Batman: The Telltale Series - Episode 1: Realm of Shadows Review


If you take a quick glance at Telltale's portfolio, you'll learn that they have mastered the art of storytelling in video games. IP like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Tales From The Borderlands undoubtedly prove that they can reinvent franchises,  giving them a fresh, emotional spin. That's why I was thrilled to see what they could accomplish with the Dark Knight property. Based on Realm of Shadows, I can confidently say this has everything you'd expect from a Batman title... plus a great deal of things you wouldn't.

Reviewing episodic releases is often challenging. It's different for each case. With this series, I decided I will cover the artstyle and presentation at this moment. Moving on, I'll solely concentrate on the narrative and other elements that caught my attention.


So...how's the presentation in Telltale's latest release? Not that good. See, designers attempted to fabricate an art style that 'looks like a living, breathing comic book.' To be honest, they did nail that aspect. Everything from Gotham's architecture, to face models, and the use of lighting indeed resembles a comic book. Sadly, it's occasionally overshadowed by the same old engine. That's the only issue I have with this series (for now). I was immensely disappointing to find the exact out-dated engine is still being utilized. It has yet to be expanded on or perfected. While there are less frame drops and stuttering, animation are stiff and awkward, which undermines the gorgeous art. Having said that, it's not enough to erode the rest of the awesome experience.


Similar to any TT game, decisions are crucial to your enjoyment of the product. From the very start, you are asked to chose a bat-tech color. This cosmetic concern simply determines the look of the World's Greatest Detective's gadgets, gear, and UI. Still, I spent several minutes contemplating each palette, until I finally went with red. As trivial as the choice sounds, it's all bout tailoring the experience to each individual player. As the 2 hour episode progressed, these decisions got harder. Every time one came up, I didn't know if I should go with what I thought was right, or what I believed Bruce Wayne would do. This produced a ferocious conflict within my head that only proves how effective the system is. At this particular stage, there didn't seem to be any 'life or death' dilemmas, but I'm sure the consequences to my actions will ramp up as we move on.


Now, Telltale's format doesn't allow them to create a state of the art combat system or the slick open world sandboxes found in the Arkham series. Therefore, most of the chips are thrown to the narrative basket. To be honest, it truly pays off. Far too often, super hero games are watered down by the typical, over the top 'knight saves the princess' tale. That is absolutely not the case with Realm of Shadows. Even if we're only at the beginning, the grounded, criminal-based storyline is already picking up a snowball effect. Gotham is a dirty mess. The city is falling down, and a savior is desperately needed. Covering multiple themes such as politics, love and family, Mr. Wayne's latest quest already has its hooks on me.


And part of the reason why I was instantly captivated is the dual storytelling at play. Commonly, any piece of Batman media turns around the Dark Night. The suit, the late-night cape crusading, the bad guys. However, you can tell an equal amount of focus is being put into Bruce Wayne himself. His current political endeavors are vital to Gotham's future, and his family's legacy. It's well balanced, and the pace is surprisingly smooth. Seeing Bruce's human side is incredibly refreshing, and I'm sure it'll become more fascinating as the stakes get higher.


What makes these interactions so special is the fantastic set of characters at display. The funny thing is that, although this is an original story, we know where some of the cast will end up (based on the comics). Nevertheless, witnessing the minor seeds being planted through crisp dialogue is extremely satisfying. The episode is full of set-ups that probably won't come to fruition until later on, but taking the time to place the foundation will make sure all the story arcs remain cohesive and logical. Also, voice acting is pretty solid all-around. Nothing really stood out, but I have no complains in the VA department.


Nonetheless, a couple of significant additions have been implemented on the gameplay side of things. First off, the characteristic button-mashing action sequences have been updated with advanced button combinations. So instead of spamming X to keep a goon from stabbing you, you go down with the joystick as you press X. Not ground-breaking, but a welcomed adjustment. Furthermore, the point-and-click exploration has been vastly improved. The Batman IP opens up a brand-new set of detective mechanics. When investigating a crime scene, you're able to scan and analyse specific clues. Following that, you have to link clues together in order to craft a theory. It does a splendid job at making you feel like the Bat himself. And, it's quite a blast.

Verdict: The Batman series is off to an impressive start. Even if the far-from-ideal engine keeps it from reaching greatness, Realm of Shadows successfully establishes a compelling Bruce Wayne narrative that leaves me wanting more.

The Good
- Fascinating Dual Storytelling
- Tailored Experience
- Well-Crafted Characters
- Welcomed Gameplay Additions

The Bad
- Same Old Engine


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