Batman: The Enemy Within - Episode 1 'The Enigma' Review (PS4)
(This review contains spoilers for the first season of Telltale's Batman series)
In this latest chapter from the award-winning studio behind Batman - The Telltale Series, both Bruce Wayne and Batman will be forced into precarious new roles. The Riddler has returned to terrorize Gotham City, but his gruesome puzzles merely foreshadow an even greater crisis. With the arrival of a ruthless federal agent and the return of a still nascent Joker, Batman must navigate uneasy alliances while Bruce Wayne undertakes a perilous series of deceptions. Which of Batman’s new allies will you choose to trust? And how deep into the darkness will you let Bruce descend?
Last year, my Batman/Bruce Wayne went through a lot. It was one thing to discover your father was actually a really bad guy and not at all who you thought. Dealing with old friends returning and attempting to take over your company, as new friends slowly turned into two-faced monsters, was another thing altogether. Then, thanks to Vicki Vale (remember she was actually really messed up and revealed as the main villain), there was that stint in Arkham Asylum where I met a rather weird character named John Doe. Alfred was even kidnapped at one stage, but in the end, Batman saved the city and was getting along with Lieutenant Gordon. Wonder how much weirder things can get this year?
Coming into The Enemy Within, it very quickly feels more like a brand new self-contained Batman story, rather than a continuation of the first season. The Enigma is an entry that presents a much tighter narrative structure than the first season did in its debut episode. The Riddler is introduced very fast as the new villain and the game becomes very focused on dealing with him. The arrival of new characters all makes sense in the mission to stop The Riddler and even having John Doe show up again makes sense here. Compared to season one’s opening episode, where it seemed like a barrage of scenes to set up about 10 plot points for the following season, this much more focused premiere episode works significantly better.
Telltale did a lot of cool things with key Batman characters last season. Making Thomas Wayne a bad guy was a brave move; their take on The Penguin was unexpected, and then, of course, Lady Arkham -- Vicki Vale -- as the villain was something really new and different for that character. Telltale continues this creative approach to Batman characters with The Riddler -- he’s fantastic.
In this version of Batman lore, The Riddler was around before Bruce Wayne donned the cowl and cape. He was on the scene back in the day when Falcone and even Thomas Wayne were big guns in the underworld. This works on many levels, and one that isn’t addressed in the episode, but I love the most is that it fights the notion that all bad guys in Batman only exist because Batman exists. In other words: there were crazy guys in masks before our crazy hero in a mask stepped onto Gotham’s rooftops. But The Riddler is more than just some old washed up gangster from before Bruce’s time. He’s like a messed up Jigsaw from the Saw franchise. This Riddler puts his victims into torture devices, asking them to complete riddles and if not… well, bad things happen. He’s an actual threat and not some cartoon villain that dances around in the background yelling out obnoxious riddles while twirling his walking cane.
The only disappointing thing with The Riddler was his puzzles. I know Telltale games have moved away from the traditional puzzle-based aspects of old adventure games, but if there was ever a time to include some, it would have been for this character.
The combat is a lot more visceral and faster than even the first season. The power move at the end of combat is still a large attack that looks great as you take down foes, but Telltale has introduced more decisions mid-combat that can lead to your Batmans showing a lot more ruthlessness in battle. He can hit harder than necessary or play nicer by simply tying down an enemy as soon as possible, rather than power punching them right into a table.
The story of The Enemy Within is all set up to be one great season going forward, judging off this first episode. There are so many questions I have, and Telltale makes some really big calls with certain characters and their directions. The Enigma is another brave entry in the series, shaped by some of the story decisions that make for a shocking and unexpected opening episode.
Much like the first season and other Telltale games, I had some issues with the dialogue, particularly when Bruce and Alfred were simply talking over comms. It didn't sound like natural conversation and is clearly just exposition or comments to help the player. This "video game talk" is off-putting from a developer that often does a great job with dialogue.
The Enigma is up there as one of Telltale's strongest premiere episodes. Often they are slow and padded to set up the rest of the season, but the focused nature makes for a great start to The Enemy Within, with strong characters we know already and solid introductions to those we aren't yet familiar with. The Riddler is fantastic and I can’t wait to get more into his backstory in Gotham.
Oh, and you can make all your Bat-Gadgets purple: plus ten points.
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platforms: Androids, iOS, Windows, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Switch