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

Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 12 (Crowd Play)
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 1 - Realm of Shadows lets Telltale Games bring their unique brand of adventure gameplay to yet another franchise, and if this first episode is any indication of what's to come, players are in for treat.

Telltale Games rarely gets the chance to choose the graphical style of its games. Since most of their titles come from specific licenses with noted visuals in their own right, Telltale has a history of duplicating the look and feel of the existing work. Given the vast variety of visual styles that Batman has been depicted in over the years, this restriction doesn't apply to Batman: The Telltale Series. The result is a visual style that reminds me a bit of the comic book feel from The Wolf Among Us, but with a darker and more subdued style.

Masked characters like Batman and Catwoman look great in their iconic costumes, while the more mundane looking people of Gotham properly give off the wealthy or vagabond looks that correspond with each person's respective side of the poverty line. Meanwhile, Gotham itself has the dark and dirty look that always comes with the Batman name.

Audio is also on target in this game. Troy Baker reprises his role as Batman and Bruce Wayne from the Arkham series, while other well known voice actors like Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham (both known for English dubs of Anime) and Richard McGonagle (Sully from the Uncharted series) fill in many of the other essential roles in the game. Each one does a great job of portraying his or her classic Batman character, and their voice acting, coupled with the moody music, really helps to set the overall tone of the game.


With the exception of a couple of new mechanics, Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 1 - Realm of Shadows plays like most other Telltale adventure games. You will play through conversations with a limited time to decide on various dialogue options, and each of those choices can lead to differences in how the other characters feel about Batman/Bruce Wayne. While some of these choices don't seem to have any lasting effect, others could see larger consequences as each episode is released.

Action sequences are quick time events that, for the most part, feel right for the various moves that Batman performs. The game prompts you to tap an arrow key, Batman dodges in that direction to avoid an attack. If Batman wants to land a punch or kick, a keyboard key will appear. It's all about tapping out the keys the game prompts. Anyone who has played a Telltale game since The Walking Dead: Season 1 should have a good handle on what to expect from these sequences. The biggest difference I've found here, besides the occasional addition of the (Shift) key for a bit of extra umph, is that these combat sequences feel much more crisp, quick and efficient when compared to past games.

The closest Telltale game to have this level of combat in it was The Walking Dead: Michonne, but since Batman is a much more skilled and versatile fighter than Michonne, it shouldn't be a surprise that Batman: The Telltale Series kicks the combat up a notch.

As for the game's story, Episode 1 - Realm of Shadows has Bruce Wayne backing DA Harvey Dent for Mayor, while Batman is hunting a new burglar, Catwoman. When Batman corners the leather-clad thief, he manages to nab her prize off of her, an encrypted hard drive, and starts the process of decoding the device. Meanwhile, Harvey's desire to grab every vote seems to have put him in bed with notorious crime boss Carmine Falcone, and with Bruce also backing the DA, it could mean that the playboy billionaire has to deal with the kingpin as well.

Realm of Shadows does a pretty good job of dividing your time between both Batman and Bruce Wayne. On the Dark Knight side of events, Batman's investigations lead him to a gruesome crime scene where he has to use his detective skills to piece together exactly what happened. Here is where one of this game's features really shines. While investigating the scene, Batman has to link various details with others in order to get a clear and accurate picture of exactly what happened. In a similar manner, Batman later plans out an assault by linking enemies to various elements of the room, in order to plot out his exact attack pattern. Both of these aspects really help to convey Batman's more intellectual and methodological side.

Of course, while Batman has to track down mob bosses and gather information, Bruce's life isn't all cocktail parties. Apparently out of nowhere, the Wayne family is under a character attack as rumors rise connecting the Waynes to organized crime. As Bruce starts to track down exactly what is going on, he has to decide how much of his current problems are because he is backing Harvey in the election, or because he might have made an enemy in Falcone.


Most Telltale games have two flavors of difficulty: the action sequence and the choices, and Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 1 - Realm of Shadows is no different. Unlike other Telltale games though, the balance in this title seems to lean more towards the action events. When Batman is in combat, you have to handle a fairly quick barrage of keyboard commands and you feel like you don't really have a lot of time to pull of the various actions. While I rarely failed an action sequence, I did find that I felt like I was being pushed to react a lot more than other titles.

The choices, on the other hand, didn't feel nearly as pressing as in past games. Sure, you have to decide quickly, but for the most part, you simply need to decide how Batman-like you want to play things out. You are given various ways to "interrogate" enemies, but there is always an option that feels like the approach Batman would take, and then there are ones that are further from those choices. As far as dialogue options, I never really felt like any of the choices presented gave me all that much of a moral dilemma, and it often came down to how much I felt like making the person I was talking to mad at me. Maybe these options will have hidden consequences in future episodes, but at first glance, they sure don't feel like it.

Game Mechanics:

Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 1 - Realm of Shadows introduces a new feature that, personally, I didn't realize was missing until this game. Crowd Play makes Batman a multiplayer game ... technically.

Having friends that really enjoy The Walking Dead, but not really interested in adventure games, means that I often had a small audience while playing those games, and when a decision was presented, we often quickly talked over what was the best option. Crowd Play takes that idea and makes it a built-in feature.

When turned on, audience members that want to participate go to a specified URL on whatever internet-enabled device they happen to have handy. When the game gets to a decision point, the options become color-coded and everyone participating can choose the option they want to pick. You can set up Crowd Play to either automatically choose the most popular option, or merely act as advice for the player who still has to actually make the decision.

Between decision points, audience members are presented with thumbs up and a thumbs down buttons, and tapping them will let the player know how well what was just seen was received by the others.

While Crowd Play is supposed to be able to support 2,000 audience members, logging into the game does not show the audience the game; you need to be able to see the screen since Crowd Play doesn't even show you the text of the four dialogue choices, just color-coded buttons that correspond to what is on the screen. While, yes, you can broadcast the game via Twitch and have 2,000 people join the room, the lag that comes with a Twitch broadcasting could easily cause problems and Telltale stresses that the intent is for a small group of friends all in the same room (though, as I write this, Geck0 points out to me that you could rent a movie theater and get a couple of hundred friends in the same room for a gaming session).

Realm of Shadows kicks off what looks to be an intriguing new game that not only sets up some interesting pieces for the rest of the series, but also captures the Batman feel really well. Batman: The Telltale Series has gotten off to a really good start, and fans of Batman and Telltale Games both will want to check this game out.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 7 64Bit Service Pack 1, Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz Processor, 3 GB RAM, Nvidia GTS 450+ with 1024MB+ VRAM (excluding GT) Graphics Card, DirectX 11.

Additional Notes: Not Recommended for Intel integrated graphics


Test System:

Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3,Windows 10 Home 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB)

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated