Most every gamer knows of Telltale and their episodic narrative driven games that employ an interesting mechanic of putting a story’s outcome in the player’s hands. You make decisions throughout the episodes that ultimately affects the relationship your character has with the people around him/her in that world. I have played two of their previous titles: “The Walking Dead Season 1” and “The Wolf Among us”. Both of these entries were engaging and especially difficult to put down once started. I particularly loved “The Wolf Among Us” with its fairy tale characters placed in a modern day; gritty world. These two aspects contrasted nicely with each other and created an immensely interesting dynamic. Batman feels like such a great fit for a Telltale game, with the episodes being comparable to comic book entries in a series, and the investigation gameplay that comes with all of their installments is most fitting for the World’s Greatest Detective.
The art direction is spot on. It feels like the Batman’s world jumped right off the page of a comic. A lot of the design choices are going to feel pretty familiar, but Telltale put their own little tweaks into all the character designs. Most look spectacular, the only exception being a few nameless goons whose appearance were recycled several times. They made the interesting decision (minor spoiler warning) of giving the Batmobile a transforming ability that allowed Bruce Wayne to drive it with the appearance of an exotic sports car. This is brilliant, and something that I would never have thought of. Giving Bruce the ability to don the cape and cowl on the go without having to return to the Batcave is very practical and efficient.
Batman may have gotten top billing with the title, but this is more of a Bruce Wayne story. As I have grown accustomed to with Telltale games, the story had me hooked from the start. The narrative really concentrates on the Wayne family’s legacy, and Bruce’s relationship with his parents (their death is brought up continuously). As we progress through the game, evidence starts to surface that the Wayne family may have had connections to the criminal underworld, and the ramifications are immediate as these allegations start to tarnish the Wayne’s spotless reputation. Furthermore, when the evidence starts to appear over-whelming, Bruce begins to question everything he’s done and built in their honor as Batman. Personally, I’ve never experience a story like this in the Batman universe, and it was intriguing.
As enjoyable as the story is, unfortunately, some of the dialogue that delivers its exposition is a bit wonky and stale. There were several scenes where the sentences just didn’t flow together well. This is accompanied by a constant (and I do mean constant) reminder of Thomas and Martha Wayne’s death, which was a crutch that Telltale may have leaned on a little too hard.
Interacting with other characters is just as fun and engaging as previous Telltale games, but the gameplay aspects that really caught my attention where the detective and interrogation sequences. Putting the world’s greatest detective’s investigation skills to good use was fun and rewarding. When interrogating your victims, you’re given the choice of how brutal Batman is throughout. The player can choose to be somewhat merciful if they cooperate, or simply break bones even after they’ve spilled their guts. Furthermore, whatever direction is taken, other characters will react accordingly. Alfred may decide to chastise Batman if he feels he’s gotten out of hand. It’s during these (interrogation) moments that gives the player the greatest sense of empowerment.
Surprisingly, there were multiple (and noticeable) framerate drops throughout certain sequences. Although the art style is beautiful, it’s not a graphically strong game (which is perfectly fine), and I did not anticipate framerate being an issue. Luckily, most of the time this only occurred in sections where the player was simply watching, and did not affect any actual gameplay.
Taking up the mantle of Batman for this interactive story was both thrilling and engaging. We have always only ever watched Batman make impossible decisions and deal with the inevitable consequences, never really having a say in the outcome. This is the first time the player has some control over what he does and how he does it, and it’s every bit as fun as one would hope. Despite a few technical issues, and some offbeat dialogue, Realm of Shadows was an excellent launching point for this new Telltale series.
Final Score. 8.5
What are your thoughts on Telltales interpretation of the Dark Knight? Leave your comments below. Also, be on the lookout for my next review – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. As always, thanks for reading.