BATMAN: THE ENEMY WITHIN Review by Ricky Church
It should come as no surprise that when it comes to video games, Batman has had some of the most successful in the superhero game genre. Whether it’s with titles like Batman: Vengeance or the fan-favorite Batman: Arkham series, the Dark Knight is no slouch on consoles. His latest video game is Telltale’s story and choice-based game, Batman: The Telltale Series with its second season, titled The Enemy Within, a fun and different kind of Batman story that further delves into the complex grey area of Bruce’s double life.
Picking up roughly a year after the conclusion to the first season, Batman has to deal with a new threat to Gotham City after a criminal calling himself The Riddler comes to town with a cabal of villains, one of whom is John Doe, a fellow inmate from Bruce’s time in Arkham. John has an interesting personality and sees Bruce as one of his only, and possibly best, friend.
Oh, and John also has very white skin and green hair and smiles a lot. Sound familiar?
While Joker is not the main enemy of the game, much of the season builds up John’s transformation into The Joker. Its an interesting new approach for Batman and Joker’s first conflict by having the two be almost friends (or actual friends depending on the player’s choices). It almost reminds me a little bit of Smallville, where Clark Kent and Lex Luthor were best friends, but Clark in a way helped shape the villain Lex would become through his constant mistrust and lies.
Mistrust and lies, in fact, play a huge part of the season for Bruce in multiple ways. Players have to carefully choose who to trust, balancing their relationships with Alfred, Gordon, Amanda Waller and others. It really gets players involved by making the consequences such a significant part of the story. The multiple paths with the various choices is layered and intricate, way more so than the first season. After playing through an episode and seeing videos of other players, it is surprising just how different certain outcomes can be.
Much like the first season, The Enemy Within makes Bruce Wayne just as important as Batman. Perhaps more so in some of the episodes as Bruce himself has to go undercover in the gang with John, Bane, Mr. Freeze and led by Harley Quinn. If played right in the fourth episode, ‘What Ails You’, Batman never appears at all. The game really puts you in Bruce’s shoes as they navigate the deceitful nature of being Batman, choosing what information should be known to others and who to manipulate. The latter is an aspect that Bruce (and subsequently the player) is called out on a lot throughout the game, particularly towards the end as the moral and ethical choices are called into question.
After the first season deviated a fair amount from established Batman lore, The Enemy Within once again tosses aside a lot of established elements to give fans a fresh interpretation and keep them on their ties. By the end of the first episode, two well-known characters are dead, letting players know all bets are off in this season. The changes that are made don’t do a disservice to the Batman mythos, but give a familiar feel while still remaining fresh. One example is how Harley is the ringleader and, at the beginning at least, the manipulator in the relationship between Harley and Joker. This take on Harley is fairly interesting, but incredibly dangerous as well. She is definitely one to keep players feeling wary around.
The meat, though, is in how the game examines the dynamic between Batman and Joker. In the comics, The Joker has always thought of Batman as his best friend in a very long game they’ve played. The Enemy Within takes this to the next level through Bruce and John’s quasi-real friendship. While it may not speak to everyone’s favorite version of the character, The Joker is written with their rivalry given a new spin by it being a little more about Bruce vs. John than Bruce vs. Batman. Anthony Ingruber also gives a pretty good performance as Joker, especially in the final episodes as John’s transition into Joker is complete.
The majority of the episodes are well constructed. There’s only a couple points early on where the pacing feels off, but for the most part each episode is engaging on its own and have fairly good lengths to them. Most of the episodes are a fair bit longer than what they were in the first season as well, giving you more out of your time. One other issue, though, is the final episode could have had a bit more resolution with some of the supporting characters and villains as some were left a bit open-ended.
Through the amount of choices and consequences, examination on the characters and the fresh interpretation of the famous Batman and Joker battle, Batman: The Enemy Within is a game worthy of the Dark Knight. It really gives power to the players in how the game is shaped with multiple avenues to travel. It is definitely a great game for any Batman fan to play thanks to its fresh appeal and heavy consequences. – Ricky Church
Ricky Church is a longtime contributor to BATMAN ON FILM. Follow him on Twitter @RICHARDCHURCH16