In the wake of the chaos wrought by the Children of Arkham through last year’s Batman – The Telltale Series, Gotham has entered a new era with the newly promoted Commissioner Gordon working ever closer with Batman to bring down the city’s criminals. It’s a familiar shift in the balance of power for Batman fans – just think back to the Dark Knight trilogy of films – and it’s one that predictably comes crashing down.
In the midst of another nascent crack down, the Riddler pops up, bringing his brand of psychotic, over-engineered brain teasers to bear on his enemies. However, as soon becomes clear, Riddler is really just the tip of the iceberg, with a new wave of Batman’s Rogues Gallery descending upon Gotham. Not only that, but the government Agency is coming in hot on their heels, disrupting the relationship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon in moments.
One of the things that this episode does very well is draw Bruce and Batman inexoriably into the web of deception and danger that is being spun around him. It’s something that was seen at times in the first season of Telltale’s adventure, but it’s taken even further in this second season’s opener, emphasising both sides of the character in the story. Not only that, but with this being a new take on the Batman universe, it means that the way that characters, their relationships and the crises develop aren’t particularly predictable.
John Doe, for example, rears his pallid face once more here, and now that he’s out on the loose it’s even more difficult to get a handle on where this character is going. Do you push him away, knowing exactly who he really is? Do you embrace him, hoping that you can keep tabs on how he develops and perhaps temper his tendencies? When he’s about to fly off the handle in a delicate setting, it’s certainly a tricky one to try and manage, and it draws you deeper into the game.
The Riddler is another interesting character, tying into the back story of this series’ take on Gotham. Instead of being a new menace, he’s perhaps one of the oldest that Gotham knows, returning after being absent for years, and having rivalled the old hegemony that was revealed in the first season.
Following the clues to track Riddler down brings some of the most meaningful puzzles to a Telltale game in recent times. It’s not going to seriously vex you – Telltale obviously want people to get to the end and enjoy the ride than get stuck for a few hours on a single teaser – but guiding Batman through these extravagant and stylishly created puzzles is great, making use of the scene investigation tools afforded Batman in the first game. There’s entire scenes that revolve around breaking out of Riddler’s traps, often while trying to deal with the fact that lives are at stake.
Another intriguing new twist is that Batman: The Enemy Within now highlights major changes in a relationship with a character, and not just that they will remember certain things. There are still those junctures where you’re pushed to decide one way or another, but simple conversations can bring you closer or push you further away from a character. My version of Alfred, for example, carries the scars of the tumultuous events of the first season, but that’s pushed somewhat further in this episode so that he ends up feeling vengeful, perhaps coming to embrace Bruce’s vigilantism more wholeheartedly in the future. The same is true of how you work with Commissioner Gordon, Fox, the new Agency head Amanda Waller, and a smattering of others.
Underpinning this is a version of Telltale’s game engine that is better than ever. Admittedly, it can still be a little rough around the edges with some noticeable frame drops as new scenes load on PC and the odd moment where the animations look particularly unnatural – I’m fairly sure that Bruce should know how to sit like a human and not like a velociraptor pretending to be a human – but the facial animations are a step beyond their most recent efforts, the cel shaded artwork is nicely complimented by some gorgeously realised scenery and there’s some neat depth of field effects.
Batman: The Enemy Within opens with a fantastic episode, turning the world of Batman on its head once more with new foes and new allies that you’ll have to work with. It drags Bruce and Batman further down into the murky grey area that he inhabits, keeping players constantly guessing as to whether or not they’re doing the right thing and bringing relationships new and old into the foreground.
Version tested: PC