Release Date: 8/8/17
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (played on PS4)
ESRB/PEGI: M/PEGI 18
MSRP: $4.99 USD (episode)/$24.99 (season pass)
Written by Rick Warren / Gfn2112
I'll just get it out of the way before I start this review: I'm a big Telltale fan... and I'm an even bigger Batman fan. I've read hundreds of Batman comics, seen every Batman movie, and played every Batman game. It's going to be a bit challenging to remain unbiased as I play through this second season, but I'm going to try as hard as I can not to let my love for the Bat blind me. Yet, with that said... I adored this episode. Aside from a few references and some noticeable scars on the characters from last season, Telltale managed to tell a strong, self-contained story while still planting the seeds for what's to come. Within the first five minutes you're handed a fight scene that's on the level of the Lady Arkham battle from season one's finale, and introduced to a new version of the Riddler that fits Telltale's M-rated Batman perfectly. From there, "The Enigma" didn't let up and delivered multiple memorable moments throughout its 2 hours.
The Rise and Fall of the Riddler.
The Riddler has always been an intriguing member of Batman's legendary rogues’ gallery. He’s often quickly outsmarted by the Caped Crusader before he can cause any real damage and usually ends up being treated as an afterthought. It's the main reason my favorite Riddler story is 2014's Zero Year. It established him as a true threat to not only Batman, but the city of Gotham as well. It's refreshing to see that Telltale also took the Riddler seriously when writing this episode, and by doing so managed to give us a unique take on Edward Nigma.
Like the Penguin from last season, he's different than the traditional version in some big ways. For starters, this is an older Riddler than I expected to see. He was around during the time of Bruce's parents, and the city of Gotham feared him until his mysterious disappearance. When he makes his big comeback at the start of the episode, we quickly see the other changes Telltale has made to the character. This version of the Riddler is a serial killer. His cane is used both to set off his traps or torture devices, and as a weapon due to the question mark doubling as a blade. It's all very different... but it works. About halfway through the episode Telltale proves that they're willing to make big changes to the lore of Batman outside of the villains, as one of Riddler's crimes will have a long-lasting effect on the episodes to come.
His consistent use of riddles remains... and while they're interesting, they're never particularly hard to solve which is a bit bothersome. It ultimately makes this intimidating new Riddler slightly less intimidating. Still, this only slightly diminished the experience and how I felt about the character, as the ease of the puzzles themselves ended up being outweighed by the intensity of the situations. This was particularly true in the final confrontation between Batman and the Riddler, as he's given a fitting end that stands out as one of my favorite moments from the series.
Changing the Telltale formula?
Many mechanics from the first season make a welcome return in The Enemy Within's opening episode. The gorgeous Batsuit and Batmobile are mostly the same, the Batcomputer functions like it did previously and fight scenes are handled through QTEs as always. Bat-tech color can be changed. Dialogue choices are presented in the usual manner and the detective mode sections still exist. The stellar voice cast makes their return as well, with Troy Baker delivering his most well-rounded performance as Bruce Wayne thus far and Robin Atkin Downes nailing his guest appearance as the Riddler. For the most part, The Enemy Within could appear to be Batman season 1.5 (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). However, this season is the first to make full use of a new mechanic: the relationship system.
If you're reading this, I'm sure you're familiar with Telltale's "____ will remember this" messages appearing in the corner of your screen and making you regret everything after particularly tough choices. From now on that isn't going to be the only thing you see up there, though. After making all the big choices regarding an important character in an episode, you'll see a message that says your relationship with that character has now changed. In addition to your choices you'll be shown your relationship with everyone at the end of the episode. Right now, I'm close with Alfred and Gordon, and have an extremely rocky working relationship with Amanda Waller (because she's kind of the worst person ever and I hate her with a passion). I'm excited to see how this new system evolves, as the idea of constantly changing relationships is something that can work very well with the Telltale format. I'm particularly thrilled about what it will mean for a certain white-faced and green-haired character, as right now he's "ecstatic" about what's about to happen next.
The Return of John Doe.
When it was first revealed that Telltale would be putting a new spin on the Clown Prince of Crime, I was a bit worried. We had just gotten a different take on the Joker that turned out to be a disappointment, so it would have been safe to bring in Mark Hamill to play a traditional Joker. Instead, Telltale took a major risk and did the exact opposite. They went with a lesser known actor named Anthony Ingruber, and even though he could do a wonderful impersonation of all the past Jokers, they told him to go out and do his own thing. I truly commend them for it, as so far, it's turning out great. Ingruber does a spectacular job of delivering his lines in such a way that you can tell this is someone just pretending to be normal. When he lets out a chuckle or gets angry, you get a small taste of what his Joker may be like... and it's exciting to think about.
The question on everyone's mind, though, is what Telltale is planning to do with this new Joker and honestly, I'm still not sure. As of now he's continuing to go by the name John Doe, but he's also beginning to have more of those slight outbursts where you question his sanity. Yet even in those moments he doesn't come off as evil, and he even apologizes when making a scene in public. Most interesting of all is his relationship with Bruce. It's clearly obsessive, but not in the way we're used to; he doesn't care about Batman at all. His friendship is with Bruce Wayne specifically, which could lead to some very dark moments when he finally becomes the Joker. The fact that I'm still friends with John and that Telltale gives you options to continue building the relationship is insane. With the Riddler defeated, it's clear John will no longer be in the background and that he'll become the main threat of the season. I can't wait to find out what kind of Joker John Doe turns out to be... and if this premiere is any indication, it's going to be a great ride to get there.
Final Score: 9