Please note, there will be spoilers for Batman – The Telltale Series (Season One) in this review.
Following on from the finale of Batman – The Telltale Series earlier this year, I’ve been excited to see what Telltale Games would do with the next season. The game did a ton of unique things with the Batman universe, offering a new outlook on both the villains and heroes that had me genuinely intrigued to see what was going to happen next. I didn’t expect it to happen quite so soon though, with the first episode of Batman – The Telltale Series: The Enemy Within now available just seven months after the last. Titled ‘The Enigma’, it puts gamers straight back into the action with, as you might have guessed from the title, The Riddler taking centre stage. It offers more of the brilliance we saw in the first season of the game, though a couple of familiar issues are present once more.
‘The Enigma’ takes place a year after the events of the first season of Batman – The Telltale Series, with Gotham now seeing a massive drop in crime following the arrest of Two Face and the disappearance of Lady Arkham. However, things take a turn for the worst when The Riddler shows up. He’s not just a lunatic criminal mastermind with a liking for tricky puzzles this time around though, but a brutal killer that has a long history with Gotham City’s criminal underworld. His appearance is just the start of the terrible events that are set to befall Gotham City though, and with the arrival of The Agency (who are fronted by DC badass Amanda Waller) things seem like they’re going to become a lot more difficult for both Bruce Wayne and his vigilante alter-ego Batman.
Much like the first season, Batman: The Enemy Within offers a very different take on its characters than you might be used to. The Riddler’s brutality felt particularly unique for example; sure, he’s known to be a killer, but his cunning was equally matched by his hands-on approach, which was clearly shown when he sliced someone’s throat with his cane within the first five minutes of the game. Amanda Waller isn’t all that different though, with her tough-as-nails attitude clearly shown from the moment you meet her. She throws a few interesting surprises into the mix too, but I’ll leave that for you to discover by playing yourself.
Of course, The Joker (or John Doe as he’s known here) makes a welcome return to the fold too. It’s clear that a lot of the focus this season will be placed upon Bruce Wayne’s relationship with The Joker after their time in Arkham Asylum last season, with Telltale Games already confirming that the choices you make will determine what kind of villain he’s going to end up becoming. He’s already established himself as one of my favourite characters though, with each scene featuring him guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. I’m excited to see what he brings to the game in the future and how exactly my actions will influence it.
There’s a fresh take on relationships between characters this time around and the bond you share with them, with each decision or comment you make dictating how each character in the game sees you. It felt meaningful and I can already see how it might affect future events that occur in the game. It could actually feel pretty daunting at times – there was one moment I shared with Commissioner Gordon where it was made clear his relationship with me had changed for the worse, which was pretty troubling given that I’d tried my hardest to keep Batman’s ties with the GCPD as close as possible. There’s certainly no real right or wrong answers to the game though and characters will pay close attention to everything you say and do.
I really felt like I’ve already made some big decisions that might have severe consequences later in the game, though it’s hard to fully tell in just one episode. It builds a real sense of excitement though; I’m intrigued to see the after effects of all the decisions I’ve made and how they’ll affect both Batman and Bruce Wayne. You’ll certainly be on the edge of your seat in each dilemma you come across, but there’s no way to know for sure what implications they might have just yet…
As per last season, ‘The Engima’ offers a good mixture of action and investigation. There are plenty of QTE sequences, but they’re utilised well in scenes that’ll make you actually feel like you’re playing the role of the Caped Crusader. I noticed that the game omitted last season’s approach of having you plot out each showdown before getting stuck in, though you’re instead you’re occasionally given the freedom to pick what action or move you want to do on the fly. There isn’t a whole lot Telltale Games could’ve done to evolve the formula anyway, but at least it still remains fun.
I was a little disappointed that you don’t really get to go hands on with The Riddler’s puzzles though. It was a real opportunity for Telltale Games to introduce some tricky situations that required a fair pit of intellect to solve, but instead they followed an almost automated process that was incredibly easy to find the solution to with the answers obviously placed right in front of you. The potential was there, but unfortunately it wasn’t fully embraced in this episode.
One thing that I particularly appreciated was just how lengthy ‘The Engima’ is. Typically, an episode lasts around an hour and a half, but I spent over two hours working my way through to the conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, it felt like it was over in a flash thanks to how much I was enjoying it, but you’re definitely getting a meatier experience this time around. I don’t know whether the trend will continue in future episodes this series or whether it was just so that the game could fully establish the plot and its characters, but Batman: The Enemy Within may certainly prove to be one of Telltale Games’ longer titles.
For everything that ‘The Enigma’ gets right, the game still suffers from the technical issues that plague Telltale releases. Now it’s not as bad as the game’s first season, where I came across plenty of frame skips, graphical issues, audio problems, and long load times, but I still had to restart the game twice after it seemingly froze for no apparent reason during a transition between scenes. It’s getting pretty frustrating at this point, especially since it’ll often force you to replay the scene prior to the crash. It eliminates the game’s cinematic vibe, plus it’s a big nuisance for the player.
‘The Engima’ offers a great action-packed introduction to Batman: The Enemy Within, with the main players of the season clearly established along with some exciting teases of what’s to come. The action sequences were top notch, the decisions you had to make tense, and the overall presentation as dark and gritty as you’d expect from the depths of Gotham City – it really is a fine showing for the Caped Crusader.
The frustrating issues that come with Telltale Games’ releases were present and I did feel like a few tricks were missed with the game’s puzzling, but overall it’s got me incredibly excited to see what’s going to happen next. It’s a welcome return to Batman – The Telltale Series, and Episode Two can’t come soon enough…
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 08/08/2017
Format(s): PC (Reviewed), Playstation 4, Xbox One, Mac, Mobile Devices