Batman: The Enemy Within Episode 1 Review

By Mark Delaney, 2 months ago
It was almost exactly a year ago that Telltale Games debuted their first ever take on arguably their biggest license yet, DC's Batman. Season one promised bold alterations to the character's decades-long lore and at times they definitely delivered that. Ultimately the season was a good first try and I was sure they'd be back for more. One year later and the studio has wasted little time in getting back to Gotham. Batman: The Enemy Within - The Telltale Series is an entertaining and once again lore-manipulating debut, although it does feel a bit too familiar at times.

Batman: The Enemy Within

Like they did with The Walking Dead's third season, Telltale opted to use a subtitle rather than call attention to the fact that The Enemy Within is in fact a continuation of an ongoing story. It's meant to allow people to feel comfortable enough to jump into the story now, but like other games from the studio, it's also best consumed as that continuation. All of your choices from the first season carry over and the relationships play out a bit differently for the first time in a while. All of those "[Character] will remember that" moments are now visualized post-episode alongside the usual statistics about your big choices.

Batman season one offered the most intensive quick-time events of any Telltale series yet. Although it may not mean much to some people, this second season actually outperforms its predecessor in that regard. New techniques are utilized in the QTEs and they are even more frequent than before in action sequences. Thankfully, this episode was able to keep up on a technical level. Of course, nearly all premieres from the lag-prone developer perform well because premieres have spent months if not longer in development. How the remainder of the season plays out will ultimately decide how well they've done with their troubled game engine this time, but for now it's safe to venture back to Gotham without fear of slowed scenes and bugged performances.

It's like riding a bike.It's like riding a bike.

The story picks up one year after the events of the first season. Then, Batman was a new player in the crime and punishment merry-go-round of Gotham. Now, he's a trusted ally of the GCPD. Even as politicians play skeptics, the citizens of the city and those that protect them are all keen on the caped crusader. Like before, Telltale's Batman is equally about Bruce Wayne and you'll spend plenty of time in a dress shirt and trousers — it's not all cape and cowl. The duality of the character feels like it's on a collision course already in the premiere, hence the subtitle of the season. A lot of that thematic material is quite rote for superhero stories in general, even as Batman's dueling personas have often been the most interesting of a crowded bunch.

Fortunately, this first episode also goes to great lengths to push the proverbial envelope with the character. Rewriting major characters' personalities, irreversibly harming Batman's close-knit family of allies, and digging deeper into the annals of Batman and the broader DC Comics lore makes this a fun premiere with more than a few surprises. It's still exciting to role-play the hero. Despite his world fame, few games have ever let us do that; once again, your Batman will truly be tested and ultimately authored by you.

Riddler is still driven by ego, but he's colder and more violent than usual now.Riddler is still driven by ego, but he's colder and more violent than usual now.

One portion of the story that The Enemy Within gets uniquely right is its portrayal of The Joker. He's only "John Doe" right now and his performance last season was mixed, but it seems the time apart has helped the studio and voice actor craft a better bad guy. The dramatic irony of watching him slowly become the Clown Prince of Crime is one of the coolest Batman plot points ever written. Batman looks on ignorantly at John Doe, unknowing that his worst nemesis is being bred before his eyes. We know where it's heading and that knowledge informs our choices whenever Doe is in a scene.

The problem inherent within the praise is that we've seen it all before — we saw it last August. The Enemy Within's premiere makes moves similar to last year's premiere: a villain reimagined, another teased, several easter eggs for the well read fans, some fantastic original music, and a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. It's become mechanical for the developer-publisher, an assembly line of emotional cues. That familiarity leaves us on a fence and we're forced to climb down as players, reviewers, fans, to pick a side. Do you have faith that the rest of the season will continue to up the ante or will it play the same cards as before?

As is nearly always the case with Telltale, just playing through the episode will net you all six unmissable achievements for 200 gamerscore.

Summary

Telltale is the master of the season debut. They've been building fantastic first episodes for years now. From there, their games have gone in all sorts of directions. Sometimes they've stayed superb, while other times they've fizzled out. The first episode of Batman: The Enemy Within is yet another great debut that does most of the things you'd want it to do. Fans of the last season or the hero in general will no doubt enjoy this first of five episodes. Some part of us can't help but worry that this one will follow too closely in the footsteps of its predecessor, which would mean it won't end as impressively as it has begun. Still, we're choosing to remain optimistic.
4 / 5
Positives
  • Improved QTEs
  • More captivating character "rewrites"
  • Huge moments and fun teases
  • New additions to the choice and relationship stats
Negatives
  • Follows too closely to last season's formula
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent just over two hours back in Gotham, solving puzzles and punching faces. He gathered all six achievements along the way for 200 G. An Xbox One copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is one of three voices on the TA Playlist podcast. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his fiancée and son. He almost never writes in the third person.