Batman - The Enemy Within Episode 1 Review: Relationships Can Be An Enigma

Telltale Games returns to its unique take on the Caped Crusader.

Review by Mike Williams, .

Telltale's unique version of the Dark Knight returns in Batman: The Enemy Within, the second season of Batman: The Telltale Series. The first season focused on one moment of Batman's first year in action, with Bruce Wayne finding out his family history and Gotham giving birth to some of its rogues. The season worked because Telltale was willing to commit to certain changes and twists to the mythos, including the ultimate foe of the season.

Bros before the steady decline of our city as we know it.

Batman: The Enemy Within continues this odd path Telltale has laid out, with Batman moving into his second year as Gotham's protector. Batman is firmly the city's protector and he's got some shiny new armor to go with the role. While the first season was all about Bruce Wayne, the second focuses more on both sides of the puzzle. It's about juggling the dual life of Bruce Wayne and Batman, and how that ultimately affects the life of the man at the center of both personas.

This first episode picks up where the previous season left off. Bruce Wayne is a free man missing a piece of his ear and still struggling with the now-public legacy of the Wayne family. Faithful butler Alfred is sporting a case of post-traumatic stress disorder from his kidnapping. James Gordon is now the Commissioner, but it's not a winning season for the Gotham PD. Into the kettle, Telltale throws the volatile presence of The Riddler.

This version of The Riddler is a bit more bloodthirsty than his comic or cartoon counterparts, trapping his victims in Saw-like traps. This Riddler also predates Batman, having previously been active during the era of Thomas Wayne. The Riddler has returned to claim the city as his own again, taking it back from the Dark Knight. And with the Riddler in town, Amanda Waller enters the fray as the head of the quasi-FBI Agency.

You'll jump back and forth between Batman and Bruce Wayne as you attempt to find the Riddler. The big focus here isn't necessarily the choices you make, but how those choices leave your major relationships. This is illustrated in the post-episode rundown: in classic Telltale Games fashion, you see the choices other players made, but you also see where your choices have left Batman with key members of the cast: Alfred, Gordon, Waller, and three other characters you'll meet during your adventure.

I can't believe we're having this conversation.

One of those characters is John Doe, the man who will eventually become the Joker. Doe appeared briefly in the first season, when Wayne was trapped in Arkham Asylum. He returns here in a lengthy scene where he and Bruce Wayne interact. Doe feels a kinship with Wayne and I found it surprising how tense and somewhat awkward the situation was.

How hard do you go on the man who will become the Joker? Here, he's simply unhinged and a bit lost, reaching out to Wayne as a friend. I honestly didn't know quite where to go in this relationship, to the point where I made nicer choices in an effort to save the Joker. It's likely not possible, but being given the option to try is something new.

Doe's impact on this particular episode is small, but like poor Oswald Cobblepot in the first season, there are clearly seeds laid here to make him a much bigger force. In fact, I feel like Telltale might offer us a whole host of Batman villains over the course of this season, before we finally end with a fully-formed version of the Clown Prince of Crime.

On the technical side of things, Batman: The Enemy Within looks much better than I remember its predecessor did and Telltale has smoothed out some mechanics. The fights are still largely driven by quick-time events, but there are also moments during the episode where you'll have to make quick decisions; connecting clues and making choices to save yourself and others. There's also a bit more puzzle solving, though it still takes the form of linking different clues together in order to progress. I think overall the episode could've done with maybe one more puzzle solving event to build up the Riddler, as the character probably won't feature in future episodes.

If you enjoyed the first season of Batman: The Telltale Series, the first episode of The Enemy Within is a great start to this season. The inclusion of one character feels a bit forced, like widget just placed to take the spot of an outgoing character, but all in all, the relationships you have to contend with here feel believable. The pacing is entirely on point for this episode, keeping things moving from scene to scene with hardly any real missteps, and the action scenes feel very "Batman". This is still a Telltale game and there hasn't been as many changes as some fans might like, but it works for the most part.

If you're already on board this take on Batman, I'd say it's time to load up your save and enjoy another season. It looks like we're in for a ride.

In one of the stronger starts to a Telltale season, Batman: The Enemy Within builds on the new mythos Telltale has created for the classic DC Comics hero. Classic villains are still themselves, but Telltale gives them enough twists to feel new. Great pacing, good tension, and what looks to be an improved engine make for a great Batman adventure. Hopefully they can keep the momentum up for the whole season.

4 /5

Batman - The Enemy Within Episode 1 Review: Relationships Can Be An Enigma Mike Williams Telltale Games returns to its unique take on the Caped Crusader. 2017-08-07T07:00:00-04:00 4 5

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Comments 13

  • Avatar for VotesForCows #1 VotesForCows 7 months ago
    I haven't played any Telltale games, because its not a genre I enjoy. That said, does anyone think a fondness for Batman would be enough to get me through the first season? I suppose that question boils down to - is it sufficiently good as a story for me to ignore the fact that I don't like the gaming aspect?
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  • Avatar for TheSensationalSean #2 TheSensationalSean 7 months ago
    @VotesForCows I reckon so, it feels very much like a classic Batman story - despite some twists to the mythos.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #3 Ralek 7 months ago
    @VotesForCows Interesting question. I intend to give the first season another try at some point in the future, when ever I can find the time. The first time I tried to get into it, I couldn't because I felt the story lacked some kind of emotional anchor that could bind me to the world and the characters.

    I consider myself a fan of most things Batman, but at least in that first attempt, that was not enough to really see me personally through even the first episode. I enjoyed the Wolf Among Us and the the beginning of Telltale's The Walking Dead series though. I also absolutely loved Life is Strange.

    All these had a sort of emotional anchor though ... I mean TWD in particular had Clementine and Life Is Strange had the friendship between Max and Chloe - some of the best emotional hooks, so to speak, I've come across in any game ever - and I guess TWAU had Bigby and Snow White and their common struggle to keep a community of outsiders together - mostly it was really neat take on Law&Order though ^^

    Anyways, I think the thing is that these games are not really a 'genre'. They are at heart interactive TV-shows, and as such, they cover all kinds of genres. Batman (from what I can tell) certainly felt to invoke some The Original Series nostalgia, Life Is Strange ... oh boy, honestly I want to say Twin Peaks with sprinkling of The O.C. and TWAU, like I said, felt alot like Supernatural meets Law&Order or something along those lines.

    Hence unless you absolutey HATE the notion of an interactive TV-show, there is a good chance you will some game (not necessarily by Telltale) that you might enjoy within that 'genre'.

    My highest recommendation certainly goes to the three I mentioned already. I don't think I would have even bothered to pick up Batman, had I not previously really enjoyed TWD and TWAU. To me, that was certainly more of an incentive than it being about Batman.

    I love The Original Series and Batman Beyond for example, but most of the animated movies DC has kept churning out over the years, leave me totally cold, and I don't bother with watching most of them anymore.

    So all in all, I feel like unless you are a really commited fan - esp. if you have misgivings about the 'formula' or mechanics of these games already - it being Batman in and off itself is probably not going to be enough to carry you through - again, that is based on my experience as I laid it out above.
    Again though, I liked TWAU and TWD (and certainly Life is Strange) enough to give it another try eventually, so my view on this is potentially subject to change :-)
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #4 VotesForCows 7 months ago
    @Ralek Thanks - a lot to chew on there. You reminded me that I (surprisingly) liked Life is Strange a lot. Found it exasperating in equal measure, but maybe enough there to suggest I'd enjoy Batman.

    @TheSensationalSean Thanks for your response too! And are you Irish? I'm from Kildare, live in Yorkshire now though.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #5 Ralek 7 months ago
    @VotesForCows What about Life is Strange did you find particularly exasperating then?

    Also, nice to meet some fellow European around here on US gamer :-)
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #6 VotesForCows 7 months ago
    @Ralek Even though I liked the game and found the narrative interesting, I still found that some of the scenes dragged quite a bit. Gameplay too: some bits were basically old-fashioned pixel-hunting, like that bit in the dump. I ended up skipping over pretty much anything optional by about the mid-point of the game.

    Where are you from anyway?
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  • Avatar for Ralek #7 Ralek 7 months ago
    @VotesForCows Yeah, I'm with you on the gameplay - or lack there of. Like I alluded to already, I don't really consider most of these titles 'games' anymore, at least not in the same sense I think about titles driven by actual mechanics and gameplay. I guess that kinda helps rationalize away the shortcomings of titles like Life Is Strage in comparison to other more traditional 'games'.

    Ironically, I think the game dragged the most, when it involved larger bits of 'gameplay' meaning you having control over your character and ways to interact with the world, that were not directed at characters or narrative events per se, like for examle, as you mentioned, the bit about the bottle collecting in scrapyard (at least I think that is what you meant). Or the 'action'-/shooting-sequences in Telltale's Walking Dead. Those were real meh-moments in an otherwise outstanding narrative experience.

    Judging from what I saw of the 1st episode of Batman, that title seems to be much more focused on these 'action'ish' moments btw. I'm not sure how the rest of the seasons is structured though - hence I could be entirely wrong about that :-)

    Anyways, I still loved esp. Life Is Strange, because the story really touched me. The writing was good, so was the voice acting, but most importantly, I could relate to the characters and their emotional state and development. The scene with Chloe in the Butterfly-Effect'esque alternative universe for instance, asking you to basically ... well, murder her ... I'm not gonna lie, that brought tears to my eyes, which as far as traditional games go, flat-out NEVER happens.

    So yeah, that makes the game definitely special to me. Same for TWD, because there were several scenes with Clementine that had a real strong emotional heft to it, much more in the vein of the best movies or TV-shows or yes, even books out there, than even the best 'traditional' games ever could manage with me.

    Anyways, I'm from Germany btw, the Bavarian part of Swabia to be more precise :-)
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #8 VotesForCows 7 months ago
    @Ralek wonderful, I love Germany. I used to date a lady from Freiburg and visited that city in 2005. Also trained as a yoga teacher near Munich. Love the country, people, language.

    And yeah, I would probably have enjoyed Life is Strange more as a movie than a game. Wonderful characters that reminded me a lot of my group of friends years ago.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #9 Ralek 7 months ago
    @VotesForCows Glad to hear it! Freiburg is a beautiful city. I love the small streamlets (we call them 'B├Ąchle' ^^) that run through city. I live like roughly an hour from Munich, several of my friends used to go to university there and some still live and work there :-)

    As for Life Is Strange, I didn't necessarily mean to say, that it would have been better as a movie, but that it could have done with some streamlining and cutting back on the more game'y parts of its structure. I loved the ability to make choices and actually see them play out before committing to one. That was a huge part of the appeal to me, because since I made the decisions knowing the alternatives (up to a certain point), I felt a strong sense of responsibility for the outcome, that I would have never felt in a movie - where I am by definition just a passive observer.
    I didn't feel like actual narrative, the decisions and the dialogue dragged at all, rather those stretches were you were running around, doing menial stuff, or just waiting for the next 'event' to trigger, or scenes like said that mini-collectathon in the scrape yard. Those were the things that really dragged a fair bit, and just hurt the overall pacing.

    To me all of that is still a minor concern, considering all the stuff the game got right, precisely because that is exactly the kind of stuff most games DON'T get right. Creating characters that I can feel a genuine connection to, is not the forte of your average videogame. Oh, they do try, some even with costly voice acting and motion capturing and what not, but at the end of the day, I find most of these efforts are for naught because characters will always come second to a whole host of other considerations in most modern videogames.

    I think that is pretty much the reason games like Life Is Strange exist, or studios like Telltale exist. The idea of having an interactive narrative and character development is incredibly compelling, because that is what sets videogames apart from other traditional media (at least I assume I am not the only one shouting stuff like 'OMG don't do that!' at a TV screen at times ^^), but for the most part, that is not what games do.

    Most games are to busy trying to awe you with vistas and explosions and what ever else they can throw at the screen, to bother to stop and let you examine and interact with a fleshed out fictional, digital character. I still think the whole Telltale/walking-simulator/interactive-movie formula needs some more work though, but the potential to be one day named in the same breath as the best in literature and visual storytelling (be it comics, mangas, movies, tv-shows etc.) is certainly there. I feel that is true for this 'genre' more than for any other. In most ways, it's still in it's infancy, hence we should have some patience and be lenient with our judgement :-)

    I'm very excited for DontNod's upcoming 'Vampyr' and definitely Life Is Strange 2 as well. Hell, I even enjoyed remember me, despite several issues with the game. The story was interesting, the whole Memorize idea was compelling, if mechanically underwhelmingly executed, the combo-system was also neat, even though also underdeveloped, but mostly Neo-Paris was really a stunning piece of art direction.
    I actually hope Capcom goes ahead and gives the green light for Remember 2. The story is apparently ready, has been for years now ... but then again, it's Capcom. I won't hold my breath for them ^^
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #10 VotesForCows 7 months ago
    @Ralek I struggle with narrative in games at the best of times. Even in Witcher 3, where I'm quite attached to the characters and plot, I find myself skipping dialogue sometimes. I guess on the 'narrative versus gameplay' spectrum, my preference is very much on gameplay end. I don't even watch TV or movies very often! Which again is why I was so surprised to enjoy Life is Strange.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #11 Ralek 7 months ago
    @VotesForCows Haha okay, that probably explains a lot. I was a book (scifi&fantasy mostly) junkie, before I was a movie junkie, before I was TV junkie ... before I was a games junkie. I also mostly play games for the, well, gameplay (like I said, not much choice there), but as far as my original preferences go, I think it's probably fair to say, that I for one come from the narrative side of things.

    Interesting that you should mention the Witcher 3. I tried to get into the Witcher games, each and every one of them (a good friend of mine and longtime roommate is a hardcore fan of the games, therefore I had a fair bit of exposure to them no matter what), but honestly, I never manage to develop the same kind of appreciation for them as he, and many others did.

    I know they are based on a book series, and by all accounts, the appear to be the gold standard for narrative-driven role-playing games, but alas, I just found them rather dull to play, even Witcher 3. Part 3 was the game I got furthest into (and mechanically speaking, it is certainly the best and most accomplished of the pack imho), but even then I only completed the first area, and then spend like, I dunno, maybe 10 hours exploring the rest of the world, before I just felt -
    like I do in most open-world games (with the exception of BotW) - completely lost and very much bored.

    I can't really explain, because I'm actually a sucker for this kind of dark&gritty low-fantasy setting in books, shows and movies, and the game felt very well designed. Alas, nothing in that world really clicked with me. Maybe it was my lack of familiarity with the world and the characters, having not really played the first two games, but then I know several people who only played the first two, after having absolutely devoured the Witcher 3, sometimes 2 or 3 times already Oo Yeah ... I don't know. It's still on my list of games, I feel like I should some day give another shot (like the first season of Batman).
    I mean, I should probably have like the Elder Scrolls games as well, but I absolutely hated those. Morrowind had some appeal to me back in the day, but not enough to see me through neither. I'm still very partial to Baldur's Gate II when it comes to fantasy games, and honestly, I felt all those 'open-world' games felt completely flat in comparison to that. Everything about them was just mind-numbingly dull in comparison. I loved the dragon fights in BGII, but wachting my roommate fighting dragons in Skyrim (another game he was absolutey batshit crazy for) left me absolutely cold, with zero interest in playing the game myself.

    Witcher 3 and Skyrim are probably among the most popular games ever made, I for one could not get into at all. They are also probably among the most I-should-like-that games ever made, I for one could not get into at all. I guess my brain is wired weird that way! :-)
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #12 VotesForCows 7 months ago
    @Ralek I was actually inspired by Caty on here to come back to Witcher 3. I didn't quite enjoy the main campaign - felt the gameplay was a little weak. But the narrative and characters stuck with me over the last few years. It may have had more of an impact because I have a young daughter too! Anyway, I've been playing the expansions over the last month and am having an unreservedly great time.
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  • Avatar for KabanoseqRivals #13 KabanoseqRivals 7 months ago
    With the arrival of a ruthless federal agent and the return of a still nascent Joker
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