LOS ANGELES — Batman games traditionally have only let you play as Batman and his allies. After all, taking to the streets of Gotham and beating up bad guys is fun; having to navigate a cocktail party as alter ego Bruce Wayne would be boring, right? Not necessarily. Telltale’s upcoming Batman represents the Dark Knight’s first foray into a point-and-click adventure game, and Bruce Wayne’s adventures seem every bit as tense and varied as those of his costumed counterpart.
Telltale showed off the first half-hour of its new Batman game during a meeting at E3 2016. Like most other Telltale games, the series will last five episodes, each one probably around two hours long. The first episode will roll out this summer, although a Telltale representative hinted that means sooner rather than later. All five installments will debut before the end of the year.
The demo began as Batman stories often do, with a collection of criminals in the middle of a heist. It wasn’t long before Batman showed up on the scene, and made use of his grappling hook with contextual button prompts. When the Caped Crusader interrupted the thieves, he fought them by hitting buttons and following directional cues. Like the combat in other Telltale adventures, it’s fast-paced and simple, although not especially deep.
Before long, Batman’s enemy/ally/love interest Catwoman showed up on the scene and wanted the spoils of the heist for herself. (Whether she was working with the armed goons is anyone’s guess; hiring murderous brutes doesn’t really seem like her style.) During a fairly intense hand-to-hand fight scene, Telltale showed off a new combat feature: the Finishing Move.
If Batman nails enough of his quick-time prompts, he’ll build up a meter in the lower-right corner of the screen. When it’s full, you can tap a button and end a fight in an instant, stylish way. The feature is hard to dispute visually, although it feels like a tacit admission that combat in a Telltale game is often not worth drawing out.
From there, it was back to Wayne Manor for a much meatier portion of the demo. The Telltale rep explained that Bruce Wayne is just as important to this story as Batman. Throughout the course of the five episodes, you’ll split your time roughly 50/50 between the two. While the Batman sections are mostly combat, the Bruce Wayne sections are where you’ll make most of your meaningful decisions about how to interact with characters and advance the story.
Bruce attends a fundraiser at Wayne Manor for the mayoral campaign of his friend Harvey Dent. Dent has not yet become the villainous Two-Face, giving a hint as to where this story falls in the larger Batman mythos. The interactions between Bruce and Harvey provide some insight to both characters, but things really became interesting when crime boss Carmine Falcone showed up as a potential donor.
Here, Bruce got to make some meaningful choices about how to treat his guest. First, he refused to shake Falcone’s hand in front of all the other guests. Then, during a private meeting with Falcone, Bruce didn’t allow Harvey to join. During a metaphorically-laden game of pool, Bruce refused to be a courteous host and chalk up Falcone’s cue. At the end of the encounter, Falcone excoriated Bruce for this continual lack of respect. No doubt his actions will come back to haunt him in later installments.
The Batman game is very much a Telltale series, with the company’s signature mix of quick-time action, meaningful interactions and episodic content. The first half-hour looks promising, but it will ultimately depend on how good the story is — the gameplay, we already know.