I’ll be honest, Telltale Games is kind of hit or miss for me. I’m a big fan of The Wolf Among Us and the first season of The Walking Dead, but in its other titles, I’ve had difficulty mustering up the kind of empathy that’s required for an interactive adventure game to really shine. Unfortunately, that was the problem I encountered with Batman: The Enemy Within.
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What you’ll like
Quick-time events that pack a wallop
What’s the point of being Batman if you can’t Bat-punch and Bat-kick people in the face? Whereas some previous Telltale titles have left me with a low resting heart rate during their quick-time events, The Enemy Within does a great job of creating fast-paced fights that feel truly urgent.
This is possibly because there’s a lot of blood and body parts getting chopped off non-playable characters, so when it’s my turn to tap Q or E, the fear of dismemberment leads to a spike in my adrenaline. I liked the suggestion of brutal consequences if I didn’t land a hit, and it was doubly satisfying smashing a henchman into a table after he says something stereotypical like, “You’re gonna die, Bats!” Not today, disposable extra. I’m Batman.
You can’t take the Joker anywhere
There weren’t too many interpersonal interactions that stuck out to me, but my favorite was between Bruce and John Doe aka the Joker. In any scenario, a conversation with the Joker is going to be deeply uncomfortable, but whispering in the back row with a known psychopath at someone’s funeral just amps up the squirm factor.
Though the Joker didn’t get too much screen time, he added an injection of manic energy whenever he was in a scene. There are hints about what he’s been up to, and it’ll be interesting to see those come to fruition.
What you won’t like
I’m not a very compelling villain, who am I?
Riddler’s puzzles never really succeed at making me feel clever as a player, and subsequently, it was hard to take him seriously as the “genius” he’s supposed to be. The implications about his backstory could be interesting, but we don’t get enough context for that to be truly engaging. He just comes across as a rote villain who got his hands on a couple murder machines along with some riddles off a popsicle stick.
Sometimes he taunts Batman and psychoanalyzes him, but that’s just tired and even a little boring. Yes, yes, we know: Is Batman just another costumed freak like the ones he puts away in jail? Will he become as bad as the killers he hunts in his obsession with justice? This is old territory that we’ve visited in countless comic books, graphic novels, TV shows, movies, and games, and The Enemy Within isn’t adding any nuance to it. “Man dresses up as bat; might not be totally right in the head” isn’t a compelling headline anymore, and including these bits of dialogue just feels like Telltale ticking off a box.
The stakes were low
Even when we found out the Riddler’s ultimate goal, it was hard to care. I got pissed off at him for killing a character I liked, but that was about the extent of how much he actually impacted my character personally. Every so often, the Agency head honcho Amanda Waller would bluster onto the scene and yell at Jim Gordon a little bit and tell me how I had no idea what kind of chaos I was getting into, but oh well?
Maybe I’m being callous, but in the absence of any personal risk, Riddler’s body count just wasn’t really high enough for me to care. The consequences never seemed like they were that big a deal. I kind of felt like Batman if Batman were a 9-to-5er. Punch in, accidentally alienate people I care about, and save a bunch of Agency folks who are supposed to be part of a high-powered international para-military organization but for some reason have very poor reading comprehension skills and can’t solve basic riddles. Just another day at the Bat-office.
The idea of facing off against the Riddler is attractive, but there wasn’t enough detective work or puzzle-solving for it to be the kind of mano-a-mano battle of wits that that showdown should be. In lieu of seeing the World’s Greatest Detective at work, I would’ve taken some high personal stakes for Bruce — but those were missing as well.
I have emotional loyalty to characters like Gordon and Alfred, of course, but that’s not something that was earned by the game. There was a curiously lonely feel throughout as it neglected to build any kind of tension between Batman and the people around him. It doesn’t shine a light on new facets of Batman’s relationships with his allies, and there weren’t enough sticky situations where I honestly felt morally compromised.
The Enemy Within has some great action sequences, but it leans too much on the wider Batman universe as a crutch. It doesn’t put in the effort to make you care about the characters or the situations, and because of that, none of the choices feel meaningful.
Batman: The Enemy Within comes out on Steam for PC on August 8. Telltale Games sent us a code for this review.