Telltale Games have garnered a reputation over the years as being masters of the adventure genre, and their episodic games such as The Walking Dead have been praised by many. Telltale have also released episodic adventures based on popular video game franchises such as Borderlands, comics like The Wolf Among Us and even movies like Back to the Future.
And given their talent for making episodic adventures based on the most popular characters from comics, video games and film, many thought it was only a matter of time before the developer would release an episodic adventure starring the Caped Crusader, with Telltale’s first Batman game seeing a release last year, and being well-received all around. And those who enjoyed season 1 last year were happy to hear that another season was in the works, with the first episode of Batman: The Enemy Within now being available.
Sadly, though, this first episode of The Enemy Within did not cause me a great first impression. I thought the opening music was a bit understated and disappointing for a game starring one of DC Comics’ top heroes (in-game music is better, but nothing memorable though).
Once in the game, however, I appreciated the fact that Telltale wastes no time in putting players in the thick of the action, with Bruce Wayne hunting for a shady character in a luxurious casino. This casino is one of the game’s beautifully-realised settings. Other locations include the Wayne Enterprises building, a shipyard at night and of course the Batcave, the dark hues of which contrast with the bright colour palette featured in other locations such as the aforementioned casino.
And this being a Telltale game, the action is often viewed from cool camera angles too, which sure adds to the experience of playing this Batman adventure. Overall, it’s clear that Telltale’s art style lends itself beautifully to the Batman ethos, and the studio does deliver some superb graphics here truth be told.
Of course, this being a Telltale adventure it’s the characters that take centre stage, and there’s no shortage of colourful personalities to interact with in this first episode of The Enemy Within. These include a shady businessman named Mori, Batman’s ally Commissioner Gordon and Tiffany Fox (daughter of tech ace Lucius T. Fox), someone who might end up not loving Bruce Wayne so much at the end of this episode…
Actually, like in other Telltale games, choices and consequences are key here, and your relationship with certain characters can change throughout the game depending on the responses you pick during conversations. This means that at the end of the episode a character might end up being unquestionably loyal to you (if you take his side in a key conversation), while another might end up ridden with guilt if one of your conversation choices led to the demise of one of her friends.
This will affect how things play out in later episodes, and it’s certainly interesting to discover at the end of the episode how different characters feels towards you now and whether your choices at key moments of the episode matched those of other players.
Going back to the characters, it’s clear the highlight here is the mysterious John Doe, someone whom Bruce Wayne gets to meet in a church in a great scene in this episode. John Doe bears more than a passing resemblance to one of the key villains from the Batman universe, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how he turns into one of Batman’s deadliest enemies in upcoming episodes.
In this episode though, Batman’s main antagonist is The Riddler, a man whom we discover early on is fond of torturing his victims in a sadistic manner (and who obviously has a thing for riddles too…). Sadly, Riddler is not such a great villain here, despite Telltale’s every attempt to make him come across as a ruthless and sadistic perp.
Other characters such as the leader of a mysterious law enforcement agency aren’t that great either. Thankfully, the voice acting is decent throughout, but with no real standouts (except the actor voicing Commissioner Gordon) although Troy Baker is solid enough as usual in the lead role.
One thing I disliked about conversations in the game is that you’re given a limited time to pick your response, even in casual, friendly conversation with others, something which adds unnecessary tension to the gameplay. This makes sense during the game’s fast-paced action sequences, but having to respond quickly in a friendly chat with Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred doesn’t make much sense to me (and ironically, there’s no timer during one dramatic conversation involving the death of a key character in this episode).
Of course, quick reactions are needed during the game’s action sequences, which involve hitting buttons and moving the thumbstick in the specified direction at the right time. You also get to choose how to dispatch certain enemies on occasion (such as hitting them with a roulette wheel or slamming them into a card table for instance), which sure is cool.
I felt cheated, though, that not doing the right action at the right time doesn’t result in failure (you just don’t get to perform a cool finishing move at the end) although at least this truly makes you feel powerful playing as the Dark Knight. Failure is possible at some point though, (such as at the end of a scene), but in this and other cases a little trial and error will get you through all the time.
This is the case during the game’s crime scene analysis bits, and there’s one memorable sequence in which you end up locked up with Commissioner Gordon in a Riddler installation. Here you have to link different pieces of evidence together in order to figure out what happened. It’s not really that hard though, and there are not so many possibilities that it will take you too long to figure the whole thing out, but nonetheless it’s rewarding to see a holographic recreation of what happened to the victim at the end of it all.
There are other puzzles in the game which are not so rewarding though, such as having to match similar audio recordings at some point in the game. This quickly turns into a tedious trial and error exercise, and sure doesn’t help make you feel like you’re playing as the world’s greatest detective.
But still, like in Telltale’s previous Batman season, it’s interesting that Bruce Wayne is as much the protagonist here as the Caped Crusader. Actually, at some point in the episode you can choose whether to pay a visit to one of two characters, in one case doing so as Batman and in the other as his billionaire alter ego. And if you do so as Bruce Wayne, you can prove the man can be as tough a cookie as Batman himself if the situation demands it.
But despite the fact that Bruce Wayne is at the centre of things on more than one occasion in this episode, there’s no denying that Telltale’s depiction of Batman is still superb, with his shiny, armour and bright white eyes – he sure is a force to contend with. And there’s no denying that this episode nails the Barman atmosphere, while still feeling like a Telltale adventure through and through.
So, this is no doubt a solid start for Batman: The Enemy Within. Those who enjoyed Telltale’s first episodic adventure starring the Caped Crusader will surely want to pick this up, as it’s got plenty of interesting characters, even if the villain isn’t as great as he could have been, and the timed dialogue might not be to everyone’s liking. Nonetheless, the engaging story, superb graphics and atmosphere still make this one of the better adventure games released so far in 2017, and I am certainly looking forward to the next episode in Telltale’s Batman saga.
Score: 70 / 100
Available on: PS4 | Xbox One | PC | Android | iOS
Reviewed on: PC (System: AMD Phenom II x4, 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 970, SSD Drive)
Publisher: Telltale Games
Launch date: August 8, 2017