“Welcome To Gotham”
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Format: iOS, Android, PC, Mac, PS3, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox One
Released: August 2, 2016
The iconic Caped Crusader has taken many forms over the years, transcending an array of mediums, from comics, to blockbusters, and everything in between. Coming from someone who looks to Batman as the most compelling superhero ever created, Telltale Games’ take on the Dark Knight had me hopeful. With the strong writing acumen Telltale has become known for, the potential for one of the best video game adaptations of Batman is certainly here. In spite of expectations, the premiere episode, Realm of Shadows, stumbles to get the season running on the right note.There are moments in which Realm of Shadows flexes its talent, demonstrating the series is capable of great highs, yet as it stands now, the premiere isn’t enough to settle the nagging reservation heading forward. Overblown dialogue, meandering character actions, and some weakly-orchestrated fight scenes, bring the episode a sub-par feeling of quality. Saving Batman’s debut episode, however, is the promise of what comes next. Realm of Shadows picks up its momentum towards the latter half, focusing on developing the increasingly intricate story at play. Multifaceted, Telltale’s narrative is one intwined in both the realities of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Their juxtaposition of personas stand as the foundation of the story, acting as a sturdy backdrop for what’s to come. The opening episode is also a fair introduction to the world, exploring the modern identity of Gotham and the inner workings of its political and social climate. Gotham feels like a real city reflecting on its golden age, holding its head high in hopes of a crime free and corruption free tomorrow.
REALM OF SHADOWS IS PASSABLE, IF NOT SLIGHTLY UNDERWHELMING
Eager to see that movement is Bruce Wayne, aligning himself with Harvey Dent to put into motion positive political change. In Bruce’s shoes, you’ll make decisions that have an affect on Harvey’s campaign, either weakening or strengthening his odds of success. In traditional Telltale fashion, decisions play out under the constraints of a timer, lending a palpable sense of tension to interactions, no matter how big or small. The most compelling aspect about making decisions as Bruce, is knowing, or not knowing, how the decision will affect Batman, and vice versa. It’s an interesting dimension that gives credence to Telltale’s narrative ambition, strengthening the story as a whole. Working against these strides, is an annoying overreliance on expositional dialogue and previously tread upon storytelling. By now, everyone understands the fate of Bruce’s parents and the motivation of Batman, yet Telltale doubles down on reiterating what can be considered basic Batman lore. This decision leads to multiple momentum-halting segments of the episode which drag on far too long. Affecting both Bruce and Batman’s segments, the familiar writing can begin to feel exhausting.Unfortunately, similar disappointments are to be found within the few action sequences that color the dialogue-heavy episode. Presented in quick time event centered combat–akin to past Telltale games–trowing punching as Batman feels scripted and heavily constrained. The cinematic flare accomplished during these scenes is impressive, but it’s not enough to make you feel like Batman himself. I couldn’t help feeling like a viewer of the action, rather than a direct participant. Made most apparent when missing the window to execute upon a QTE, Realm of Shadows’ combat portions reveal a lack of potential failure, allowing for missed QTEs to effectively have no impact on the fate of the gameplay encounter. While in theory it wouldn’t make sense for Batman to get pummeled by simple thugs, the way fights operate are in need of substantial changes if looking to embrace any sort of tension. As of now, the combat in Telltale’s Batman comes across as a façade, a weak point that’s in dire need of refinement come later episodes.Conclusion: Realm of Shadows isn’t a great first impression for Telltale’s Batman series. Riddled with unevenly paced dialogue and restrained action sequences, the premiere episode is lacking in more areas than one. That said, the assortment of plot threads hanging in the air could very well evolve into something incredibly compelling. On paper, there’s no reason why Telltale’s newest series should be anything less than good, sporting a skilled cast of voice actors, a talented team of writers, and perhaps most importantly, creative freedom over the Batman license. Realm of Shadows, however, challenges that notion, coming out the gate with a jumbled, exposition-reliant, and occasionally enjoyable episodic look at the World’s Greatest Detective.
Connect with me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts on Batman: Episode 1 – Realm of Shadows. Find me @BraxHaugen.
This review was made possible by your kind support over on Patreon.