Review: BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES (2016)

Who do you want to play as?

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Batman: The Telltale Series is an episodic point-and-click adventure role-playing video game developed by Telltale Games. The player assumes the role of both Batman and Bruce Wayne. While Bruce Wayne finds himself in the treacherous waters of Gotham politics, Batman comes across an unusual villain.

Is It Worth?

If you are hardcore Batman fan, you might want to check this out. You may not like the little change they do in Batman’s mythos to tell their tale (see what I did there?), but this is definitely worth a play if you follow Batman’s adventures across various mediums. For the casual fan, you won’t miss much if you skip this.

A little about the Gameplay

The writers take us back in the early history of the character for this story, when Bruce is still finding his groove as Batman. Commissioner Gordon is not Commissioner Gordon yet; Harvey Dent is not Two-Face yet; Batman has not faced any of his Rogues yet – no Joker, no Catwoman, no Penguin. The story introduces all these characters and more. However, it really picks up when Bruce finds himself at a crossroads, as his family’s legacy is brought under question. Were the Waynes really the shining beacon of light we are told they were? Was Gotham ever truly in a “golden age”?

Speaking of gameplay, if you are familiar with the Telltale Games formula, you’ll feel right at home here. Batman: The Telltale Series doesn’t alter much from that tried and tested recipe. The player can examine and interact with characters and items around him. He can also decide the nature of those interactions.

The Good

1: It feels redundant writing this again, and I think write this every time for a Telltale Games game, but the game offers no binary choices. There are no “good” or “bad” choices here.

When I first heard that Telltale Games were doing a Batman game, I wondered how would they introduce this ambiguity. He is a good guy at his core, if you take away the badass, almost antihero bullshit. At best, you could push the choices into the grey area. You can’t make him cross the line. But, like I mentioned earlier, the writers make a tiny change in Batman mythos and Bruce Wayne has to make some tough choices. And so does the Batman.

2: Telltale Games smartly try not to make this a punching game or a gliding game. Rocksteady’s Arkham series has already perfected that. Instead, they focus on the detective aspect of Batman. They go beyond the scan crime scene are to analyse blood splatter pattern stuff.

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The Detective Mode of Batman: The Telltale Series also allows you to plan your combat.

3: It might be called Batman: The Telltale Series, but it is as much a Bruce Wayne game as it a Batman game. We were promised that you play nearly equal amounts as Batman and as Bruce Wayne. While I didn’t time it, I do think the ratio is indeed somewhere 50-50.

The Bad

1: This is probably just me, but I found my choices to have not altered the story much. Spoilers ahead: I saved Harvey Dent from the Penguin so he didn’t turn into Two-Face, but his actions in the game following that were still very Two-Face-y. This was not like The Walking Dead where one big choice during the gameplay took the story to a completely new direction. Again, I think this is because you can’t really deviate from the mythos much.

2: I really liked the plot of the first episode. After that, however, it got uninteresting. Barring a few moments, the rest of the story left me underwhelmed. And don’t get me started on the abused little girl cliché. Do better, writers.

3: Action sequences are basically quick time events. But that is to be expected, I guess, considering this is a Telltale Games game.

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Conclusion

Telltale Games manage to do a smart new spin on the Batman mythos. Play this if you like Telltale Games stuff. Play this if you like Batman stuff.

You may also like:

Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM (2009)

Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY (2011)

Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY (2011) DLC: HARLEY QUINN’S REVENGE

Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS (2013)

Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT (2015)

Review: THE WALKING DEAD (2012)

Review: THE WALKING DEAD DLC (2012): 400 DAYS

Review: THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON TWO (2014)

Review: THE WOLF AMONG US (2014)

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Review: RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER (2015)

Discover the legend within.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. It is the sequel to the 2013 video game Tomb Raider, and part of the long-running Lara Croft: Tomb Raider franchise. The story traces Lara Croft as she follows her father’s footsteps and beyond to look for the Divine Source which, legend has it, can make humans immortal.

Is It Worth?

Now that Microsoft has removed its Xbox claws from this and made it available on PC, yes.

A little about the Gameplay

Rise of the Tomb Raider, like all good sequels, builds off its predecessor. Lara’s bow and arrow from the previous game return, but so do other objects (like the grappling hook) from the last trilogy. The crafting system from the last outing also makes its return, but Crystal Dynamics use that only as a foundation. New features are added to the system to keep the gameplay engaging.

Devesh complained last time that the game offered him very few opportunities to go all stealth mode. Well, he’ll be happy to know Rise of the Tomb Raider fixes that. Lara can now hide in bushes, distract enemies, craft all kinds of arrows. The combat system has been, in my opinion, completely redesigned. I was able to clear quite a number of levels without attracting unwanted attention.

Speaking of combat, the game has a much polished system than the last. No QTEs, thank god.

The Good

1: Rise of the Tomb Raider is utterly gorgeous. I do not have a very powerful system so I was not running this at 60fps or whatever, but even on my junk of a PC this game left me stunned many times.

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2: The world is not “open-world” in the sense that it’s a sandbox, certain portions of the world are inaccessible unless you have the appropriate tools for unlocking them, but the game also allows you to come back and explore once you get the tools required. This may cause a little confusion at first since the game has a tendency to pop out a “Missing gear” message at you even though you can clear that level without that gear. However, once you get the right tool, coming back is indeed very rewarding.

3: Apart from the main campaign, the game offers plenty of catacombs and other points of interests to explore.

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Time for some tomb raidering!

4: The developers made a clever decision of switching the environment for this game. Last time, Lara was tugging through swamps and jungles. This time, she’s in the frozen wasteland of Siberia.

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brrr…

5: While the graphics are amazing and the story is fairly engrossing, it’s the level of details that the developers have put in that makes this game so engaging. From the way Lara puts out her hands to warm them over a fire, to her shivering in the cold if you stop moving her, to the way she corrects her ponytail when she comes out of a lake. These seemingly unnoticeable things are what make good games great.

I would also like to mention here how good the game sounds. I mean, the voice actors have all done a good job, no question, but the foley sounds here are fantastic. That crunch sound when you walk in snow is so precisely reproduced for this game it’s unbelievable.

6: While I found the plot to be a bit too predictable, I liked how Crystal Dynamics were able to mesh cutscenes and gameplay together. I came across quite a few moments where the game would not abruptly reset to the default over the right shoulder camera angle after a cutscene. Rather, there is a gradual transition, allowing for some very cinematic gameplay structure.

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Careful, Lara.

The Bad

1: I’m a Tomb Raider fan so this might sound like an oldie’s rant but, um, where dem boss fights at, boi?

Also, why are there so few puzzles in the main campaign? I’ve been told that there are quite a few in the optional catacombs but, come on, a Tomb Raider game that does not frustrate you with some puzzles at least twice during the main campaign doesn’t quite feel right.

2: The game is  not challenging enough. Okay, this is not some “meh, the game’s too easy, bruh” shit, but because the enemy AI is very predictive, the game is a breeze.

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These goddamn bears again!

Conclusion

With Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics are able to outdo their last outing. The game feels familiar, but at the same time it is so different. It’s a continuation of the Tomb Raider formula, but with a little twist.

PS: My favourite thing about these new Lara Croft games under Crystal Dynamics, especially this new trilogy, is how Lara steals the show. She is now far better characterized than she was ever before.

You may also like:

Review: TOMB RAIDER: LEGEND (2006)

Review: TOMB RAIDER: ANNIVERSARY (2007)

Review: TOMB RAIDER: UNDERWORLD (2008)

Review: TOMB RAIDER (2013)

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Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT (2015)

Be Vengeance. Be the Night. Be the Batman.

Batman - Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight is a 2015 action-adventure video game based on the DC Comics superhero, Batman. It was developed by Rocksteady Studios and released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It is the fourth instalment in the Batman Arkham series, with Rocksteady once again returning as the core developer after handling off duties to Warner Bros. Games Montréal for 2013’s Batman: Arkham Origins. The player assumes the role of Batman for the majority of the game with emphasis on Batman’s combat, stealth and detective abilities.

Is It Worth?

The original developers of the Batman Arkham series return to deliver a grand finale to their tale. Why won’t you want to play this?

A little about the Gameplay

Batman: Arkham Knight is set one year after the events of Batman: Arkham City. If you had explored every nook and corner of Arkham City, you may stumbled upon a boat and may have discovered evidence that the Scarecrow is planning something big. Well, in Batman: Arkham Knight, his plan is unleashed.

Set on Halloween night, the game begins with Gotham being evacuated after Scarecrow threatens to release his potent new fear toxin. The only people who stay behind are the criminals, a superstitious and cowardly lot (See what I did there?). Outnumbered and outgunned are the Gotham City Police Department who, in my opinion, are way too cool with a vigilante’s presence in their city. I mean, I get it that they need Batman’s help, or more precisely his tank, in taking out the mysterious Arkham Knight’s ridiculously jacked militia but seeing all the police officers so chill around Batman feels a bit off.

Batman: Arkham Knight offers a much larger world to the player than that in the previous games. Gotham is divided into three islands: Bleake Island, which features buildings, disheveled areas, and abandoned docks; Founders Island, a modern establishment of skyscrapers built on the ruins of Gotham slums; and Miagani Island, an older metropolis with Wayne Tower at its center. The complete map is accessible from the get go with the game providing enough opportunities to explore the city and the side missions. In fact, the story offers breaks, encouraging the player to go complete the side quests. That is, after completing a certain mission in the main story, Oracle or Alfred will point out other locations where Batman is needed. Now the player may select his next mission: continue with the main story or go exploring.

Batman’s toys return. From the get-go, the player has complete access to the classic Batarang (basically a boomerang to stun enemies), the remote controlled Batarang (completely steerable even after the throw), the Batclaw (a grappling device that can be used to interact with remote objects such as vent covers or to grab enemies), smoke pellets (used to disorient opponents and assist with stealth tactics), the line launcher (used to traverse horizontal spans), explosive gels (which may be used on weak walls and floors, and can be remotely detonated — sending rubble crashing onto an enemy), and the Batmobile remote (that allows you to remotely control the Batmobile, enabling you to effectively be at two places at once).

As you progress through the main story, the game offers additional gadgets such as the Remote Hacking Device (used to override security panels, open new paths, or blind drones temporarily), the Disruptor (is able to remotely disable guns and explosive mines), a Remote Electric Charge (REC) gun (that can stun enemies and temporarily power motors), a Voice Synthesizer (that may be used to mimic the voice of level boss and con henchmen into opening security doors or simply order them around to the player’s benefit).

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That’s not a gun, don’t worry.

Rocksteady takes a page out of Warner Bros. Games Montréal’s book and enables the “Detective Mode” to completely reconstruct a crime scene à la Batman: Arkham Origins.

After completing the story mode on normal or hard difficulties, a “New Game Plus” mode is unlocked, enabling the player to replay the game with all of the gadgets, experience, and abilities that they have attained; enemies are tougher and the on-screen icon that warns players of imminent attacks is disabled.

A lot of characters other than Batman are playable in some form or the other during the course of the game. These include Nightwing, Robin, Catwoman, Azrael, and if you count the DLCs, Harley Quinn, Red Hood, Batgirl.

The Good

1: I’ll be honest with you, when Paul Dini first announced that he won’t be writing the next Arkham game, I had my doubts. Not only does having a veteran Batman writer like Dini steer the ship bring a vote of confidence, his legacy on the Batman Arkham games is undeniable. Fortunately, writers Sefton Hill, Ian Ball and Martin Lancaster are able to deliver on the promise of the grand finale to Rocksteady’s Batman saga.

2: The voice acting is as fantastic as ever. Rocksteady got John Noble to voice the Scarecrow and his unsettling monotone performance makes this the eeriest version of Scarecrow yet. Kevin Conroy continues to be the definitive Batman, while Mark Hamill returns for some dark but hilarious posthumous Joker lines.

3: I have read how the developers wanted to integrate the Batmobile since the beginning of the series but were unable to do so due to technical issues. Well, on Batman: Arkham Knight, they are finally able to do it.

The Batmobile handles as it should: the game puts you in complete control of this massive tank, but one that handles like a sports car. There is virtually nothing that can stop this juggernaut; pavements, barricades, pillars crumble to dust in its wake.

The Batmobile is fitted with a 60mm canon, vulcan guns, and can launch missiles, but as the game would repeatedly remind you, Batman does not kill, so the Batmobile automatically switches to non-lethal rounds when firing on humans.

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I’m going to redecorate…

4: The open world structure of the game offers a lot more to do than the previous entries in the series. I have already mentioned how the game itself encourages the player to take on different side quests.

The side missions themselves are a lot rewarding and offer a lot of variety, from missions that focus on the crime solving capabilities of Batman to those that require Batman to team up with Nightwing or Catwoman.

5: Gotham is richly detailed. Certain areas on the map stand out in particular. Chinatown, for example, with its neon lights is a joy to glide around in. Everybody has already pointed out the excellent cape textures, which reminded me of the cancelled Batman: Gotham by Gaslight game, but what stood out for me were the little things like light reflecting off the wet streets or raindrops crashing on to a puddle in the streets.

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6: Combat is improved and polished even further. For a game that focused a lot on combat, Batman: Arkham Origins did in fact improve on that mechanism so as to empower the player enough to take on enemies that could counter your moves and your counters. Rocksteady seem to have taken note of that. Batman: Arkham Knight also features enemies that ask for a lot more than simply pressing the strike button.

A nice new addition is the medic henchmen, who will revive any opponent you may have knocked out while taking on a group. Therefore, taking out this medic henchmen becomes your priority, otherwise you are letting yourself get caught in an endless cycle.

7: The game also lets you team up with an AI-controlled Nightwing, Robin or Catwoman, and use them to execute awesome dual-takedown moves that knock out your enemies instantly and then switch control between the characters. It doesn’t add much mechanically, but fighting side-by-side with a sidekick is a very Batman thing to do.

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Bat Family!

The Bad

1: There is no way else to put it but this: Too much Batmobile, Rocksteady.

As fun as the Batmobile is, its novelty wears off quickly. After you have raced it down the streets, launched missiles on drones, bent structures to your will using its power winch, fired off your vulcun gun on criminals out on the streets, there’s actually nothing else to it. You’ll soon start to shun it, even as mode of transportation. Gliding is still the fastest way to get around Gotham City, especially with the improved grappling hook.

The developers probably realised this, which is why the game almost forces the Batmobile on you. The entire third act of the game involves usage of the Batmobile, putting you in one tank battle after other. These tank battles are new and fun the first time around, but soon you get sick of this Takeshi’s Castle shit.

2: One of the major quibble gamers had with the previous entries in the Batman Arkham series were the gimmicky boss fights. In order to take out pretty much every boss in those games, you were required to follow the on-screen instructions, duck, and repeat. Batman: Arkham Knight avoids falling in that trap, but at the expense of offering almost no boss fights. I get it, nothing is better than something broken when it comes to video games, but when the game does not offer a one-to-one with the main antagonist, you do feel a little duped.

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3: The DLCs, especially the Harley Quinn and Red Hood story packs, are awfully short. I breezed through the Red Hood one is about 10-15 minutes. That should give you the idea.

4: Perhaps it was because I played the game so late, but I did not come across any major glitch or bug during the gameplay. I did noticed a few framedrops and the game would occasionally (read: rarely) slug about when I would take a sharp turn in the Batmobile. However, the technical issues the Windows version of the game has had have definitely left a dent on the game’s and the series’ legacy. When a company puts out a product so broken that it has to call it back, you know they messed up.

5: Rocksteady marketed Arkham Knight as an original character so well that most of us believed them. Perhaps we wanted him to be? Sadly, any regular reader of the comics or anyone accustomed with the Batman lore will be able to guess Arkham Knight’s identity half way through the game, subduing the impact of the big twist.

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I think I know you, dude.

Conclusion

Batman: Arkham Knight is an impressive game. With its excellent gameplay variety, detailed open world, fantastic visuals, strong performances, Rocksteady manages to finish off their Batman saga in grand style.

 

You may also like:

Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM (2009)

Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY (2011)

Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY (2011) DLC: HARLEY QUINN’S REVENGE

Review: BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS (2013)

 

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