As I opined in a previous article here, Telltale Games continually impresses me with their titles. This absolutely includes Telltale’s latest, Batman: The Telltale Series. My first write-up details my experience making mostly wise decisions as Bruce and Batman. However, out of pure curiosity and entertainment value, I played Batman: The Telltale Series‘ first episode again, but executing antagonistic dialogue choices and actions instead. You can see me play this entire episode as “jerk” Batman on the Sub-Cultured YouTube channel. Here, let’s dissect how these contrasting playthrough experiences differed, not excluding SPOILERS.
In the opening city hall heist sequence, Batman’s actions changed very little. I stopped the thugs and encountered Catwoman, but this Batman chose different words when conversing with her. I made Batman inform Catwoman that he wears the suit for the thrill, instead of any honorable intention. In true Telltale fashion, the game only states “Catwoman will remember that,” without revealing those consequences in this episode.
After the heist, which ended in Batman still recovering the stolen hard drive from Catwoman, Bruce proceeded to the private fundraiser being held for his friend Harvey’s mayoral campaign. This fundraiser, occurring in the Wayne Manor, gives many diverse dialogue options with the varying guests. I portray Bruce as rather dodgy with a fellow famous rich family, instead of inviting. When I encounter Vicki Vale this time, I tell her to leave. She surprisingly understood and walked away as criminal overlord Carmine Falcone crashed the party.
In this instance when Falcone offers his hand to Bruce, I shake his hand, disregarding every single eye watching me. Once Falcone and Wayne talk privately, the conversation nevertheless unfolds similar to my “good guy” playthrough. Falcone ends with some combative statements, to which Wayne promptly kicks him out.
The Press Conference
After the fundraiser concludes, Bruce meets an old friend, Oswald Cobblepot, at the once-prestigious Cobblepot Park. During this verbal exchange, I make Bruce respond to Oz’s veiled threats with threats of his own. Telltale again says “Oz will remember that,” but we do not see how in this episode. After this reunion, Bruce co-hosts a press conference with Harvey regarding the new Arkham Asylum building, where you’re presented an opportunity to verbally spar with the press.
When the press reveals Bruce’s parents had connections with the mob, I chose the more affronted dialogue options for Bruce. He slammed the press for believing flimsy sources, then still left abruptly after hearing the police are searching his mansion. When arriving at Wayne Manor, Bruce again confronts Lieutenant Gordon, but regardless of how argumentative Bruce is with Gordon, Gordon responds with calm “I’m here to do my job” replies.
Vicki Vale again intrudes in Wayne Manor uninvited, and again I have Bruce respond coldly to her presence. Bruce calls her out on her consistent trespassing and I refuse to give her a quote when asked. Before leaving, Vicki still offers words of encouragement, which befuddles me since this Bruce has constantly rebuked her.
Bruce pays Harvey a visit at a restaurant, where I play Bruce as accusatory, stating Harvey withheld information about the search warrant. Harvey claims not to know, but I have Bruce refuse to believe that. When Selina Kyle approaches, she and Bruce recognize each other as their costumed counterparts due to their battle wounds. Harvey steps away and I continue Bruce’s streak of snark as he insists he’s a “better person” than Selina/Catwoman.
Selina suggests Bruce could help her, and I have Bruce refuse to work with the likes of her. Nonetheless, Selina still discloses a warehouse where a chemical weapon exchange was occurring. Once again, the lack of consequences Bruce’s bad attitude has to the story puzzles me.
When Bruce as Batman arrives, the warehouse remains in bloody disarray, just like my first playthrough. After the game requires ace detective work, you find the nearby sniper who killed everyone. Instead of simply intimidating, I opt for Batman to break the sniper’s ribs with a pipe then break the sniper’s arm after obtaining the necessary information.
Because my Batman doesn’t give a damn, I stay when Gordon finally enters, who sees the damage I did to the sniper and responds with disgust. The cop with Gordon threatens Batman more than my “good guy” run, which is a nice touch. When the cop claims she’ll shoot me, I have Batman reply “I dare you.” This is probably the most gratifying, fun response I gave the entire “bad guy” playthrough. However, nothing comes of that right now, as I inform Gordon that the chemical weapons belonged to Falcone.
The Luxury Suite
The stolen hard drive again decrypts at this time, which is evidence on Falcone’s criminal empire. I still choose to provide this evidence to Gordon, although I admit I should have given it to Vicki since this was intended to be my “bad decision Batman” experience. When Bruce hands the drive to Gordon, Gordon emphasizes his intent to thoroughly investigate the Wayne family allegations. “Everyone has a price,” my surly Bruce replies.
After this scene, the finale occurs where Bruce as Batman raids Falcone’s luxury suite. After fighting through Falcone’s henchman, Batman comes face-to-face with Falcone, who accuses the Wayne family of being behind all the criminal activity lately. Despite this “confession,” I elect for Batman to brutalize Falcone by shoving his leg through an exposed pipe. A nearby news chopper and the police see the damage I’ve done, which surely influences them into thinking of the Bat as an unstoppable menace.
The episode ending remains unchanged, with Bruce returning to the Batcave completely shocked and repulsed by his family’s legacy being tarnished. This cliffhanger always sends chills down my spine in pure excitement for what’s to come in this series.
After 2 contrary playthroughs, Batman: The Telltale Series certainly includes enough disparate conversation choices, but could use more consequence. Vicki and Selina insisting on aiding Bruce regardless of my choices are baffling, yet the story couldn’t unfurl too drastically different for each player. There’s a concrete narrative Telltale intends on following, and it’s solid enough to currently hover in my top 10 games of this year, as long as the follow-up episodes deliver similarly.
Telltale Games uniquely excels with storytelling in gaming. Based on player choices, your character journeys through diverging paths in an average Telltale entry. They also possess great dialogue writing abilities, and better than most gaming titles. You’ll find one of their best examples in the hilarious Tales from the Borderlands. Although taking a more serious approach in Batman: The Telltale Series, it is no deviation in quality.
Batman: The Telltale Series tells a completely unique Batman story which doesn’t exist in any medium. There’s no DC comic, poorly-acted TV show, or underwhelming movie containing this tale. Telltale CEO & Founder Kevin Bruner openly discussed their partnership with DC during this series’ creation. In the first episode of the related behind-the-scenes series Batman: Unmasked, it’s revealed that DC felt Telltale’s take does right by Batman. After completing the first Batman: The Telltale Series episode thrice, I say DC’s trust in Telltale is justified.
Instead of your typical review, I’ll dissect my differing playthrough experiences. If you need my usual grade for reference, this episode deserves an A-. For those that have yet to play this fantastic episode, this article includes SPOILERS, as we’ll divulge the results of my contrasting decisions as Bruce Wayne and Batman, starting with my “good” Batman playthrough.
READY TO BELIEVE IN GOOD
My first playthrough consisted of decisions a good person would make. The game opens with Batman (voiced by Troy Baker) attempting to prevent a heist at Gotham City Hall. Here, Batman encounters Catwoman (voiced by Laura Bailey). We end up fighting regardless of the words traded, Batman takes the hard drive she stole back from her, then she escapes. My familiarity with Telltale’s games aids me as I succeed in each Quick Time Event (QTE) here, and in the 2nd playthrough. Batman: The Telltale Series gives us the Batman action we know and love, but your actions’ consequences reside in your dialogue choices.
The first major dialogue choices in Batman: The Telltale Series occurs during a fundraiser for Harvey Dent’s mayoral campaign, hosted by Bruce Wayne himself. I navigate through various polite choices with influential guests, with Harvey Dent (voiced by Travis Willingham) at my side. Reporter Vicki Vale (voiced by Erin Yvette) shows up uninvited, but being the decent guy I am here, I tell her she can stay. Carmine Falcone (voiced by Richard McGonagle) also arrives uninvited, yet he’s a known crime boss. With all guests’ eyes on me, I refuse to shake his hand. Then we converse privately, where I insist on Harvey’s presence, and I further give Falcone grief for his methods. Time will tell how this rift impacts Bruce’s life.
After the fundraiser, Bruce reconnects with old friend Oswald Cobblepot, or Oz for short (voiced by Jason Spisak). I keep things cordial with Oz despite his veiled threats of overthrowing the rich (which includes Bruce). Post-reunion, Bruce heads to a press conference, co-hosted with Harvey, for the announcement of a renovated Arkham Asylum. Here, the press bombards Bruce with accusations of his parents’ involvement with the mob. Simultaneously, Bruce receives texts from Alfred notifying that the police are searching his mansion for evidence. I remain cordial and calm with the press, stand up for Bruce’s parents’ legacy, then race home.
A STORM’S COMING
Back at Wayne Manor, Lieutenant James Gordon (voiced by Murphy Guyer) confronts Bruce, and I have Bruce politely tell him how wrong these accusations are. However, Gordon will only believe what the evidence tells him. Then Vicki Vale intrudes again, but I’m inviting to her and give a quote at her request, calling the story on Bruce’s parents fabricated.
After Vicki departs, Bruce finds Harvey at a restaurant, questioning if he knew about the search warrant signed by potentially-corrupt incumbent Mayor Hill. Harvey swears he didn’t, so I have Bruce believe him. Then Harvey’s girlfriend, Selina Kyle, walks up. She silently recognizes Bruce’s scratches as Bruce identifies the bruise on her eye. These two subtly acknowledge each other’s secret identity.
Harvey steps away for a phone call, which is where the real tension builds. I chose for Bruce to scold Selina’s criminal lifestyle, but when she offered help, I didn’t refuse. Selina then gives Bruce a warehouse’s address, where Selina was expected to deliver the hard drive mentioned earlier.
Batman suits up, finds the warehouse a bloody mess after a chemical leak and a shootout, then questions a nearby, poorly-hidden sniper. The options here are to physically maul the sniper or simply intimidate him. This Batman being honorable, I feigned beating him with a pipe, threatened to break his arm, and still obtained the needed information. I passed along these details to Gordon, which implicated Falcone as the responsible party. Gordon notices I didn’t maim the sniper and respects my restraint.
THE POWER OF FEAR
Bruce heads back to the Batcave as the stolen hard drive data is fully decrypts. The drive contains data that can take down Falcone and his empire, although it’s unclear from where the drive originated and why. Another choice reveals itself, as you either opt to share this data with your contacts in the press or the police. While condemning Falcone in the court of public opinion is a nice sentiment, I went with the obvious choice of handing the evidence over to Gordon.
Discussing the evidence with Gordon as Bruce presented a small challenge. Gordon sees your act of goodwill as a potential bribe. Still playing good guy mode, I assure Gordon the intentions are pure, which Gordon trusts. After separating, Bruce suits up as the Bat to start his own methodical takedown of the Falcone regime.
Another commendable element of Batman: The Telltale Series is the detailed approach at choosing your attack plan. There are 4 armed guards in Falcone’s luxury suite, and you select which inanimate objects to beat them with. It’s nothing short of glorious. After this task, you corner Falcone and can either brutalize him or handcuff him. When a news chopper arrived, handcuffing was the less bloodier option I chose, which will play well with the viewing Gotham audience.
Falcone reveals to Batman that the Waynes are behind the entire mess Gotham is in. This sends Bruce in a tizzy. He returns home, violently removes his cowl, and demands Alfred to tell him the truth. This is our first of 4 expected cliffhangers Telltale delivers brilliantly. Now we have a story that’s equal part Batman and Bruce that we the fans can sink our teeth into.
My excitement for episode 2 is palpable but first, we’ll have a write-up and video playthrough of the “bad guy” version of Batman. He’s not so much a killer as he’s just mean and makes bad decisions. However, I suppose one could argue that’s the more fun version.
A few months ago, we were surprised by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s announcement that he’d be producing a Sandman film with the blessing from creator Neil Gaiman. Then, we were teased by writer Jack Thorne’s attachment to the project. Now, as fans twiddle their thumbs waiting for more updates, I’d like to offer an argument for the casting of our beloved brooding Dream Lord.
Some e-whispers suggest that Don Jon himself should don Morpheus’ oneiric cowl. Why not? He’s pale with dark dressings and has dabbled in the DC universe before. Others like our own ethereal editor, Leia, champions more maturity in the master of disguise, Doug Jones. On the other hand, Gaiman put forward the razor-sharp cheekbones of Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch for his two cents.
What is my informed and corrected opinion on who should be cast, you ask, nay, you beg? All of the actors, or at least as many as could be seamlessly cut into a scene.
Hear me out. One reason among many that makes Sandman one of the most preeminent comic series of all time is it’s art, which not only was helmed by a multitude of different artists, but depicted a comic book hero who is iconically inconsistent from panel to panel. Unlike the red and blue of Superman, or Batman’s dark gauntlets, Morpheus’ face and clothing rarely had the exact same features from page to page, let alone spanning volumes. Even more interesting, Dream’s appearance would often depend on who he was interacting with. J’onn Jonzz sees Morpheus as a Martian, while to the Egyptian cat goddess, he is a great black cat with stars for eyes. How then could one actor really capture Dream better than a comic book artist? Why make a film at all if you’re going to lose something so essential from the character? (The different facets of Dream is probably best depicted and explained in the current mini-series, Sandman Overture, which marks Gaiman’s return to the character).
So imagine a movie where different actors play Dream in different moods, or in different scenes reacting to different characters. Picture the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but much, much, better. Not only would this be visually amazing, but would honor the inconceivable vastness of a character that personifies an eternal and formative aspect of the universe. Throw Cat-Dream in there, and I think you’ve got the basis for a perfect Sandman adaptation.
What do you all think?