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batman telltale
A scene from “Batman: The Telltale Series, Episode 1.”

Gamers are no strangers to donning the cape and cowl and defending Gotham from all manner of villains as the iconic Batman, thanks in large part to Rocksteady Studio’s classic “Arkham” trilogy. But what happens when the costume comes off and Bruce Wayne is left to fend for himself?

That’s the side of the superhero mythos being explored in “Batman: The Telltale Series.”

Developed by Telltale Games, the studio behind the excellent “The Walking Dead” episodic game, “B:TTS” explores not only what it means to be the Batman, but also what it means to be Bruce Wayne. It’s in these moments outside of the Batsuit where Telltale’s trademark choice-driven gameplay shines, forcing players to make decisions that can have far-reaching effects for both of Wayne and his alter-ego.

The first episode, “Realm of Shadows,” puts Wayne in some compromising positions as he’s thrust into the spotlight during Gotham’s heated mayoral campaign. Without venturing into spoiler territory, some familiar faces make appearances and your interactions with them go a long way toward shaping the episode’s narrative. It remains to be seen how much of an impact these choices will have as the story progresses over future episodes, but hopefully the ramifications of my decisions will carry significant weight because I certainly struggled with many of them.

While much of the first episode is spent conversing as Bruce Wayne, Batman gets to let his fists do the talking, as well. The scripted action scenes are handled well and certainly aren’t lacking in brutality. Through a series of timed button presses, you’ll control The Dark Knight as he throws thugs over balconies and smashes them into walls. One particularly intense interrogation scene gives you the option to choose how much pain you’re willing to inflict upon someone in order to get answers.

Of course, Batman doesn’t just beat people up. He’s also the world’s greatest detective and we get to explore that side of the character, too, by investigating a crime scene. You’ll need to examine evidence and link together related clues in order to recreate the events that transpired. It wasn’t especially challenging, but I welcomed the change of pace it provided. Hopefully this is one area Telltale expounds upon in future installments.

Presentation-wise, Telltale’s familiar comic-book aesthetic fits perfectly but unfortunately I can’t say the same for the voice acting. While not bad, I really missed hearing Kevin Conroy as Batman. Sorry, Troy Baker.

If the first episode is any indication of what’s to come, “Batman: The Telltale Series” could wind up being Telltale Games’ best work to date. And considering the studio’s track record, that’s awfully high praise. Hopefully the wait for Episode 2 is a short one.

“Batman: The Telltale Series, Episode 1”
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Available for: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC ($5 episode; $19.99 season pass)
Rating: M for mature
Score: 9.0/10