Review: Batman – The Enemy Within
Christian Bale brilliantly said in the film Batman Begins “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” This statement completely and totally encapsulates the approach a player can take with both Bruce Wayne and Batman in Telltale’s season 2 title, Batman: The Enemy Within. Telltale is a studio known for making games that care what kind of choices a player makes and this title certainly ups the ante as the narrative continues from the previous season 1.
Now, one thing I like to do here at SoaH is to review a game and not take away from any narrative by spoiling it, so this will be my best interpretation of a spoiler free review.
Batman: The Enemy Within is an episodic game series made by Telltale games that focuses on the duality between Bruce Wayne and the Batman. In this twisted and reimagined retelling of the Batman mythos, the Dark Knight is considered to be in his second or third year of crime fighting. By conquering his enemies, Batman has made an impression on the people of Gotham, the GCPD (Gotham City Police), and other criminals based on how he handled situations that came across. Fast-forward to the present and Batman is scoping out the criminal underbelly at a casino as the title opens up.
If you haven’t played a Telltale game before, it’s more of a moving novel rather than an action game. Players are given dialogue options and scenarios to work through and must select a response, usually between four options, that affects the characters and their interpretation of either the Batman or Bruce Wayne. This means you can be a scumbag, a diplomat, or something in between based on how you want to handle these situations. The game tries to give you some moral compassing by letting you know when decisions affect a character deeply or change their relationship with you.
By expanding on the story they set up during season 1, Telltale allows players to import their previous save to carry over into this new narrative. This affects choices and setups in the new season and allows the story to feel a lot more connected. Now, if you hadn’t played the previous season or just simply didn’t want your decisions to carry over, Telltale has some options for you as well. You can recreate a backstory based on some choices before your play through or go with a “default” basic story that keeps the playing field level. Either of these options still allows you to enjoy the story, so don’t fret if you haven’t played the game.
Now you may be asking me, “Is there any action in this game?” To which I say, hold on and let me get to the next sentence! Of course there is! Telltale has set up fight sections in a number of ways. You can brawl by hitting QTE-ques (quick time event) that take care of both offensive actions and defensive actions, like dodging or blocking. Telltale has also added sections in which you can press a combination of face buttons to interact with environmental hazards. These happen a lot more frequently than I thought and the change was certainly a welcome one.
Of course, Batman has his toys and gadgets, as well as his detective skills that come into play. You have access to drones, the Bat-computer, and even spy-aides like microphones and analyzing contact lenses. Your allies will give their two-cents on your actions and the current plot and it’s up to you to take into account their feelings or to snub them completely. This back and forth allows you to counter some situations as either Batman or Bruce Wayne, with each experience playing differently than the other. Telltale also challenges the player’s assumptions of characters and their established stories. For example, John Doe, an early version of the Joker, considers Bruce Wayne a friend. Sure, he is slightly crazy, but he isn’t a murderous clown prince of crime yet. It is possible that your choices can keep him from assuming this persona, as other villains were able to be steered away from obvious plot lines.
Even though I love the narrative and the continuation of the plot, the game does suffer from too many power players in this literal first act. The main villain of the episode, The Riddler, is set up to be this criminal who masqueraded before Bruce donned the Bat Suit. While you are always supposed to feel the pressure from his presence, there is just a lot going on early that could have been split into more sections to make him more important. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of tension, suspense, and shock in this episode, I just think it’s messy for people who don’t know a lot about Batman or the previous season’s story.
With all of that being said, I do recommend playing this game if you are a fan of Batman, Telltale games, narrative-heavy games, or are just looking for something different from your average game. If you hadn’t purchased the original season, it is definitely worth a spin. The episode can be purchased as a single game or you can download a season pass, including all 5 episodes for one price.
If you have played the previous season or this current season or just want to discuss your love of Batman with others, check out our topic in the forums, http://soahcity.com/forums/index.php?/topic/7811-batman-the-enemy-within/