story telling or an old-school adventure game/point-and-click. Comic book properties seem like the most obvious choice for Telltale, though to-date they only have one other franchise under their belt: The Wolf Among Us.
So, knowing the history of the developer and its brand (for better or worse) we all know, going in, what we're expecting to get: A unique twist on an established story, a deep dive into the lore of a well-known world through the eyes of some of the most talented and creative story-tellers in the business.
Unfortunately, there are other staples to the design of Telltale's game entrants. Though they seem to be far less publicized.
Telltale has had issues in the past with animation, frame rate, and glitches. The launch of Batman, most notably, has been fraught with all of the above. Players jumping in on the release of Chapter One for the PC in particular baring the brunt of the technical issues with problems reaching the heights of the software being utterly unplayable, and that's not hyperbole either some players have reported issues with the game even starting.
Thankfully the company has been quick to react and a patch was release shortly after the launch of the game to reduce some of the troubles experienced.
My play through was done on an Xbox One and there too I experienced a wealth of technical issues. Janky animation, massive frame-rate drops, and all of this compounded by the fact that there's very little game in the interactive story. In any other medium it might be easy to let frame-drops slide, considering how much is going on... however when the "game" is little more than a cinematic with select QTE (quick time event) moments it's hard to justify the frame-rate dropping to about 10fps.
Again though, Telltale is known primarily for their story-telling. So, for the most part, that is what the buyers of the title are going to be looking for: "How good is the story?"
Telltale's take on Batman is, as one you would expect, completely it's own. Though it draws from the source material of the character there are many twists and turns that make the story completely unique. Some of which, obviously, you define for yourself via the dialogue options provided through out. Most importantly, within an episodic release format, there's enough established within that first chapter that, if you haven't already, you'll find yourself wanting to buy-in on the season pass to see the story through to the end.
All-in-all, to me this feels like the most expensive animated comic I've come across. Each chapter costing around $5 with 5 chapters planned; discounted if you buy in advance for about $30 for the season. It's something that I want to experience, but I don't know that the cost is a fair one. From the first chapter's experience there is a definite lack of interactivity, even compared to other games released from Telltale in the past. Of the 2-3hr experience of the first chapter there were really only 1 or 2 great moments that would define as "video game."
Considering the technical issues, the rolling release of the game, and the cost to buy in early this feels like something I would suggest waiting on for the majority of gamers. Telltale's Batman is, to me, the epitome of one of two ideas: a hold over until the next blockbuster release of a Batman video game, or the perfect thing to pickup during a Steam sale.
Review is based on a retail version for Xbox One, purchased by the reviewer.
Release Date: August 2nd, 2016