Batman games over the years have usually painted a violent, devoted figure, using a number of items to his advantage while maintaining a great deal of stealth to intimidate his enemies. Sure, some games have fared better than others (can we just forget the Batman Forever releases didn’t exist?), but overall, developers have really gotten an idea of what makes the hero tick.
But what about the other side – the Bruce Wayne side where he has to maintain a status quo so not to give away his vigilante ways? Well, Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 1 – Realm of Shadows goes a long way of delving into that story, giving both sides equal strength with strong storytelling. That shouldn’t be a surprise, given Telltale Games’ status quo as of late.
The story revolves around both Batman whooping ass at the start of the adventure (while saving Selena Kyle, aka Catwoman, in the process) and Bruce Wayne having to deal with outside forces when it comes to pushing the campaign of his friend Harvey Dent, in an effort to gain him a strong political seat.
Now, of course, some of you – who may have played Batman’s Arkham games to a great extent – will probably think that the Dark Knight takes center stage in a title such as this. But, surprise, Wayne’s sequences have some levity as well, particularly when you’re dealing with kingpin Carmine Falcone, and deciding whether you should risk doing away with your promising personality to support Dent, or simply showing the criminal the door and wondering what repercussions will follow?
As with previous Telltale games, your decisions have both perks and consequences, so you can play it bold or cave in and see how the cards fall. It’s a fascinating process, one that continues to fuel the best of the developer’s efforts, and it continues to do so here. While Realm of Shadows is quite short at just around two hours or so, it tells a great story in the process, one where you actually feel Wayne’s anguish, and how it feeds into his Batman persona.
Plus it makes proper use of Batman’s abilities as well, as you take a closer look at evidence and eventually piece together crimes, while at the same time taking advantage of Wayne’s abilities. It’s a fun two-sided coin (that’s not a reference to Two Face, by the way), and a game that tells a different side of the Caped Crusader that we haven’t seen.
The decision-making is probably the biggest part of Realm of Shadows, as you’ll see when characters recall something (“blank will remember that”) and the reactions that come, in real time, from your judgment calls. That, combined with the savvy old-school art style lovingly crafted by Telltale’s team and solid voice work (including good ol’ Troy Baker as Wayne/Batman), makes for a fun, albeit short, comic book romp.
I will note, however, that the QTE-style action doesn’t quite do the Dark Knight justice. Granted, Telltale can’t quite handle fisticuffs on the same level that Rocksteady Games’ titles have, nor should it. But some may feel thrown off with a battle with Batman ending with “go right here, press A here, tap button” instead of unleashing justice with ferocity. But that’s the way the developer has always done it, and the controls are responsive enough that you can breezily get through the action sequences and dig back into the heart of the story.
While I would’ve liked a little more story from Realm of Shadows, it’s definitely an opening chapter that gets off on the right foot. The scripting is excellent, the voice acting equally so, and the art style beckons the older days of the Dark Knight, instead of the modern design that so many developers seem to be going for these days. In short, it feels like a classic comic book brought to life – and for fans of the Bat, you can’t go wrong with that.