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.
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.
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.