With its announcement coming less than a month ago at San Diego Comic Con, I am a little surprised to be playing the next season of Telltale’s Batman series. Lacking no love for the property, and having thoroughly enjoyed the first season, I was both excited and a little scared that they would be pumping out a less than stellar follow-up, especially when the first introduced so many changes to the standard Batman mythos.
My fears were misplaced. Titled The Enemy Within, the second season’s first episode, The Enigma, raises the stakes in a way I didn’t think a Batman story could, while also providing both a fitting introduction to this continuity’s Edward Nygma and his puzzling alter ego, The Riddler.
Picking up a year after the events of Batman, Gotham has enjoyed a severe drop in crime, with most attributing the peace to the cooperation between the GCPD and Gotham’s Dark Knight. Carrying over my save from the first season, choices I made, like investing in Arkham Asylum’s refurbishment after Bruce’s punishing stay there, seem to be off to the races as well, as more than a few characters mention the changes. Following a lead on a possible weapons sale, Bruce follows a lead to The Virago, a gambling club owned by Rumi Mori, one of Gotham’s social elite and a shady businessman.
Bruce doesn’t get a lot of time to socialize before the party is unceremoniously interrupted by the Riddler. Rolling in with a group of thugs and what looks like a large, empty cylindrical fish tank, Riddler makes a bee line for Mori, while his thugs fan out to grab hostages. Bruce, slips out during the commotion, drawing the attention of one thug that’s taken down in a scene very similar to Bruce’s penthouse escape in Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Making his way to the back, Alfred, ever steady on the coms, brings Gordon on the line while Bruce slips into something a bit less comfortable.
From a vantage point above the room, Batman brings in the drone he used last season to help read the room and plan his entrance. However, in a change from last season, rather than run through a set of choices before the action begins, linking foes to common, smashable objects, those choices are brought into the action itself. For instance, Batman charges from cover towards a henchman, and two prompts, something like “soccer kick” or “table leg” pops up. Your choice on how Batman delivers his justice then plays out using the same kind of QTE system that was present last time. It seems that the combo meter has also disappeared along with the pre-planning, which, while a cool gamey system, is nothing I had given any thought to until writing this sentence.
I’m going to move on past the play by play to avoid any further spoilers, but there are some points I do want to hit, which involve some new characters, as well as some returning ones. These highlight some of the better moments in the first episode, so be warned, past this point I do talk about some stuff with light specifics.
Beyond the RIddler, there are two other main characters introduced through the episode, and both of them really serve the new relationship system that Telltale has put in place rather well. The first is Amanda Waller, a name familiar to anyone who bothered to see Suicide Squad last year, or who’s read/watched any number of DC properties within the last 15 years. A no-nonsense, 110% scene owning bad ass, Waller is introduced as the head of “The Agency,” a nameless government organization that’s been after Riddler for a number of years. Things come to a head with Gordon as she claims jurisdiction over the crime scene and immediately installs her people all over the GCPD. Choosing how you interact with her affects both the way she and Gordon work with you in the future, and your actions and their results are broken down with some easy to understand graphics.
The second is Lucius Fox’s daughter, Tiffany. A recent college grad that’s showing up for her first day at Wayne Enterprises, her technical chops are immediately put on display, placing her easily on the same level as her dad, and will inevitably lead to further discussions regarding a role with the Caped Crusader. It should come as no surprise though, that my favorite interaction was with John Doe, the white skinned, green haired dude that will, without a doubt, come to be Batman’s greatest nemesis. While I don’t want to spoil what happens, the scene is wonderful and serves to drive home the relationship mechanic.
I also can’t say enough about Telltale’s willingness to take chances with the Batman mythos. Whether it’s breathing new life into Batman stalwarts like the Joker, or breaking the bubble of protection over main characters with a well-written death, everything they do feels earned and genuine. I can’t wait to find out what other surprises lie in store this season, or what else they plan to do with characters like Amanda Waller.
I feel obliged to mention that this is a Telltale game, and as such consider this my official “there are some graphical problems” mention. There were quite a few points where the action stuttered through dropped frames, but overall it held up better than others have. Honestly, at this point, if you are coming into these games not expecting some form of technical craziness, you just haven’t been paying much attention. Or I’ve been playing way too many of these.
How they managed to get a sequel out months after the completion of the first season is still a mystery to me, but I can comfortably say that The Enemy Within is excellent, and the best starting episode out of everything they’ve put out the past couple of years. The action works when called upon, the story really tries to expand on Batman’s world, and the new relationship mechanics add another layer to interactions. If you played the first season, there’s absolutely nothing that should keep you from this one. And if you haven’t, I mean, sure you can start here, but you are missing out on some truly great moments. Don’t skip this one.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!