We are all familiar with Batman's origin at this point. As a boy, Bruce Wayne witnesses his parents being murdered after a showing at the movies. The orphan turns his grief into determination and becomes the vigilante known as Batman when he is an adult. What more can you add at this point?
The Telltale game series, which is currently coming out on all major platforms, does not stray far from this origin. But as the first two episodes have been released, they are taking what was familiar and spinning it into something uniquely different.
Something Had To Be Different
As the Arkham video game series recently concluded, one of the fans' biggest complaints — especially in the final entry, Arkham Knight — was how some things were too predictable. Needless to say, there will be spoilers ahead if you have not started playing the Telltale series.
There is nothing too different about Bruce Wayne/Batman here as a singular person; the only major difference is that both the "Bruce Wayne" and "Batman" personas are tools for Bruce to use. The series seems to take a definitive stance that the man we see interacting with Alfred and other loved ones, in intimate moments, is the true man. The billionaire playboy and street vigilante are both masks that he uses to achieve his goals.
We see Bruce conflicted with self-doubt and anger issues. Alfred is still the stalwart father figure — and compared to many other adaptations, seems to embrace the "father" aspects more than most. Selina Kyle/Catwoman is still the conflicted thief. Not a true villain like in some adaptations, but not a hero like Batman.
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Other Characters Are Vastly Different
The biggest would have to be Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. the Penguin. Instead of the short and squatty gangster, here we meet a tall, lean and mean version, who is more akin to an anarchist. He was also a childhood friend to Bruce, but has returned to Gotham after some time away with a violent agenda.
Frequently talking about a revolution that is coming, murder and chaos are the Penguin's modus operandi in this game. This makes him more akin to the Joker, without some of the mania, but he is still a nasty person to deal with. Depending on a certain choice made at the end of the second episode, he is also potentially responsible for the creation of another popular Batman villain.
Harvey Dent Plays A Critical Role As Well
As per usual, he is the district attorney, but in this series he is running for mayor. While typically Harvey Dent prior to becoming Two-Face was a much more straight-and-narrow person, here he is willing to bend the rules or play in the dirt to achieve his goals.
Dent and Carmine Falcone, the mob boss of Gotham City, usually have a nasty history with each other. But here Dent is much more a slave to politics. While he is fundamentally a good man at heart, you can see where the cracks are starting to form. Also take note that Harvey is physically larger than Bruce Wayne. When depicting the early years of Batman, Harvey Dent is widely suspected of being Batman. One really can't make that comparison here.
The Biggest Change From The Comics: Thomas And Martha Wayne
Here, they are outright criminals. Thomas Wayne conspired with Carmine Falcone and the corrupt Mayor Hill to establish the Wayne family as a power player. The three were in a conspiracy, the repercussions of which are currently playing out.
The Waynes have never been depicted in such a despicable light before. Alfred even mentions that he was so disgusted that he was about to leave the family, but the two were killed soon after. The fatal mugging was simply a cover, as a flashback shows that it was an assassination.
There might be some idea that this is a smear campaign, but a video showing Thomas Wayne undoubtedly being corrupt paints the Wayne family in a sinister light. Typically it is Bruce Wayne trying his best to avenge his parents; now it looks like the motivation for Bruce creating Batman will have to be something different.
Telltale Said They Would Do Something Different — And They Definitely Succeeded
You can't fault them for shaking things up. The popularity of Batman is at an all-time high with various movies, television series, animated versions and other video games covering the hero's exploits. The developers needed to mark their own path to make the game stand out, and they have certainly done that.
Everything that is familiar is different as well. Gotham City is still in such dire straits that it requires a hero like Batman. But it's the little things that make Batman: The Telltale Series its own thing. The series is still ongoing, as there as three episodes left. We will continue to see how Telltale creates its own Batman mythos.