Batman: The Telltale Series – Episode 1: Realm of Shadows (XB1) Review

The night is always darkest before the dawn.

It will only be a matter of time before there is a Telltale adventure game about every worthwhile property on the planet. Their latest series, much like anything else they have ever released, will find its fan base among those interested in the property. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of the Dark Knight, so when Telltale announce they were giving Batman the episodic adventure treatment, you could guarantee I would be there day one.

The first episode in this five-part series sets the mood. This is a story focusing on Bruce Wayne more than his masked alter ego. The familiar Telltale tropes apply, as well as some sprinkles of originality, but those looking for a revolution in the way these games are handled will be sorely disappointed. Yes, Catwoman will remember that, and after finishing the first episode, I hope the remaining episodes build upon what was established here.

MSRP: $4.99 ($24.99 Season Pass)
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC, 360, PS3
Price I’d Pay: $4.99

Episode one, titled Realm of Shadows, spends most of its time setting up an interesting scenario where Bruce Wayne will face one of his greatest threats. No, I am not referring to one of his iconic villains. Instead this story seems to center around the legacy of the Wayne family. The setup is good, but I still can’t help but get the sense that a lot of the decisions I made throughout the first episode will have less impact than they appear to insinuate.

Plenty of familiar faces appear throughout the game. While some are what I expected, there are a few that Telltale has rendered in their own design. I like that, it makes them feel fresh. Without spoiling anything, there are relationships established early on that I am eager to see unfold. It is worth noting that this Batman story does not exist inside any of the DC timelines, instead it is its own world, giving Telltale freedom to tell their own story.

I played through the game on Xbox One, and as with most Telltale games, it comes with its own set of issues. Performance was all over the place. There are times the game runs smooth and things go as planned, while other times seemingly calm sequences are dragged down by horrible frame rate drops and stutters in the action. It is jarring, especially since this entry is built on their latest tech. This game comes with the same issues that have plagued their games in the past.

Thankfully, I didn’t run into any game-breaking bugs or stops, but the performance was very hit or miss. Visually I enjoy the style they are presenting though. It feels like a mix between the usual Telltale look, and something out of a graphic novel. Character designs are slick, and there is a stark contrast between scenes with Bruce and Batman.

The voice acting is great, but jarring at the same time. Hearing Troy Baker voice the Dark Knight is weird seeing as he has voiced almost every Batman villain, just in other games and media. Other performances are of equal quality, while the dialogue itself is a bit expositional at times, most likely due to having to employ the illusion of choice, and make it more engaging for the player.

Combat sequences are handled as expected with quick time events relaying the action. I don’t think players can actually fail them though. There were times where I did not hit certain buttons, or place my reticle in the proper place in time, and things worked out. This is likely due to the new meter mechanic. With each successful action, I built up a bat symbol in the bottom corner, once full I could activate a finishing move. It is an interesting mechanic, but one that does feel a bit forced at times.

The parts I was most excited about though are the detective portions – areas where Batman must put his true skills to the test and figure out how a crime took place. While they are novel, they are also extremely simplistic in design. Linking together pieces of evidence did not feel satisfying, and instead more like a game of connect the dots. I hope it expands more in future episodes.

The first entry in Bruce Wayne’s tale is not a bad one. I enjoyed the setup, and hope the rest of the series delivers on that payoff. I just wonder how long between episodes I will have to wait to figure out if this Batman story is worth the price of admission.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Interest in next episode: High

Written by
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.