I started writing this right after the final episode of Telltale’s Batman was released. While et geekera may have have gone quiet, I still owe you, the reader, and Telltale this review. It is presented as originally written in December 2016.
For four episodes, Telltale has been struggling to bring Batman to life in their trademark take on games and Bruce Wayne’s world. Announced following two critically acclaimed seasons of The Walking Dead and a much-loved Tales from the Borderlands along with the award-winning Rocksteady Batman: Arkham trilogy, gamers were excited about Telltale doing a story-focused Batman experience. After all, their success with adapting TWD and Fables indicated that a dark Batman story was right in Telltale’s wheelhouse.
Batman’s first four episodes (along with The Walking Dead: Michonne and Game of Thrones) showed that Telltale is a company whose ambitions are bigger than their abilities. Critics responded with a decided “meh” to the game’s story, Telltale’s familiar narrative tricks, their same old gameplay and broken engine. The finale is an improvement but it doesn’t save the series.
There are a long list of people who belong in Arkham Asylum. For example, Lady Arkham and the Penguin are good candidates to be locked up for being criminally insane. Perhaps the criminally insane are the folks over at Telltale who have been lacking in technical and creative drive when it comes to putting out a quality Batman game. Or maybe I’m the insane one for expecting The Walking Dead quality releases from Telltale every time.
While Batman: Episode 4 – Guardian of Gotham isn’t the worst episode that Telltale has released but it’s also not their best either. At the very least, it’s a promising setup for the concluding episode of the series.
It took me writing five paragraphs of this review to figure it out but I have come to the conclusion that Telltale’s Batman – Episode 3: New World Order is an alternate universe version of The Dark Knight Rises. Instead of Bane, Penguin is the face opposing Batman / Bruce Wayne and there is even a Talia Al Ghul-esque mastermind behind the whole operation. This revelation doesn’t detract from this episode so much as it explains what Telltale was attempting to do with this episode.
Telltale is very hit and miss with its many, may different titles. When the company is focused on putting all of its resources behind a particular game, it gets in the conversation for year-end awards. When they half-ass it, people worry that Telltale was nothing more than a flash in the pan and that it’s poor efforts of the past are more indicative of the company’s quality than its critical highs.
The Batman series finds an odd middle ground for Telltale. The story is largely compelling, even if the characters aren’t, but the actual execution of the game is so poor that you wonder if Telltale was taking notes on PC ports from Rocksteady’s Arkham Knight.
The latest in Telltale’s ongoing series of series based on licensed property is one that has a lot of fans excited. Even with the critical flops that were Batman: Arkham Origins and Batman: Arkham Knight on PC, Batman video games certainly generate quite a bit of buzz. Telltale’s take on Batman is very familiar to Telltale Games regulars but is a new take for Batman gamers as it puts as much an emphasis on Batman as it does Bruce Wayne.