Written by: James Windeler, Patrick Kevin Day & Shanon Ingles
Directed by: Kent Mudle
One year after Batman stopped Penguin, Two-Face, Lady Arkham, and the Children of Arkham in the first season of Batman: The Telltale Series, Gotham is now safer than it’s ever been thanks to Batman and Gotham’s new police commissioner, Jim Gordon. But when Gotham’s original masked criminal, The Riddler, returns, Batman is pushed to his limits to save the city once again.
The first season of Telltale’s Batman series left me cold. It had potential but felt hollow. It had interesting original villains, and new takes on old ones, but ultimately felt bloated juggling Penguin, Two-Face, and the new Lady Arkham. As a whole, it was good but marred by problems big and small. So I was honestly shocked to discover that this second season, subtitled “The Enemy Within”, was starting with an incredibly strong first episode.
One thing Telltale’s Batman exceeded at in its first season was balancing Batman and Bruce Wayne, and that returns here. Players get to choose who they really are, and what their masks are. Is Bruce Wayne an aloof billionaire playboy, or a philanthropist doing his best to save the city? Is Batman a dark knight that terrorizes Gotham’s criminals, or a hero who works to protect the people? However, while that was the first season’s singular focus, The Enemy Within instead focuses on Bruce’s relationships with other characters.
Gone are the near pointless “_____ will remember that” notifications, now replaced with a “Your relationship with ______ has changed”. Alongside that, now at the end of the episode, you’re informed of Bruce’s relationships with the other characters, and what choices led to that. This new focus shows that The Enemy Within is evolving past the first season, and it gives the series a focal point for everything else to be built around.
The situations that this puts Batman in are interesting ones as well. When Amanda Waller arrives in Gotham with the mysterious “agency”, Batman is forced to choose between working with Gordon and the GCPD, or Waller and her agents. With more dangerous threats on the horizon, how does Bruce deal with recruiting new people into his mission? Now that “John Doe” is out of Arkham, does Bruce maintain their ”friendship”, or distance himself from a man that is clearly insane? These choices feel impactful because they affect characters and relationships that the player is invested in.
Speaking of characters, many of the old cast return, Gordon, Lucius, Alfred, and of course, the unnerving “John Doe”, but they’re joined by a compelling cast of newcomers. Tiffany, Lucius’ daughter who works with him at Wayne Enterprises is a fun and instantly likable character that I can’t wait to see more of in future episodes. Special Agent Iman Avesta presents a new element to the Bruce vs. Batman choices, as she’s a huge fan of Batman, but deeply suspicious of Bruce and his connections to the criminally insane. Amanda Waller provides an excellent foil to Gordon, ruthless and imposing, and knowing a lot more than she lets on.
Telltale’s take on The Riddler continues the trend of putting an interesting spin on a familiar villain. This Riddler is just as showboat-y and arrogant as usual, but much more violent, and interested in pushing Batman’s code to its limits rather than simply proving himself to be smarter. He doesn’t get a whole lot of depth, but he’s scary and unpredictable, and the final confrontation with him in this episode leads to one of Telltale’s hardest choices to date.
Aside from Telltale’s usual “interactive television show” style, there are a few gameplay flourishes here. Usually, I take the stance that more involved gameplay harms Telltale’s series’, but that’s not the case here. The usual QTE’s are now enhanced with choices that make good on Telltale’s promise from the first season to let the player “direct the action”. As opposed to planning an action scene beforehand, which absolutely killed the pacing, changes to the action are now streamlined directly into the scene. This can occasionally be distracting, but more often than not works out great.
The detective scenes from the previous season also return here. They’re still too easy for the player to feel smart for figuring out the answer, but they give some engagement to scenes that would otherwise be fairly boring. Still, the additions to linking evidence together don’t add much in the way of complexity, and if Telltale wants this system to be truly great, they’re going to have to really overhaul it.
Batman: The Enemy Within opens strong with “The Enigma”, putting a focus on relationships, hinting at future villains and mysterious, and setting up plot threads to unravel over the course of the rest of the season. The element that really sets it apart from its predecessor, however, is that it has heart. There’s an emotional core to this Batman story that makes it worth playing to fans of Batman and Telltale and newcomers alike.