You get those strange feelings sometimes. Those urges. Those unusual desires which can only be fulfilled in one way. You don’t need to speak them, I know. Deep inside you, you have a passion, a craving, a drive, screaming at you for relief. In polite society, you ignore it, pretend its not there, but its never far from your thoughts. It’s more than a want, you need it to feel whole. You find yourself saying in private moments, in hushed tones “I wish Aether would explain his thoughts on a bunch of video games in relatively short form.” And it makes you feel dirty. But it doesn’t need to. Those desires, they’re perfectly healthy. You don’t need to be ashamed of them. Besides, I’m here to satisfy. So go ahead. Get yourself ready, and relax. I’ll take the lead from here.
Batman: The Telltale Series
So there was that #LoveYourBacklog event we did a while back. Answered a bunch of questions, talked about my giant but slowly shrinking backlog. One of those questions was leading up to the #MaybeInMarch deal, where you take the game that’s been on your backlog for the longest time, Hitman Absolution in my case, and play through that in March. I didn’t do that. You might notice this about me, but I don’t play by your rules. In fact, I don’t play by your rules so hard, that I instead played through the game that’s been on my back for the least time, instead. So take that.
In that post, I expressed that I had grown tired of Telltale’s usual “Everything is suddenly awful because we said so but really it’s your fault” style of storytelling, but held out hope that, given that they’re working with a property in Batman that’s generally more optimistic than their usual licenses, they’d be avoiding their usual habits with this. And in large part, they did! It trends towards the darker end of Batman stories, overall, and there’s times where things just go clumsily sour and there’s nothing you can do about it, but in the greater context where it’s not trying to beat you over the head with how awful everything is all the time, I had a much better time with it than I had with many of Telltale’s other narrative adventure fare. It’s definitely not perfect, it still has a lot of the omnipresent Telltale Games writing flaws, false choices, and a sloppiness that grows the further the story progresses, but it also has a pretty strong beginning and does some unique things with the Batman property, and I did end up enjoying it much more than I though I would.
One thing I did absolutely love about this game was how it changed the standard Batman status quo. Batman is one of those properties that, whatever your medium of choice, everyone knows, and knows fairly well. You know Batman’s story. You know his character traits. You know his major antagonists. Comics, film, tv, video games, books, beyond, Batman has been in them all. It’s hard to make Batman stories in new mediums feel fresh. Whereas Marvel’s Spider-Man (the PS4 game) surmounted this problem by highlighting a really solid villain from the relatively more recent comics that hadn’t been around long enough to gain such a hold in the public’s consciousness for most of the game in Mr. Negative, Telltale’s Batman gets over it by taking their most famous antagonists and changing them up entirely. Batman and his usual circle of support are all the same, but the typical famous villains for him are completely different. Two-Face arises in a situation rather different than what we usually find him in and as a result you don’t really know where things are going with him until they get there. Penguin has a lot of traits in common with usual depictions of him yet is still completely unrecognizable. Other famous villains show up in roles pretty far askance of what you’d usually find. And the central villain of the piece is both a brand new character and is not at the same time. I loved seeing how they shook up the traditional Batman characters, and that really got me much more interested in it throughout.
And for the record, I’m partway through Season 2 of Batman Telltale now, and although it still does some nice things with continuing shaking up the villains and supporting characters, but, although it was clear they planned for a season two initially, it’s just not as strong as the first. Season 1 ends conclusively, minimal problematic sequel hooks and all, so it’s not diminishing the quality of the first, but it’s still a bit of a disappointment after how much I enjoyed the initial. Maybe it’ll bring it back by the end, though.Continue reading