“Expect the unexpected” would have been an appropriate tagline for Batman’s first season. By the series’ end the Wayne Family name stands forever tarnished, a perennial ally turns becomes a major foe, and Harvey Dent’s scars may only be mental. The surprises keep coming in The Enemy Within. An eventful premier throws players for a loop right out of the gate with big shocks, difficult choices, and gut-punching consequences.
A year removed from the triple threat of the Children of Arkham, Penguin, and Two-Face sees Gotham on the mend. Bruce Wayne’s reputation appears largely repaired. Batman’s publicized partnership with newly appointed police commissioner Jim Gordon resulted in dramatically reduced crime rates. But that delicate peace breaks when a dangerous shadow from Gotham’s past reemerges: The Riddler.
I dug Telltale’s menacing take on this classic foe. Armed with a question-mark shaped sickle, this Riddler almost finds as much pleasure in slicing throats as perplexing victims with cruel conundrums–almost. He remains the long-winded, insufferable show-off, but now displays a nice, gritty edge. Riddler’s new character wrinkle as Gotham’s first costumed crook plays perfectly into his trademark narcissism and superiority complex. Believing himself better because he came first (among other reasons), his additional source of arrogance makes punching his teeth out all the more satisfying.
Riddler’s penchant for puzzles works well with Telltale’s mechanics and dialogue choices. One neat segment involves unraveling one of his death games. Gameplay in general gets a good showing in The Enigma. Combat now presents slightly more dynamic options, like selecting multiple interactive points during battle. Last season’s worthless finishing move meter has thankfully been dropped. I never put the controller down for too long–always a positive for a Telltale title.
Like Season 1, juggling the public perceptions of Bruce Wayne and Batman can create genuine decision-making crises. Choices feel less about right and wrong and more about which path might backfire less painfully. This creates a series of tricky moral tightropes to walk across. Batman’s relationship with the debuting Amanda Waller acts as a great example.
Waller plays an exciting role acting as the controversial figurehead behind the Suicide Squad and leader of the shadowy government bureau known simply as The Agency. Her organization takes over Gotham’s authorities in pursuit of Riddler. Despite Waller and Batman sharing mutual goals, The Agency’s dubious history makes her difficult to trust. More importantly, a collaboration with her might chip away at Batman’s fragile relationship with Gordon. Do you jeopardize Gordon’s favor by working with Amanda in the name of the greater good? Or do you keep her at a distance and risk creating a powerful new adversary? Armed with years of comics history, I thought I knew that answer from the outset. As the episode progressed, though, my stance shifted in unexpected ways. Doing the “right” thing feels less obvious than ever, and I burned trusted bridges doing what I felt was necessary. Chalk that up to how Telltale skillfully paints choices with thoughtful coats of morally grey.
Additionally, The Enigma reminded me to consider suspending any prior Batman knowledge because things don’t always play out as predicted. Bruce’s uneasy dealings with the pale, green-haired “John Doe” highlighted that point. The first conversation with this enigmatic figure had me biting my lip with nerves the entire time, unsure of how to react. His underlying insanity keeps you on edge, but his apparent need for approval from Bruce generates sympathy as well. Could it be he just needs someone good to lean on and perhaps guide him? Somehow, Telltale turned the no-brainer of “how to deal with The Joker” into a complicated dilemma. His arc thus far seems to signal a potentially different outcome than what I’m expecting. I look forward to seeing this simmering story reach its boiling point.
A new on-screen indicator of a character’s shift in feeling gives immediate and helpful feedback during relationship milestones. I liked receiving validation that my current path may be working, as well as knowing exactly when I may have messed up with someone. A new post-game report card explains how big choices resulted in your current standing with someone, offering some good food for thought. I walked away from The Enigma pondering how to best improve certain relationships using the info given. Additionally, this provides a helpful reference to mix things up in future replays.
Choosing a path can be a fun roller coaster overall, but I took umbrage with one scenario towards the end. Without spoiling, somehow the choice of saving lives led to Batman seemingly becoming more vilified than if he allowed someone to die on his watch. Other characters failed to see the big picture, and that questionable writing almost made me scream at my TV.
Telltale continues to drop bombshells with a couple of shocking developments involving pivotal characters. These surprises do a nice job of keeping your emotions on guard. Exciting narrative threads emerge from these moments. One in particular concerns a potentially awesome new ally. I also love that The Enigma features its own self-contained arc, kind of like an episode of a Batman TV show. A central thread begins and ends here, providing an immediate sense of closure and giving the long-term stories some breathing room. The Enigma attempts to do a lot as a pilot and, impressively, accomplishes much of it with relative ease.
The Enigma starts Batman’s second season on the right foot. Boasting several jaw-dropping moments, intense conversation scenes, a great villain, and promising story developments, there’s a lot to love here. Tack on a healthy dose of interactivity, and you’ve got the answer to the riddle “how do you open a new season with a successful bang?”
Batman: The Enemy Within - The Enigma was reviewed on PlayStation 4. It’s also available now for Xbox One, PC and will launch later for iOS and Android.