Last year’s Batman: The Telltale Series saw the most original take on the caped crusader to date. Focusing more on Bruce Wayne than Batman, Telltale put us in Bruce’s shoes in order to see the emotional turmoil he went through as a result of being Batman. Season two Batman: The Enemy Within continues the events of season one. Bruce and Alfred are still struggling with what happened to them, and six other characters are introduced. Their stories are integrated so tightly into the main plot, and none of them are rushed for inclusion. After 78 years of existence, the ability to create such an original story speaks to the level of talent behind the developers at Telltale. All of these things considered, the highly emotional choices and original story line make Telltale’s version the best Batman story ever told.
I’ve seen every Batman movie as well as every cartoon. Everyone has their favorite Batman as well as which individual movie was their favorite (Hint – Michael Keaton was the best, Clooney the worst, Affleck is way overrated). The Keaton film was released in 1989, exactly 50 years after Batman’s first appearance in 1939. It was the first modern day Batman film outside of the Adam West version, and it set the stage for the caped crusader films moving forward. Every movie since then has had one thing in common regardless of whether or not you liked the film; their focus on Batman. We all know Bruce Wayne’s story. For 78 year’s it’s been just that; a story. Every Batman film made has focused on Batman to varying degrees, but not Bruce Wayne. Certain films, like both Clooney and Kilmer’s Batman, crashed and burned inevitably due to poor design. Telltale has taken the best of both worlds, and managed to do so with their very own, unique story while avoiding pitfalls.
Let’s break it down a bit. Batman is supposed to be dark. This is why the first two Keaton films were a success. He realized that you can’t change the overall personality of a “superhero” and not have it impact the fan base. It’s also the reason why he turned down a third film in Batman Forever when he heard Director Joel Schumacher ask “Why does everything have to be so dark?” The most intriguing part about Batman is how Bruce Wayne is able to keep both personalities separate. It’s always been the billionaire playboy vs. badass vigilante. These two approaches are like oil and water and won’t mix if you try to swap them. This is why the Clooney and Kilmer films failed. Their version of Batman was like a college frat guy in the bat suit. I mean hell, Kilmer’s bat suit had nipples for christ sake. Nipples! It’s not like I’m the only one who is critical of this film either. After all, Clooney’s Batman is consistently rated the worst superhero film of all time alongside Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern. Its not like we needed him to, but Clooney HIMSELF has admitted it.
The simple reason for this, and why Telltale’s version of Batman is the best one so far, is simply change. For superheros, change is a powerful thing and has to be done the right way. Little details can be changed as long as they are explained the right way, but fans don’t like it when the core back story of their favorite superhero is changed for no reason other than the sake of change. It’s like Cheez-its over Cheese Nips and Oreos over Hydrox: Some things just shouldn’t be changed. Batman being a badass is just one of those things. Nobody wants Batman: the Party Guy. Telltale realized this and pulled it off flawlessly in their version of Batman. Not only did they provide a new story with original villain, but they also explored Bruce Wayne’s personality in a way that was never seen before in relation to Batman.
In Batman: The Telltale Series, Batman remained his usual, bad-ass self while Bruce Wayne dealt with the fallout. He is human after all, and players had a chance to see how the actions we took as Batman impacted the man that is Bruce Wayne. The ability to play as Bruce Wayne also allowed us the opportunity to make choices which would impact Batman. This was incredibly original as it was never in games before or shown in film. Being able to maintain the prototypical bad-ass Batman while having him go through incredibly emotional experiences as Bruce Wayne was an amazing undertaking by Telltale. It let us as fans see what was behind the cape and cowl emotionally while not changing Batman’s behavior. This sort of attachment echoes with fans, and is the reason that Telltale was able to make such an incredible game.
Fans have and will forever associate with emotion. We’re human beings, and the emotional aspect allows us to further identify with characters, therefore immersing ourselves in the story more. The intrigue of Batman has always been the idea of fans thinking how they would fight crime if they were uber-rich like Bruce. This was of course a pipe dream as none of us are ever going to be billionaire crime fighters. Batman: The Telltale Series transformed our view of Batman from imagination to more of a reality with their depiction of Bruce Wayne. For the first time, players could think “Oh man, I didn’t think about that” when considering what they’d do if they were Batman. This, along with the status quo bad-ass Batman, made us appreciate Batman the person while maintaining the aura of Batman the superhero.
Think about it, what better way to let fans associate with Batman than to make it as realistic as possible for us to pretend what it would be like if we actually were Batman? This is what Telltale has done. They have created a story about Batman that A) makes him more personally relateable without changing his behavior, B) Introduced a new villain, C) Provided a unique back story on three existing villains, D) Did so without sacrificing any core material for fans. Doing just one of these is hard enough, as we’ve seen many failures from other franchise such as Green Lanter, Superman Returns and Batman & Robin. Somehow, Telltale managed to take all four of these aspects (six if you count each of the three new villains separately) and present them in a way that blended flawlessly for an amazing story.
For this reason, and the fact that nobody else has been able to accomplish this on anything close to the same level, is why Batman: The Telltale Series is the best Batman story ever told.