Batman: The Enemy Within – Episode 1 review

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This review will have spoilers for last year’s Telltale Batman: Season One and, yes, I would say that playing season one is essential to enjoying Enemy Within.  You can read our review of Season One, Episode One by clicking HERE. No spoilers for Enemy Within are included.  Andrew played on the PS4 and Chris played on the Xbox One. Final score is an average of their two ratings. 

Andrew’s Review

“Is this really Batman anymore?” Other than some formulaic gameplay, that was a frequent beef I had with season one of Telltale Batman. Here we have a Bruce Wayne who isn’t all that smart, never broods, (he’s also not strong enough to knock out Riddler in one punch, go figure) and is more reliant on his tech than Terry McGinnis. He operates in a Gotham populated by Mayor Harvey Dent, an anarchist Penguin, a Joker who goes by “John Doe” and wants to be Bruce’s best friend, and there’s even an evil Vicki Vale with unexplained sonic weaponry. This is all fine. Most of the changes are made just to be different and set the Telltale world apart from the other 75+ years of Batman world-building and not all of them are bad. Many make the story feel fresh and wildly intriguing. After all, Batman is one of the most versatile figures in fiction, capable of excelling in comedic and gritty narratives alike. But then you have changes like having Thomas Wayne be the greatest criminal Gotham has ever seen, and THAT combined with the not-so-smart, not-brooding, gadget-dependent Bruce makes for something that really had me wondering “Is this really Batman anymore? And if so, is it a version of Batman that I’m actually interested in?”

Season Two: Enemy Within picks up not long after Season One left off and the only obvious difference for players who saved their choices from the last game will be if Bruce is missing part of his ear (he’s a billionaire, Telltale, he can afford to fix that) or Alfred is missing an eye. And right now it doesn’t seem like Bruce suffered any hearing loss from the sonic blast that took off a morsel of lobe so the changes are just cosmetic. Since Season One, Batman and Gordon have made Gotham an incredibly safe place, but The Riddler has just shown up and Amanda Waller followed. Riddler is a terrorist who likes to ask Riddles while he tortures people to death. He’s much older than Bruce and widely regarded as the first costumed criminal (like Scott Snyder’s Zero Year, Telltale seems to be doing away with the idea of Batman inspiring others to wear masks– costumes have always been a Gotham thing). Waller leads The Agency, a federal organization that wants to find Riddler even if that means stripping power from Gordon and taking control of the GCPD. How you choose to hunt down the Riddler will ultimately make life harder for either Bruce or Gordon. Relationships will (supposedly) be tested.

And so, I’ll go ahead and state right now that I would recommend Telltale Batman Season One and the new Telltale Batman: Enemy Within Episode One to fans who totally approve of creators playing fast and loose with the Batman mythology. For example, if you’re a big fan of Geoff Johns’ Batman: Earth One graphic novels or the Fox TV series “Gotham” you’ll probably dig what Telltale is doing with Batman. But the tighter your grip is on what you believe makes Batman great, the less likely you’ll be to sit back and enjoy the new story Telltale is crafting. And story is what matters most here because when it comes to gameplay there’s not a whole lot to say.

Telltale still hasn’t made moves to give players more engaging gameplay. Can you push a joystick UP when a 3-second prompt tells you to press UP? Can you press X when a 3-second prompt tells you to press X? Then congrats, you can beat any episode of a Telltale game in under 3 hours without ever getting stuck. Telltale doesn’t put any emphasis on their gaming mechanics and instead focuses on story and visuals. This was fine in the beginning when we were enamored with Telltale Walking Dead, but competitors like Square Enix’s Life is Strange and Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn prove that you can have quality story and visuals in these types of “choose your own adventure” games without sacrificing fun, challenging gameplay. Telltale comes off as resting on their laurels while everyone else is innovating. Even the crime scene investigations, my favorite part of Season One, feel lazy this time around. One scenario only gives you two pieces of evidence to connect in order for Batman to figure out what happened. It’s so simple it feels pointless and I’m left wondering if I might enjoy all of this more if I was just watching the game unfold like one long cutscene when this is all it has to offer in the interactive-department.

The greatest strength of a choose-your-own-path game, however isn’t really the combat and puzzles but the choices and the game’s most pivotal decisions aren’t challenging. Chris, the creator of Batman News, and I liked the idea of reviewing Telltale episodes together so we could see how our stories diverged, but that just doesn’t seem to happen. Far more often than not, the first option seems painfully obvious and the second option is almost always so ludicrous that we always end up with identical results. That’s why we lost interest in reviewing episodes 2-5 of season one last year. This point is really driven home during the game’s end credits. After you beat Enemy Within Episode One you are shown statistics of what the entire Telltale gaming community chose to do in the five biggest story-altering dilemmas and here were the results as of 8/13/2017:

Choice #1:

  • 85.1% chose option A
  • 14.9% chose option B

Choice #2

  • 85.2% chose option A
  • 7.9% chose option B
  • 1.2% chose option C
  • 5.6% chose option D

Choice #3

  • 72% chose option A
  • 28% chose option B

Choice #4

  • 50.3% chose option A
  • 49.7% chose option B

Choice #5

  • 17.8% chose option A
  • 82.2% chose option B

Only ONE of the FIVE story-altering moments proved to be truly divisive for players. Fashioning your own unique story would require the player to consciously behave as contrarian as possible in every situation rather than playing how you or your character would react in these scenarios.

Telltale needs to improve their gameplay so it’s more engaging than “press this” (especially when sometimes you can press something else entirely with no consequence) because right now the visual flair, quality voice acting, and shock-value-heavy storytelling are all that Telltale offers. If fun and complex fight/puzzle sequences aren’t introduced and more difficult story-altering choices aren’t offered to allow for vastly different outcomes, I can foresee many fans gravitating away from the $25 season pass ($4.99 for individual episodes) and opting to watch a YouTube walk-through of these games instead.

Overall, I was unimpressed with this opening chapter. It ran the smoothest of any Telltale game I’ve played (Batman Season One, episodes 2-5 suffered some gnarly frame rate drops), I enjoyed the weird Bruce/John Doe dynamic, the voice acting is great, and the animation is really attractive (especially some sequences in the cave). However, with the all-too-simplistic quicktime event gameplay, lack of challenging decisions, and (what I feel to be) a poor depiction of Bruce/Batman, I just didn’t enjoy myself through long stretches of this episode.

SCORE: 4/10

Chris’ Review

I was very pleased when Telltale “surprise announced” Batman: The Enemy Within last month. I really enjoyed the first game (it was also my first time playing a game by Telltale), and I was excited that the follow-up was right around the corner.

The game picks up where the last one left off, though I wish the recap it gives you wasn’t so brief. But once I started playing and meeting familiar characters, the story from the previous game came back to me.

There were two gameplay differences that stood out to me this time around. The first is more choices during combat. In the previous game you’d press a series of buttons when told during the hand-to-hand combat scenes, but now you have choices you can make, much like the stealth missions from Season One. Do you want to bodyslam a bad guy or kick him in the head? It’s up to you!

The second difference had to do with the relationships you have with the other characters. Instead of getting a prompt that says a character will remember a choice you made, it tells you when your relationship has changed (for better or worse). At one point I disappointed Gordon by lying to him. That made me feel a bit guilty, and affected a choice I made later in the game as to not damage our relationship any further.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first episode of Batman: The Enemy Within. Small but crucial tweaks in the gameplay made me feel more involved and invested in the story and relationships in the game. And with The Riddler as the main villain, it was fun to think outside of the box for a few riddles you have to solve. This episode also took me longer to complete than the others from the previous game, around two and a half hours, which I enjoyed.

SCORE: 9/10

OVERALL SCORE

Combining our scores together, Batman-News.com gives episode one of Enemy Within

6.5/10

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