Gaming Review: Batman: The Enemy Within Episode 1

Why play anything else when you can play Batman? Always play Batman.

This past week I stood guardian over the streets of Gotham, finally burned through all five episodes of Batman: The Telltale Series. Though I will happily report that it’s a great game (and would’ve been on my list of “Top games of 2016” had I actually made one), it would be a disservice to say it was without problems. It lagged at times with the rickety stumblings of a man whose leg was broken by the Bat, characters often went full Exorcist with their heads twisted behind them during conversations, eyes would roll up into the head of others in an equally disturbing fashion, there was a bat gage that I had absolutely no idea as to what its purpose was, etc. Even so, I loved the experience thanks to the familiar characters and intriguing story put through the Telltale formula. Better yet, the sequel improves upon this foundation.

Batman: The Enemy Within picks up sometime in the near future of the events of game one, with The Riddler filling the masked madman sized hole left by Lady Arkham. Though he is definitely a more cerebral villain, he’s still a formidable opponent in combat. While fighting The Riddler and his thugs during the first chapter of Episode 1 we get a look at the changes to the combat system. Instead of relying solely on a quick one track quick time event, players are often given the option of performing two different takedown movies. Though I appreciate the desire to give the player more choices, the necessity to read the two options and then choose from two nondescript options causes the fight sequence to drag to a snail’s pace. How about we leave the multiple choices to the dialog?

Speaking of conversational choices, something Telltale has better integrated into this sequel is how the players chosen words effect relationships. Before there would be a prompt that would say something to the extent of “Gordon will remember that,” but why that mattered was not always clear, let alone felt to have any true repercussions. This is definitely not the case in The Enemy Within. This time things have changed. This time I truly feel like choosing my words carefully matters, because next thing you know the conversation isn’t going as smoothly as expected and suddenly “your relationship with Tiffany has changed.” What!? How!? Oh dear God what have I done… Tiffany, a new character I wanted to have on my side, is mad at me and I don’t know if I will be able to fix it. So yeah, choices definitely feel weighted now.

Not only that, but choices don’t always seem so black and white. In Batman: A Telltale Series I never really doubted my decisions: 1) Always be Batman. 2) Always suck up to Alfred. 3) Always do the right thing. But now even doing the right thing has negative repercussions. Doing the right thing doesn’t always lead to everyone escaping the situation cleanly. Sometimes doing the right thing still leaves you feeling bad about what you’ve done. This game turns “the right thing” into “the ‘right’ thing.”

With these improvements to game 1 of this series, Batman: The Enemy Within already feels like a fuller, grander experience. And that’s only after one episode. Though it’s possible, I can’t imagine that sentiment changing with whatever Telltale has in store for the Caped Crusader next.

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