Following last night’s announcement of a Batman game made by none other than the narrative powerhouse of Telltale games, it’s hard not to get excited. After that excitement finally simmers to a manageable roar, the question then becomes what will a Telltale Batman game look like. As such, here are a few predictions about just how Telltale might handle the legendary dark knight.
Start from the Beginning
Now, the origin story of Batman has certainly been done. And really, how many times can you see poor Martha break her pearls? But, skipping over the murdered parents thing, I mean the beginning of Batman’s career. Though explored both in Batman Begins and Batman: Arkham Origins (not to mention Batman: Year One, Zero Year and Batman: Earth One in the comics), that perfect combination of mystery, intrigue, and youthful trail and error is hard to deny and ripe for a Telltale-style narrative.
Bruce could just be figuring things out, making mistakes, but trying his best anyways. By starting early, Telltale could spend more time with Bruce as Bruce, exploring the often more neglected side of the dual persona as he struggles to create the Batman. That, plus the idea of a branching narrative in which the player has to win over Commissioner Gordon through conversation, building trust in the new partnership, is so appealing it hurts.
Pulling from comics like Zero Year and Gotham Central, and even from something like FOX’s Gotham, a story taking place in Batman’s early days could play with a the fall of Gotham. How exactly does a great city devolve into a rotting den of psychosis and villainy? How does a police department react to that? How do the police respond when a bat starts doing their jobs for them? With the emphasis less on combat or action and more on the interplay of characters, Telltale would be in a unique position to really delve into all of these questions.
Start at the End
Going with the opposite extreme, Telltale could also finally do an old Batman right. Through everything from The Dark Knight Rises to the upcoming Batman v Superman is pulling heavily on the comic The Dark Knight Returns, the story of Batman at the end of his career, Rises failed to fully explore the mindset of Bruce Wayne in his later years, and it looks like Batman v Superman will do much the same. Telltale could take a step back and really pull apart just what makes an older Bruce tick, what keeps him going, what haunts him at night.
Going this route, Telltale would have the opportunity to bring in the full range of Batman’s rogues gallery and family. Imagine balancing relations between the splintering bat-family, arguing with Dick Grayson, struggling to control Jason Todd, getting advice from Barbara Gordon, growing frustrated with Damian Wayne, fighting tooth and nail to keep every one together and focused as a new threat rips apart Gotham City. And in the midst of all that, having to deal with villains from every corner of the Batman tapestry could certainly keep things interesting.
Finally, a Real Detective Story
What are adventure games if not detective stories? Piecing together clues and solving puzzles is the genre. Though obviously more inclined towards narrative adventures in previous years, the DNA of puzzle adventure games is still there at Telltale, right under the surface, just waiting for the perfect reason to reemerge. With the heavy emphasis on combat in the Arkham games, and especially with the action focus of the Nolan films, Batman’s detective skills have been a bit underutilized beyond the comics in recent years.
When the character was originally conceived, Bob Kane and Bill Finger based Batman on a number of pulp fiction icons, the two most notable being Zorro and Sherlock Holmes. It’s long past time for a game to go back to Batman as a hard-boiled detective, out witting his opponents as much as, if not more than, beating them up. And what better way for that to take shape than in a noir styled detective story from Telltale. Think The Wolf Among Us, but with more shadows and pointier ears.
What would it be like to actually get to interrogate someone as Batman, with branching dialogue? What would the crime scene portions of the Arkham games be like if they weren’t guided, if you could actually miss or misinterpret a piece of evidence and come to the wrong conclusion? I don’t know. But I want to find out.
The Art is in the Details
With not only The Walking Dead, but also The Wolf Among Us under their belts, Telltale is no stranger to adapting comics for their games, and in both cases they have done so in beautiful fashion. Across his 75 year run however, Batman has seen the full gambit of art styles, leaving Telltale to find one that really works for whatever kind of story they are going to tell.
While there is always a chance they might turn to the bright colors of Batman’s earlier comics and 60’s television show, the dark and brooding tone of the announcement trailer makes it pretty unlikely. So a dark, noir, sketched style like The Wolf Among Us? Or something even more intense? Could Telltale be bold enough to go black and white, akin to the Batman: Black and White comics? Again, it’s unlikely, but it is fun to think about, the running, splotched ink art of the trailer too striking not to at least consider. Until we learn more about what the game will actually involve, it’s currently left to personal preference. For me, for instance, I would love a mixture of the shadowed and the colorful, much like Tim Sale’s art for The Long Halloween, but that’s just me.
And Lastly… Could this be the Golden Chance for the Court of Owls?
The Arkham games delivered Batman in a more complete, incredible fashion than any game had ever managed. Yet there is still more to the character left unexplored. And Telltale not only has the pedigree, but also the opportunity, to offer something very different, and just as outstanding. By telling a more narrative focused story, Telltale’s Batman has the chance to look at old villains in new ways, and even introduce villains few are familiar with beyond the comics.
One such fan dream is none other than to see the Court of Owls rear its eerily masked head. Introduced only back in 2011 with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo taking the reigns of the Batman comics, the Court of Owls, a mysterious secret society controlling all of Gotham from the shadows, quickly became a fan favorite.
The more psychology/political intrigue focus of the court would lend itself far better to Telltale’s game style than to that of the Arkham games for instance. And it would give the game the chance to play with something new that the majority of people haven’t seen a dozen times before, all while fulfilling the dreams of comic fans.
So there it is, five predictions for where Telltale can take the caped crusader. What are your predictions for Telltale’s Batman? Let us know in the comments. Oh, and is it too much to hope that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill could voice Batman and the Joker? We’d love to hear your thoughts.