The first season of Telltale’s Batman series let you create your own take on the Caped Crusader. Through the studio’s distinct brand of choice-based gameplay, players were able to shape the personality of both Bruce Wayne and Batman based on their in-game actions. If you chose to act like a jerk, then that’s exactly what Batman would be. That will continue with the soon-to-launch season 2, but with one important difference: you’ll also be able to mold Batman’s most iconic nemesis, the Joker. “We have a formative Joker, who is paying attention to what you’re doing,” explains Kent Mudle, supervising director on the series. “He’s watching how you solve problems and might be mirroring some of those back to you.”
The Joker showed up midway through the first season of the game, though he hadn’t — and still hasn’t — taken up the moniker. Instead, he’s John Doe, just another patient at Arkham Asylum. (Albeit one with green hair and a terrifying laugh.) This sets up an interesting dynamic. Typically Batman and the Joker are at odds, caught in an eternal struggle against each other. But this version of the Joker was actually friendly, and at times helpful, to Bruce. It’s a relationship that will be much more of a focal point in season 2, and one that will change based on your in-game choices.
“It’s pretty different from canon,” Mudle says. “We have a Joker who, at the start of the season, considers Bruce Wayne as a friend. We have a Joker who is an ally at the start of the season. He’s creepy and weird and uncomfortable, but he also wants to help Bruce out. The key difference with our Joker is that the things you do affect him.”
Of course, the new, more malleable Joker wasn’t the only big shift in season 1. One of the things that helped Telltale’s rendition of Batman stand out was how it often dramatically departed from the established history. The Penguin looked and acted nothing like in the comics or movies, and even key parts of the history of Gotham were completely changed. It’s something that you can expect to continue in the new season, with the introduction of characters like the Riddler. “He’s a fresh take on canon,” says executive producer Sean O’Connor. “He’s a little more sadistic.”
According to O’Connor, the game studio was given relatively free rein from DC when it came to shaping the Batman mythos. “There’s really nothing they haven’t let us do,” he says. “As long as we can explain why we want to do it and they understand it, they’re totally on board.” That level of trust is likely due to Telltale’s enviable track record of working on licensed games, which include well-regarded series based on everything from The Walking Dead to Minecraft to Game of Thrones. “They loved the things that we did,” says O’Connor. “This year they’re letting us do that again.”
Perhaps the most notable thing about the new season, though, is just how soon it’s coming out. The first season of Telltale’s Batman wrapped up in December, and season 2 will debut next week. It’s a fast turnaround for a studio that sometimes goes years between seasons, but it’s also something Telltale has been working toward, as it continues to model itself after traditional TV networks. “We started working on season 2 before we finished season 1,” explains O’Connor. “A lot of the stuff around John Doe in season 1 was to service this season, so we can really turn John Doe into Joker.”
The developers say that other aspects of the game have been adjusted based on fan feedback as well, most notably the combat, which they describe as more complex and involved than in last season. But, as with any Telltale game, there’s definitely one thing you can expect to see: plenty of shocking moments, many of which will be the result of your own in-game decisions. “There are key characters who are going to die this season,” teases O’Connor.
Episode 1 of the new Batman season debuts on August 8th.