Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: Gotham is terrorised by an old enemy, the Riddler, a deranged psychopath who makes his enemies answer cruel riddles to escape his death traps.
The Enemy Within is a rather interesting milestone in Telltale’s up-and-down career. This is not the first sequel produced by the gaming company, with Walking Dead on its third storyline, but it is definitely the fastest to come out. The first season of Batman only feels like yesterday, the only original story to come from the company since then being Guardians of the Galaxy. However, while Telltale’s take on Batman was satisfying yet average, it has almost immediately been renewed for another adventure around the dark city of Gotham. While the cynics will use this entry to Telltale’s backlog to argue the company is fast running out of original ideas, perhaps the truth is simply that there is more to be told in Batman’s universe. In an ideal world, the only reason that a sequel, game or film, should be made, is because there is clear narrative that helpfully expands on the original storyline. While most sequels are money-grabbing copycats, we always hope that perhaps a second film is being made, because there is a strong reason for it to exist. Perhaps this is the case with Batman. After a few breadcrumbs were sprinkled into the ending of the last season (Alfred’s torture, Joker’s introduction), the idea of a second season was all too tempting to resist.
The first episode of this season definitely strikes of strong sequel material. Batman is already established now, so after a quick news report recounting where we are in the story, we are thrown right into the action. Bruce Wayne is investigating a casino owner, hiding a dirty history of arms-dealing, when his target is attacked by an angry client: known other than one of the better Batman villains, the Riddler. And from that point onwards, the action comes thick and fast, as Batman works against the clock to take down this new and dangerous enemy. Everything is new and exciting here. With the Walking Dead, you sort of pick up where you left off, the seasons cleverly rolling into one another to create an overall, endless fight for survival. However, Batman doesn’t quite suit that drawn-out style of storytelling. Therefore, little of the storyline of the first season crosses over. Harvey Dent and Penguin aren’t going to be cropping up in this season, their development keeping the game held back in the past, limiting precious time with the new villains. Usually, this would be a downside to a Telltale Game, our gaming experience directly effecting the events of the story. Surely, this is a little like starting on square one. However, what Telltale rather do with the first season is relegate it to burning in the background. Events are referenced, especially in the Gotham media feed if players bother to read it. Alfred may or may not have both eyes after his encounter with Lady Arkham. The story of the first season feels vital, but for deeper reasons. They are the back-story of Batman, but one we helped create. If Season One was the origin story, now it feels personalised, so as we dive into emotional dialogue scenes with old and new allies, the terrors Batman talks about are for the individual player, alone, to feel. It makes Bruce a very empathetic hero; we always feel like we are that character, navigating tricky social situations. The lack of focus on the old means that The Enemy Within can also pick any direction it chooses. There is a sense that Telltale want to bring in more Batman references than ever. Season One picked a few faces from the rogue gallery and stuck with them. Season Two widens the universe, writing up a story that includes Amanda Waller and the Joker, ticking away in the background, while promising more familiar faces to be popping up just around the corner. While this might make future episodes bloated, unfocused affairs, for now it is precisely what Batman fans need, squealing with delight when each new name is dropped into the conversation.
Yet one must always be wary with a Telltale series. They have a horrible habit of disappointing, the glory days of Walking Dead’s first season and Wolf Among Us replaced with average adventures that are often filled with empty promises. Choices do not matter as much as we want them to, storylines aren’t quite as varied as the game company swears they will be… the choices brought up here now feel like false advertising, rather than hints for things to come. In some ways, this makes The Enigma better than usual, because the first episode feels able to avoid the disappointment that comes with the middle of the season. There are no unfulfilled promises…yet. It pretty much holds itself up as a stand-alone adventure, hinting that the Riddler is not the overall season baddie and more of an opening gambit to sink your teeth into. This definitely helps, because it keeps Batman in the now, something Telltale hasn’t always been good at. Even when the choices feel a little “do they really matter?”, the current adventure is so thrilling, they feel like a bonus feature, rather than the driving nature of the game. The Riddler is the perfect choice for villain too, his intellectual challenges far more fitting to the Telltale formula than punch-ups with Two-Face. In fact, as Batman tries to connect the dots between the Riddler’s elaborate death traps, it almost feels like Season One’s crime-solving features had been gearing us towards this moment. It is almost a shame when the story starts to move away from him, suggesting that these well-written moments are something that will be confined to this single episode. The doubts are most certainly there, and while I am sure that the story will be superb, the gameplay will likely eventually find itself in that sadly familiar Telltale rut before too long. However, when judging The Enigma as a separate entity from the season, I found myself thoroughly entertained. It’s good to be Batman once again.
Final Verdict: Back with a punch, The Enemy Within is a strong start, focusing on giving us a strong introduction episode. For now, Telltale are impressing. Can it last?