Review: Batman: The Enemy Within – Episode 1: The Enigma

As of late, it seems that Telltale has become content with continuing the storylines of their existing properties as opposed to telling stories in new ones. It’s true that the indie studio’s take on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy did just kick off earlier this year, but during their heavily-teased San Diego Comic-Con announcement, the developer revealed not one, but three new seasons for some of their more popular adaptations: Batman, The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. Add in Minecraft: Story Mode’s ongoing second season, and it’s easy to make a claim that Telltale has started to grow comfortable with their current library, perhaps a little too much so. Just because the team might not be eagerly seeking out new franchises doesn’t mean there’s no more room for creativity, as the first episode of the second season of their Batman series clearly demonstrates, thanks to some clever twists to the established formula for the world’s greatest detective, including more interactive combat and an enhanced presentation.

Although the story can be played independent of the events that occurred in the first season, Telltale has fortunately made it relatively straightforward for players to transfer their data over, even from one platform to another, allowing this year’s story to have a much more meaningful impact. This proves to be especially clear from the get-go, as Bruce Wayne and his cohorts are still dealing with the aftermath of the Children of Arkham’s attack on Gotham as The Enigma gets underway. But new issues arise fairly quickly nonetheless, as the not-so-subtly alluded to villain of the premiere episode makes his grand entrance in a style that only he could provide. His time in the spotlight, as well as the arrival of the mysterious Agency and their prominent leader, mark some of the key highlights of this slightly longer than average episode, as Telltale continues to embrace their willingness to put a spin on some of the Dark Knight’s most notable villains. These new relationships, as well as old ones from last season, seem to be a key focus of the upcoming season, as new text prompts and result screens help the player attain a clearer view of the road several key characters are beginning to head down, even if the vast majority are only teases so far.

Telltale’s Batman’s gameplay remains largely comprised of the usual activities of the Caped Crusader: detective work and combat. The puzzle solving, despite the theme of the episode, remains largely unchanged, as players use clues strewn about the environment and link them together in often straightforward ways. On the other hand, the brawls have seen some minor but effective improvements, as new, more demanding quick time event prompts help keep the battles feeling fresh, such as longer button chains and mid-engagement decisions on how to overcome an enemy. While not every property presents an opportunity for such involved combat, Telltale’s Batman still remains the top tier for not only the studio, but adventure games of this scale as a whole, with fights that continue to remain varied and satisfying to complete one year later.

The aforementioned skirmishes, and the episode as a whole, are both greatly benefitted from an improved presentation, with a greater focus on cinematic camera angles and a more polished art direction both leading to a smart step in the right direction for this new season. Several voice actors from the first season return without skipping a beat, while the new additions all add to the strong team Telltale has assembled. The soundtrack, while still featuring some of last season’s greatest hits, has been updated with a few distinct tunes, often highlighting the mysterious nature of the forces in play. Fortunately, another recurring force of evil, Telltale’s familiar technical issues, were nowhere to be found during our playthrough, which hopefully bodes well for the remaining four episodes.

Closing Comments:

The Enigma offers plenty of teases for the season ahead while also improving upon the combat and presentation for Telltale’s take on the powerless superhero. Those mere hints are all that separate this episode from feeling like a standalone story, though, albeit an intriguing one at that. Once the full season comes into play, this debut episode may feel a little less out of place, but for now, The Enigma represents a strong start for Bruce Wayne’s latest struggle to keep his city, and his relationships, intact.