Telltale Games‘ episodic adventures have produced some of the most memorable moments in gaming in recent years
Experts at building narrative sagas using famous licenses, with each new IP they turn towards from The Walking Dead to Borderlands, they seem to be able to craft an amazingly cinematic, stylish and emotionally investing tale that has critics and fans alike desperate to find out what happens next.
But it’s possible the wheels are starting to fall off the success train.
The next iconic franchise to receive the Telltale treatment is none other than Batman, and a “world premiere” trailer dropped yesterday, giving us a look at the Caped Crusader in action.
Take a look for yourself:
Looks a bit… boring doesn’t it?
Yes, we hate to say it, but Telltale’s take on DC’s flagship hero does little to excite from this first look, and that’s a worry.
Here’s a few things that are worthy of discussion.
Story over action
The Telltale series of games have always focused on storytelling over action.
Intensity typically comes from dialogue-sparring sessions where what you say next can have dire consequences on the direction of the narrative; any actual fighting is handled with some – admittedly ingenious – quick time events.
While that has suited the standout highlights of the Telltale collection (Game of Thrones‘ fantastical politicking and The Walking Dead‘s tense balance of character relationships and survival for instance), stepping into the shoes of a superhero feels like something that should be a lot more action oriented from the off.
We all dreamt as lacing up our boots as a superhero as kids – but not so we could go around chatting to people. We were beating up bad guys or leaping across the rooftops of Gotham City.
Liaising with curious reporters or checking in with the police chief? Yawn.
It’s possible the story will be a gripping one, full of twists and agonising decisions for the player to make. But at this stage, that’s not really selling it.
Bruce Wayne takes centre-stage
The majority of the trailer seems to focus on the slightly dry, uninteresting Bruce Wayne, rather than alter-ego Batman himself.
While it’s to be applauded that Telltale are taking a different approach to the source material, you could argue that that’s not really what we want to see from a Batman game.
Both Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead offered intriguing side-stories to the TV shows’ main narratives, and The Wolf Among Us‘ skewed take on fairytale legends was a noirish breath of fresh air.
There’s little doubt Telltale’s Batman could be similarly intriguing, but do players really want to get into the meat of Bruce Wayne’s backstory? Wouldn’t it be so much better to focus on detective work as the caped crusader?
Wayne’s story is one that’s already been played out myriad times before, and surely you’d much rather be punching goons in the head than swanning around in a billionaire’s suit.
It’s already been done much better
Perhaps the biggest gripe against Telltale tackling Batman is that a serious, gritty take on the superhero in gaming has already been done before. And to a very high standard.
The Arkham series of games are fantastic (yes, even the much underated Arkham Origins too), and with the release of the incredible Arkham Knight last year, we’ve basically already hit peak Batman video game.
While Telltale’s version looks to take a slower, more methodical pace to Arkham Knight‘s more fluid action, you wonder whether it can match up to Rocksteady’s amazingly realised world, a world that managed to cram in just about every villain, engaging action (even when things slowed down a notch) and a top drawer storyline.
It all seems too familiar
Telltale’s take doesn’t appear to cover radically different ground from the myriad Batman movies, TV shows, animations and comic books we’ve seen in recent years.
Bruce Wayne’s inner turmoil? Check. Rampant crime and corruption among the city’s more ‘respected’ institutions? Check. Batman’s moral “no kill” code being challenged? Check.
Many of the core characters and themes look to be a retread of recent, popular media spinning from the franchise.
There’s still some intrigue…
According to Telltame Games CEO Kevin Bruner, the time players will spend with Batman and Bruce Wayne will be about equal, though there will be moments when the player is given the choice to approach a situation as either Wayne or Batman.
Just how the two sides of Batman’s character could interact so seamlessly intrigues us. Wayne isn’t exactly going to show up at a snazzy, Gotham City function in his full Batman garb is he? And similarly, you’d never expect the besuited Bruce Wayne to throw haymakers down on some perps.
But perhaps that’s what we will get from the upcoming title.
In keeping with Telltale’s past adventure games, at least this looks visually pleasing, employing the developer’s trademark stylised comic book style graphics.
On the downside, it looks so much like genius spy comedy Archer it hurts. And that could be rather distracting…
Batman – The Telltale Series debuts on multiple platforms on August 2