By Marty Mulrooney
Batman: The Enemy Within is a brand new five-episode adventure game from Telltale Games (Tales from the Borderlands, Guardians of the Galaxy), DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Following on from last year’s Batman: The Telltale Series, Episode 1: The Enigma sees both Bruce Wayne and Batman puzzling over how to defeat the Riddler.
The first season of Batman: The Telltale Series was highly entertaining and enjoyable, despite some slight missteps along the way. It wasn’t Telltale’s strongest episodic adventure game to date, but the foundations being laid for the future were very exciting indeed. AMO’s review of the season finale concluded with the following sentiment: “Here’s hoping the second season will continue to take creative risks and push the boundaries of what gamers think they know about Batman and Bruce Wayne. Therein lies true, dark, bat-shaped gold.”
The debut episode of Batman: The Enemy Within does exactly that, meddling even further with the previously established Batman mythology (from the various films, cartoons and comics) to create something truly delightful and unexpected for fans and newcomers alike. What’s more, there is new-found confidence on display throughout Episode 1 that indicates Telltale Games is becoming increasingly more comfortable with the source material and deviating from it. Not knowing what to expect – at least in terms of the story – is half the fun.
The inherent clunkiness in some of Telltale’s previous games has been dialled back considerably here. Sure, the animations are still a little bit stiff at times, but the comic book-style graphics look great and the sound design is as accomplished as always. Likewise, scene transitions (at least on this reviewer’s moderately powerful PC) no longer chug and stutter. There is an overall sense that the engine has been upgraded and refined. Even the ability to import your decisions from the previous season is intuitive and pain free.
Meanwhile, the gameplay mechanics are exactly the same as last season with a few minor upgrades. The quick time events are slicker than ever, with certain sequences involving branching options that let you take down the bad guys as you see fit. They aren’t exactly difficult, but they do require some quick reflexes and feel satisfying to pull off. Moments where you must simply make a link between two hotspots are less appealing. Yet it’s the conversations – either as Bruce Wayne or Batman – that hold the most weight… and show the most promise.
Somewhat surprisingly, the old system of ‘X will remember that’ has now been joined by an entirely new system that keeps track of your relationships with the various other characters. For example, butting heads with your ally Jim Gordon may prompt a message that your relationship has changed. Whether its for better or worse will depend entirely on your actions. This mechanic adds additional layers of guilt that can be absolutely excruciating. In short, it’s a wonderful addition!
For example, you may not trust Amanda Waller – director of the Agency – one bit. However, Batman’s interests may inadvertently align with Amanda’s, causing Jim to feel betrayed. Now, not only do you have to make the right decisions at the right time; you have to think about who it will please or piss off. It all adds up to a very satisfying twist on the previous season that will hopefully pay off in future episodes.
Batman: The Enemy Within – Episode 1: The Enigma doesn’t break any new ground. As a reasonably self-contained episode – and an introduction to the second season – it works well, although the Riddler can feel like a bit of a missed opportunity at times. His ‘puzzles’ aren’t that tricky and the game will always steer you in the right direction. However, this is an episode that lays a lot of solid groundwork for the season ahead and isn’t afraid to kill off main characters at a moment’s notice. In that sense at least, it’s a success. I just hope I can get Jim Gordon to like me again in Episode 2!
8 OUT OF 10