Batman: The Enemy Within - Episode 1: The Enigma Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
WARNING! This review may contain SPOILERS for Batman: The Telltale Series
Telltale’s proven game-making formula rears its dependable head with yet another sequel this year in the form of Batman: The Enemy Within. This time around the game is solely for next generation consoles and PC, which notably reveals that the performance issues of its predecessor are a thing of the past.
This season begins nearly a year after the events of season 1. Bruce Wayne has been busy following his stint in Arkham Asylum and his success against the leader of the Children of Arkham - Vicki Vale, both fostering his position as CEO of Wayne Enterprises and his relationship with the GCPD as Batman. Bruce now keeps a very select entourage of trusted individuals, as most of his companions have now outed themselves as rotten villains and criminals. For a high-functioning intellectual, Bruce Wayne has had very poor choice in friends! He even garners the unwanted attention of a psychotic, unpredictable foe from season 1...
When we catch up with Bruce and Alfred, they are observing Rumi Mori in the comfort of his own casino. Mori is a known arms dealer, who wears the mask of a businessman and philanthropist for the public. However, before they can get the evidence they require, a hooded figure and an escort of thugs crash the party and threaten Mori. Players who are even briefly acquainted with the Batman franchise will recognise this hooded man, and as this title suggests, this episode centres around Batman’s introduction to the classic supervillain, Edward Nigma - the self-proclaimed Riddler.
In this iteration of the Riddler’s story, he is an older criminal from before Batman’s time, keen to make his mark on Gotham once more. The Riddler fancies himself a genius. He revels in posing riddles and setting up games to prove his superior intellect to those around him. This time is no different as he draws you into his latest games.
In comparison to the first episode of the previous season, this opening episode centres on a single antagonist. By doing this, the narrative feels a lot more focussed and gives us more opportunity to examine the motives of the handful of allies we interact with. Allies such as the relentless Amanda Waller, the woman who leads the Agency - crushing the toes of Gordon’s authority as Commissioner. With your newly acquired trust from the city and respect from law enforcement as a detective, you will be able to choose whether to back Gordon or Waller at multiple points through this episode, adding an interesting dynamic between the three characters.
Telltale premieres Crowd Play in The Enemy Within. Since timed decision making wasn’t stressful enough, Crowd Play allows friends and family to join in by making group decisions on the dialogue options on your adventure. Choose between the democratic Crowd Decides voting system or the passive Host Decides option of letting your viewers make suggestions on the available decisions. Your audience may then give a thumbs up or down to judge your performance. It’s Twitch Plays meets Fibbage.
Unlike Fibbage, it requires you to sign up to their website to make full use of this feature. Viewers also require a separate PC or device with an internet browser, and if you’re in separate locations, a third-party streaming service (or Share Play on the PS4) for friends to view the game. With a group in a single location, the social aspect is fun and the bigger the group, the more interesting the decision-making. The downside to Crowd Play is that it offers no time extension for multiple viewers, which often means that the decision time is too short for everyone to view the options and make a choice. This also means that for Host Decides, there is not enough time to consider peer responses. The addition of Crowd Play is an interesting social feature, though it seems to be aimed more towards streamers with an established viewership. With very little for viewers to interact with, and no requirement for players to be in contact for this party feature, it will be less attractive to the average player.
Telltale has changed their trademark ‘X will remember that’ in favour of ‘Your relationship with X has changed’. This slight alteration is very noticeable and provocative as it makes your actions feel irreversible. Additionally, a new layer of decision-making has been added to the quicktime action sequences. You are now offered multiple options on how to take down enemies. Thus far, this has not had any impact on the narrative and there are no divergent paths, but this could have potential in the future. Other than that, the general Telltale blueprint for dialogue choices remains the same, but it is refreshing to see improvements on the Telltale mould; no matter how slight.
Once again, Batman’s Detective Mode puzzles will come into play. It is supposed to allow us to investigate a crime scene and deduce the events as the ‘world’s greatest detective’. The puzzles themselves are interesting, but they hold your hand so tightly that it leaves you feeling a bit sour for not being left to draw the conclusions yourself.
The Enigma provides a promising start to this new season of Telltale’s Batman story. The episode wraps up the opening act in a satisfying manner, whilst still leaving enough intriguing questions to ponder for the next. Who are the members of The Pact? What are their goals? How will your chosen alliances affect the events to come? The major alliance choices will hopefully be the basis for some interesting deviation in the narrative of the upcoming episodes. Well, as much deviation an episodic Telltale game can offer, at least.