Telltale Games was on the show floor at E3—the year’s biggest gaming event—last week to give an extended peek into Batman: The Telltale Series. The studio demoed the first thirty minutes of the episodic adventure game at the Los Angeles Convention Center in an actual Batcave, complete with a Wayne Manor-like foyer, a “secret” entrance and a well-stocked bar.
There are dozens of Batman video games, but none have the angle Telltale has taken with the beloved character. As demonstrated by my first glimpse into the gameplay of this five-part series, the studio is treating the DC license as an opportunity to undertake a grounded character study of the man behind the mask: Mr. Bruce Wayne himself.
Batman fans need not be concerned, however, for the game looks set to indulge in plenty of vigilante action too, with the very opening sequence featuring the hero making quick work of a bunch of armed goons, eventually leading to a frenzied fight against a certain famous adversary of the caped crusader.
But just as much time in the demo, if not more, was spent playing as Bruce Wayne, Gotham City’s billionaire businessman and playboy extraordinaire. Following the high-octane opening, we find Wayne hosting a fundraiser at his manor to support the mayoral campaign of one Harvey Dent, only to come face-to-face with Carmine Falcone, one of Gotham’s cruellest mobsters.
Throughout the encounter, Wayne finds himself confronted with a number of tough decisions: does he treat Falcone as a welcome guest, or refuse to show him any hospitality? It’s scenes such as these, wherein Wayne struggles to navigate the dirty politics of Gotham City, that have me most excited to dig into what Telltale has in store for us. And clearly Telltale hasn’t shied away from diving into the lore of the Batman universe.
Richard Iggo, Telltale’s Senior Director of Marketing, was on hand to explain that although this new adventure will represent a “completely original Batman story,” the studio have “over 75 years’ worth of content to work with” and draw inspiration from. That said, Iggo went on to stress that “there are a lot of things which are very different to the established canon,” so don’t expect events to pan out exactly as you might expect from a Batman story. “With this game, we knew we wanted to explore what it meant to be Bruce Wayne, and what it is that motivates him,” said Iggo. “To delve into the psychology of that character.”
In keeping with the classic Telltale narrative structure (the studio has previously tackled licenses that include Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, The Walking Dead, and even Game of Thrones), the choices you make as both Wayne and his alter-ego will allegedly generate consequences throughout your story, for better or for worse depending on how you decide to play. For the first time in a Batman game, you will even be given the opportunity to decide whether you want to tackle a certain situation as Wayne or as the Batman, representing two very different approaches. Even as Telltale accommodates this freedom of choice, however, Iggo revealed that you’ll still be playing the game “roughly 50% as Batman, 50% as Bruce Wayne.”
Meaningful characterization has always been one of Telltale’s greatest strengths, but the studio has also given its game engine a significant facelift with this new series, which greatly enhances the quality of the action sequences. That unmistakable “Telltale DNA”, as Iggo refers to it, is still prevalent in the cell-shaded art style, but the visuals now appear much sharper and richer than anything the studio has done before. Batman’s cape authentically flies behind him as he zips around Gotham’s rooftops, and his hard-hitting combat style has been translated well into the reflex-dependent action scenes.
Even so, it’s still the character of Bruce Wayne who appears to be the beating heart of this new game and, considering the pedigree of the studio behind it, it’s incredibly exciting to see what Batman: The Telltale Series has in store for the world’s greatest detective. The studio has stated that it plans to release all five episodes of the game before the end of the year, with the first launching later this summer.
Alex Avard is a British freelancer currently living in Santa Rosa, California. You can follow him on Twitter @alexavard95.
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