What Telltale Should (and Shouldn't) Do with Batman

batman

A new Batman game wasn’t something I wasn’t expecting to see from Telltale Games. The developer is famous for its new generation of point and click adventure games. Telltale has had quite an impressive run ever since its breakout hit The Walking Dead Season 1, which shook off some of the bad taste left behind by Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. Since then, they’ve beefed up their portfolio with a surprising mix of licensed adventure games thanks to successes like The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead: Season Two. Telltale has branched out into the Borderlands, Game of Thrones, and even Minecraft universes. Nothing should surprise anyone when it comes to Telltale Games announcing a new licensed game, but Batman actually was a big surprise. Now we all wonder what Telltale could have in store for the Dark Knight.

The teaser trailer for Telltale’s Batman game left few clues as to the direction they’re taking. The dialogue provided appears to set the scene for an established Batman. Gotham City is a mess and apparently Bruce Wayne is exhibiting “erratic behavior,” which could mean anything. As we await more information, let’s explore possibilities for potential settings for Telltale’s Batman game.

The Dark Knight Returns

Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was published in a four-issue mini-series back in 1986. Its dark themes helped usher in the anti-hero generation that gripped comic books through the late ‘80s and ‘90s.

In DKR, Batman comes out of retirement at the age of 55 because Gotham City is in the pits again. Superman is a lackey for the government and they apparently don’t like Batman showing them up when Gotham becomes the safest city in the country thanks to Batman. Not only does Batman have to deal with Superman, but he has a gang called the Mutants tearing his one-safe city apart. Oh and a reformed Two-Face threatens to blow up Gotham with a bomb and long-time nemesis the Joker awakens from a catatonic state with the return of Batman.

This story hasn’t been adapted for video games and it would be a nice change of pace for a Batman game. It can tie into the upcoming movie without making the game about the movie. DKR would be a stretch to be adapted as a video game but it would be entertaining to see a drastically different side of Batman.

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Batman: No Man’s Land

Comic book publishers sure love their crossover events. It’s a great way to build interest in core titles, while getting readers to check out less popular books. In 1999, DC went whole hog on Batman: No Man’s Land. To get the full story, readers can track down the collected issues in trade paperbacks. This story is one of my favorite novels written by comic book writer and novelist Greg Rucka.

In short, a massive earthquake hits Gotham City, and the government declares the city a “no man’s land,” closing off access to the city with blockades and destroying its bridges. No one gets in or out and you might imagine how that works out. You might also recognize some of its plot in Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, Dark Knight Returns.

What makes No Man’s Land intriguing is the lack of Batman. Billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is in Washington D.C. trying to convince the government to aid the city. In the meantime, gangs and super-villains like Two-Face have carved up Gotham. Jim Gordon and the rest of the Gotham City Police Department protect the citizens left behind as a gang known as the Blue Boys. The Huntress takes on the mantle of the bat and does her best to keep order and to frighten the bad guys by allowing them to think Batman still haunts Gotham.

Telltale has shown it can handle multiple storylines in past games so No Man’s Land could easily be told from Jim Gordon or The Huntress’ perspective as they try to prevent Gotham from being torn apart. It’s a fantastic Batman story but doesn’t focus on Batman and that could pose an issue with fans expecting a Batman-focused game.

The Long Halloween

Here’s a Batman story that seems like a natural fit. It’s set in Batman’s early days but the last thing we need is another origin story or a Batman: Year One type of adventure. We’ve seen these done ad nauseam. The Long Halloween balances between Batman the detective and the relationships with Bruce Wayne, GCPD, and his Rogue’s Gallery. Someone known as “Holiday” is murdering mobsters on holidays and each chapter of the year-long story focuses on a villain and specific holiday. Batman tangles with all the familiar faces like the Joker, the Riddler, and the Scarecrow, as well as some lesser-known rogues, including Solomon Grundy and the Calendar Man. Yes, that’s a real character.

A large part of this tale focuses on Harvey Dent’s fall from grace as he becomes Two-Face. It is more or less a year one story for Two-Face. The Long Halloween is arguably one of Batman’s best detective stories. There have been follow-ups to it, including Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome, which offers a reason to do sequels. Not that there would be any need to go beyond The Long Halloween, which serves as one of the greatest standalone Batman stories ever told. It would be icing on the cake if Telltale used the art style of Tim Sale, long-time Marvel and DC comic artist, for a game. Seeing that in motion would be a dream come true for a lot of comic book fans.

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Batman: Hush

Like The Long Halloween, Hush was a storyline taking place over the course of a year in the mainline Batman comic in 2002-2003. The best way to describe Hush would be to compare it to the comic book version of a summer blockbuster popcorn flick. This story featured numerous Batman villains, like The Long Halloween, and a bunch of guest appearances. Coincidentally, it was written by Jeph Loeb, who also wrote The Long Halloween.

Batman’s adventure starts out as so many do, foiling the plans of some of his many enemies, this time Killer Croc and Catwoman. In the process of his pursuit, he takes a fall and suffers a serious skull fracture. Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend and renowned brain surgeon Thomas Elliot is called upon to save Wayne. Without spoiling the primary mystery of the story, Batman is lead on an adventure that includes fighting Superman, whose mind is being controlled by Poison Ivy, a battle with the second Robin, Jason Todd, who died years ago at the hands of the Joker, and a final twist in the confrontation with the true antagonists of this mystery, which few expected.

The Wolf Among Us and Telltale’s ensuing games showed the developer could handle more in-depth action sequences. Hush has a great mystery tale but its best moments are the confrontations, such as the one between Batman and Superman or Batman and Jason Todd (spoilers – it wasn’t really Jason Todd). Most of the other suggestions to this point have either focused on past and future eras of Batman or on his supporting cast. Hush is also a great way to drop fans into a modern existing universe, putting them in control of Batman.

Batman Arkham Knight screenshot

Arkham Universe

Why not take over the reins and continue the Arkham series? This is in the “longshot” category to say the least. Telltale could do interesting things with the detective side of the Arkham series that took a backseat to the open-world action game. Solving Riddler puzzles, investigating crime scenes, and throwing in non-combat action sequences seems like it would be right up Telltale’s alley.

Obviously, there wouldn’t be any of the open-world traversal we appreciate in the Arkham games, but I’d argue we would get a game focused on the story and Batman as a detective. I love Batman action as much as the next person but I also love the fact he is the world’s greatest detective. That gets lost in the shuffle in Batman video games.

Of course, Telltale could go a different route and make use of the amazing villains in the Arkham series. It would be a shame to let those redesigned rogues go to waste and Telltale has already employed top-notch voice actors for its other games. Imagine a chapter dedicated to spending a night in Arkham with the Joker or eluding the Scarecrow in one his crazy fear gas-induced nightmares.

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Batman: Court of Owls

Marvel and DC have been tearing apart their universes and rebuilding them a lot recently. In 2011, talented writer Scott Snyder took over Batman and created the Court of Owls, a fantastic storyline featuring a criminal organization that existed in secret since Colonial times. The Court of Owls is an urban legend of history with the Wayne family. An idealistic Bruce Wayne wants to build a better city and the secret society doesn’t appreciate it because it’s not his city to change. Batman battles the Talons, who were kidnapped as children and trained to be assassins. One of the story’s finest moments is when Batman is captured by the Court of Owls and trapped in a labyrinth where no matter how badly beaten, he still has the wherewithal to use his skills as a detective to escape.

Scott Snyder’s body of work in the Batman comics – both Batman and Detective Comics – is universally praised. He seamlessly blends the detective and action sides of Batman together, raising the bar for Batman comics in recent memory. Court of Owls is a great jump-on point for Batman. Yeah, the story involves a centuries old secret society but the Batman baggage isn’t there. That translates to a better video game adaptation for those who don’t follow the comics. While we’re at it, Telltale could adapt anything from his run on Detective Comics, which is collectively known as Black Mirror.

The ones we don’t want:

Batman Origins and Year One

Okay, I know I mentioned The Long Halloween but that’s less about Batman figuring out how to be Batman as much as it is about working with others and the early days of Harvey Dent/Two-Face. We’ve seen origins enough. We don’t need a rehash. Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in a robbery and he grew up to spending his life and money on becoming Batman. Let’s just move on from that and jump right into something more entertaining.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The next generation of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are set to collide on film. It would make sense for Telltale Games to tie its new game into Batman v Superman, but that’s not something most Telltale or Batman fans want. The majority of Telltale’s games are grounded in making choices to advance a story adventure. From all the trailers we’ve seen, Batman v Superman is very much an action-oriented flick and that doesn’t quite fit Telltale’s wheelhouse.

We know Telltale can make a good adventure game but with the way Warner Bros. has marketed the movie, general gaming audiences might go into a Telltale game expecting something totally different. Frankly, I find the idea of a game like this hard to swallow.

Telltale Games could go in its own direction with an all new story or interpretation of Batman. That’s not a bad idea either. We saw how Rocksteady Games was able to make its mark with Batman. There’s no reason Telltale can’t do the same. They could be the “Detective Comics” to Rocksteady’s “Batman”. Knowing Telltale is making a Batman game and the possibilities of adapting or creating a new story is exciting for me because I’m a huge Batman fan. Whatever route they take, an announcement can’t come soon enough.

About Michael Martin

Michael Martin is a Seattle-based freelance writer who has far too many pop culture mash-up shirts than he'd care to admit. He writes news and features for IGN, contributes to TechnologyTell's Gaming Channel, and has written for Kill Screen. He's a father of kids ranging from newborn to 19 years old, and they've never needed to worry about not having video games, which might make him a cool dad.