Batman – The Telltale Series Episode 5 Review

Batman – The Telltale Series Episode 5 Review

Here it is. The Grand Finale! Episodes 1-4 have had excellent ratings thanks in large part to an inspired storyline and voice acting to match.  The only thing needed now is a strong finish.  Does Telltale deliver? I hope so, a bad ending can sour the whole darn thing.  Lucky for you, I already know the answer…

Genre: Point and Click
Developed by: Telltale Games
Published by: Telltale Games
Release date: Episodic release from August 2nd through December 13th, 2016
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed on PC)
Price at time of review: $24.99 USD for the full series, Episode 1 FREE, so give it a whirl

Story & Setting

This section has dominated the last few episodes, and I think it’s time to change all that. Not by shortchanging this one mind you, but by expanding the others below. Buckle in, this will be a bit longer than usual. I’ll be careful though, what with the possibility of spoilers and all that.  Does Telltale do the unthinkable and kill off Batman?  Do they leave us hanging with a new villain ready to step up, foreshadowing Telltale Batman 2? Did they write themselves into a corner and for some reason…aliens?  I’m not telling.  Na na, na na, boo boo!

I will say that Batman/Bruce doesn’t waste any time getting back into things after a dynamic end to Episode 4.  Picking up where we ended last time means tracking down one of the remaining baddies and putting one sub plot to bed.  And this is just the intro to Episode 5.

little-penguin

Wittle Pengin is adorbs!

Also, it’s finally time to admit I lied in an earlier review.  Well sorta anyway.  In reviewing Episode 2, I indicated that the story isn’t canon and remarked “I don’t mean to say that there’s some crazy badass villain they unveil.” While it’s true that this isn’t what I was intending to describe with my allusion to a non-canon story, I worded it to be somewhat misleading.  In wrestling terms, this would be called a “swerve.”  Careful readers may have noticed I’ve made vague references to a primary antagonist, and despite listing key villains like Two-Face, The Penguin and the Joker I’ve indicated none of them are the primary.

was-that-a-basilisk

Are basilisks the primary antagonist?

Well guess what?  You’re still not gonna get it out of me, but they do indeed unveil a new crazy, badass villain.  Between this person (whoever they are), Two-Face and Penguin, Telltale braids a tale of intrigue that pits Bruce/Bats against a three headed monster.  While [insert nameless villain here] might be the “primary” villain, all three narratives intertwine nicely.  [Unnamed Villain] serves more to tie a knot around any loose strings, and doesn’t serve exactly as a direct foil to Batman, but provides excellent context into this “what if” version of events.  Alright…enough rope and string references.

After taking out the first loose end, Episode 5 has us wrap up a more personal subplot, then right back after this mystery antagonist.  Episode 5 has the least “down time” between key story points and presents much like an action packed movie ending.

take-on-me

♪ Taaaaaake…oooonnnn…meeee♪

Gameplay

Time to give this section some love!  There’s nothing new from a gameplay perspective in this episode.  At least as far as how Telltale presents things.  However I have some stuff to report anyway.  For the first time, I decided to break out a controller to see how that played out.  With Steam attempting to offer full controller support on games, and me being a console junkie, it seems like this would have occurred sooner honestly.

First some context, I’m primarily a Sony gamer so I use some fun software that allows me to have my Dual Shock 4 hooked up.  I point this out, because the game did recognize that I was using a controller for input and switched over to a controller mode.  However, the default is a Microsoft controller.  So when the screen prompted me to hit “A” for example, I needed a quick brain translation to remember to hit “X” on my controller.  This did lead to Batman getting killed at least once.

ghost-butler-1

So why is Alfred the ghost? Wait…is he a ghost?

The game did have a temporary hiccup while it was transitioning between input types. There were a couple prompts to hit “Shift + E” which is not something I think most controller are readily set up to do.  I played this episode over two sessions, and this was only happened twice and right after I switched to controller style during the first session.  It worked flawlessly the second time around. Overall though, the controller isn’t a bad way to play the game at all. In fact, there’s a few benefits.  But let’s get to the cons first…

Obviously, the early confusion on input source isn’t a plus, so that’s the first “con.”  There’s also areas where the game is clearly designed for a mouse and that simply works better.  Two come to mind readily enough. During combat sequences, occasionally Batman needs to aim something and click. This is preeeeetty easy with a mouse (which is why shooters love ’em). On a controller, this is relegated to the right stick and the “A” button (or occasionally the Right Trigger). It’s simply not as precise and I found this to be the most challenging part of action sequences, when before it was one of the easiest. Similarly, when exploring the world, the concept of point and click is quite natural to the world of mouse. Right stick and “A” feels somewhat odd. Telltale does a great job understanding this and took the proactive measure of increasing the size of the clickable areas when using a controller.  Using a mouse though is still a little better. It feels more like you’re actually reaching for and interacting with an object rather than using an input device.

bat-laundry

It’s time to clean up this city!

There are some benefits to using a controller though. Dialogue with keyboard and mouse is pointing and clicking, but on a list of items. There’s no real immersion to the pointing experience here. Also, to keep you believing the visuals, the cursor isn’t visible until the dialogue choices appear. This leads one to first have to locate the cursor, then quickly read the dialogue choices, then select one. The controller maps each dialogue choice to a button and presents them in a diamond rather than a list. This bottom of the diamond is mapped to “A” and I bet you can imagine the rest. This eliminates the need to find the cursor and was much smoother as an approach for me. With the game being quite heavy on dialogue, this isn’t a small benefit either.  Another benefit emerged during last throwdown with the primary villain (whoever that happens to be). This turned out to be an excellent QTE experience by the way. It also means a lot of quick button pressing and reacting, which felt better (to me anyway) with a controller.

dialogue-with-controller-mapping

Damn that’s hot…the um…controller mapping that is…

Ultimately, controller vs. keyboard is a matter of preference. The one thing I wouldn’t recommend however, is switching how you play mid game. Taking a fraction of a second too long to remember which button is mapped to “X” and which to “Y” for instance, can lead to scenes like the one below…

death-of-bats

Whoops!

Audio/Visual

Voice acting remains top notch and sells a lot of the experience.  The primary antagonist (whoever they are), is compelling in both “normal” and “evil baddie meanie person” personas.  Which is great since you see a good deal of both in this episode. There’s a couple bit parts here that don’t skip a beat, and Bruce/Bats is awesome from start to finish.

just-grate

You might say the voice acting is…grate

I brought back a little of the visual review here to point out some attention to detail that Telltale brings to the table. Two things reeeeaally jumped out this episode but they’re indicative of how much attention went into the entire game.  During a particularly chaotic scene where fists are flying from dozens of angles, they were thoughtful enough to put a specific character in the background, just kinda hanging out and taking it all in. That’s already a semi-spoiler which I won’t flesh out, but let’s just say that it’s a perfect take on this person and is an electrifying thing to see.  The scene in question is one with plenty of action for players to focus on so there’s no need to have a “holy crap” moment on top of that.  Yet they do.  Thank you Telltale!

The second involves a key fight where the villain has undergone some humanization via “the plot.” There’s a great shot where this person is in front of a statue.  No spoilers here, but the potential symbolism is at a level most games wish they could reach.

environmental-storytelling-1

Here’s a nice cinematic view I can show

Nut, Bolts and Miscellany

Last time I’ll get to make this disclaimer…

This game is getting near perfect scores for me, but like everything else number related, context is important.  Despite a few elements that aren’t common to the genre, this is a point and click adventure.  Compared to many games/genres the difficulty threshold is quite low. It’s not a “walking simulator” by any means, but puzzles are enclosed and somewhat simple. Combat is limited to a few common actions.

environmental-storytelling-2

More of that cinematic feelin’

Now, comparing this to most point and clicks, it’s more linear than most without having the ability to go back and forth between areas looking for that perfect inventory item (there no inventory for the record). Still comparing to point and clicks, very few take that long to complete and this is no exception. If you expect to spend 100 hours on this game, then you better expect to play it through a bunch of times.  Each Episode is easily completed in a night for most players, and if you took a vacation day I bet this is a one day affair with some time for lunch still.

Gee Skare, that’s a lot of things that sound like they’re not tremendous.  Why the high rating? Glad you asked.  In any game in this style, what I’m looking for is a compelling story that’s backed up by the presentation. These games could easily be compared to a high tech graphic novel that allows one to step into the shoes of a character rather than just read about it.  And in that regard, this is one of the best experiences of that nature I’ve ever come across. Bruce’s super expensive shoes are an unrivaled success to walk a mile in. The impact of the player’s choices are readily seen in this game and are a rare success in a medium where choice is generally an illusion.

One last thing, there are a lot of dings elsewhere on this game for performance issues. I did have an occasional performance drop that usually included the audio and video components getting out of whack. However, I didn’t personally experience anything besides the “mildly annoying.” If this were a PS4 game it would have impacted the score. Since it’s PC and my machine is a pile of crap (at least as far as gaming is concerned) with some idiosyncrasies of its own (like freezing when copying music files), I can’t conclusively say the issues were the game. In fact, I have more reason to be suspicious of my computer. However, I would encourage players to look into this aspect if that would be a deal breaker for them.

Also, the game concludes with a “What Kind of Batman were you?” review. Here’s mine…

what-kind-of-bat-am-i

I was a pretty nice Batman it turns out. Also, I redacted the name of the mystery villain! Ha ha ha!

9.5
Summary: Once again, only the overall score is necessary. Telltale delivers a consistent experience from start to finish, carried along by the strength of its story and voice acting. Gameplay is quite good for a Point and Click affair. Puzzles are on the casual end for sure for the genre, but the QTEs and dialogue segments are the true winners here. Replayability depends on the player. Those who care about the different choices will likely take it for another spin. The price is fair, but I would again point out that people need to be aware that you're paying for the incredibly high production of the story/acting rather than an epic saga that will take you years to complete. To conclude, Telltale fans likely don't need to be sold on this. Batman fans looking for a unique spin on things shouldn't miss it either. For everyone else, remember Episode 1 is free and what you see there only gets better.
Story & Setting (9.5)
Gameplay (9)
Visual & Audio (9.5)
Replayability (8)
Pricepoint (10)
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