You can’t talk about comic books, or superheroes, without talking about DC Comics and their characters. Superman was the first, the original, the one to whom all others owe a debt. Wonder Woman was, and is, a feminist icon that proved that female superheroes could be just as good as, or in her case better, than the boys. But the hero that has lived at the core of DC Comics for the last few decades isn’t The Big Blue Boy Scout or the Princess of the Amazons: it’s Batman.
Over more than 75 years, Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s signature creation has stood alone in superhero comics. There’s no one else like him. Maybe it’s his violent origin story. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have super powers. Maybe it’s because no one else has spawned a family of heroes like he has. Maybe it’s because no one else has a rogue’s gallery that compares. Maybe it’s because he has some of the greatest stories in the medium. Whatever the reason, Batman endures, staking a claim to the imaginations of generation after generation. Batman’s stories, allies, and enemies have evolved over the decades, and multiple people have put on the cowl. But at his core, Batman is Bruce Wayne, a traumatized eight-year-old scarred forever by the death of his parents. It’s what drives him into Gotham’s streets night after night, so that no other child will ever experience what he did. And in the mask, he isn’t a kid anymore. He’s powerful. In the mask, he might have been able to stop Joe Chill from murdering his parents, the way he couldn’t as a child. In the mask, Bruce can force Gotham to make sense.
"The Enemy Within is an excellent game, and one that makes a noticeable improvement in terms both Telltale’s storytelling and gameplay systems. Like Batman: The Telltale Series, the story takes place when Bruce is still learning what it takes to be Batman and hasn’t encountered many of his more famous foes yet."
It’s why Wayne can’t give it up, and why, no matter what else changes from story to story, Gotham endures. Telltales Games understands this, which is why Batman: The Enemy Within is as good as it is. The story picks up where 2016’s Batman: The Telltale Series left off, but you don’t need to have played it to understand what’s going on in The Enemy Within. That said, there is a feature to let you choose what happened in the original series, if you’re so inclined.
Regardless of whether you import your choices, use these feature, or start with the pre-baked choices Telltale has chosen for you, The Enemy Within is an excellent game, and one that makes a noticeable improvement in terms both Telltale’s storytelling and gameplay systems. Like Batman: The Telltale Series, the story takes place when Bruce is still learning what it takes to be Batman and hasn’t encountered many of his more famous foes yet. The core plot in The Enemy Within revolves around the return of The Riddler, an older criminal who was terrorizing Gotham long before Bruce Wayne wore the mask, and a group known as The Pact, which features members like Harley Quinn, Bane, and a couple others that I don’t want to spoil.
The presence of these villains in Gotham causes problems for the Gotham Police, and attracts the attention of The Agency, a secretive federal agency with a lame name that is led by the distinctively not lame Amanda “The Wall” Waller, a hard woman who is not opposed doing morally questionable things if it helps the greater good. You have to use both Batman and Bruce Wayne to solve this problem, while managing your relationships with Waller, Alfred, Jim Gordon, Catwoman and a few others – most interestingly John Doe, a green-haired, slightly insane guy Bruce met in Arkham Asylum. Sound familiar? These relationships, especially the one with John Doe, and the choices you make, can significantly change how the game plays, to the point that certain episodes diverge significantly depending on your choices. Telltale has done this before – Guardians of the Galaxy does a good job of it as well – but it’s clearly obvious where that moment of divergence is. It’s never felt like all of my choices mattered as much as they do in The Enemy Within. They probably don’t. Choice in games is inherently a very well-crafted illusion, but Telltale pulls it off well here, and that’s something to applaud.
"The Enemy Within allows you to make decisions mid-combat. Do you wanna throw a batarang at this guy or use your grappling hook on him, or maybe shock him with some electricity? It’s your call. Many of these decisions don’t matter, but some – who you fight with, how you’ve managed your relationships with certain characters, and what you do when fighting – have big decisions on the plot."
Aside from the quality of the story and the sheer impact of your choices, the other major positive for longtime fans of Telltale’s work is the ability to choose how to handle certain situations in combat. In most Telltale games, combat plays one way: Quick Time Events appear on the screen, you press the appropriate buttons, and your characters carry out pre-rendered actions that are usually pretty neat. It looks cool, but it doesn’t require much decision-making.
The Enemy Within switches this up by allowing you to make decisions mid-combat. Do you wanna throw a batarang at this guy or use your grappling hook on him, or maybe shock him with some electricity? It’s your call. Many of these decisions don’t matter, but some – who you fight with, how you’ve managed your relationships with certain characters, and what you do when fighting – have big decisions on the plot. Normally, Telltale games rely on decisions made outside of combat to make things work and The Enemy Within’s steps away from that are a nice change of pace.
But Batman isn’t just a great fighter. He’s also the World’s Greatest Detective, and Telltale does a good job of selling this aspect of the character, too. Many episodes ask you to reconstruct a crime scene or balance your identities as both Batman and Bruce Wayne to solve puzzles. These puzzles are usually pretty simple, but a good puzzle’s job isn’t to be complex, though it can be. Its job is to make you feel clever, and that sense of accomplishment comes pretty regularly in The Enemy Within. Better yet, they don’t even have to resort to gimmicks like Detective Vision to make it work.
"The writing is great, as are the performances, and it looks and runs pretty well. Like all Telltale Games, the gameplay is a bit simple, but the new additions help The Enemy Within immensely."
Beyond that, this is a Telltale Game. The writing is great, as are the performances, and it looks and runs pretty well. Like all Telltale Games, the gameplay is a bit simple, but the new additions help The Enemy Within immensely. But you’re not here for the gameplay: you’re here to enjoy a good Batman yarn and The Enemy Within delivers one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory, regardless of medium.
What’s here is compelling, both as a story and as a game that makes you feel like The Dark Knight. It does new and exciting things with these characters – especially through its use of the Bruce Wayne identity and Bruce’s relationship with John Doe – that I haven’t seen before, while respecting the source material and providing a fun gameplay experience where your choices matter. It captures the essence of what makes Batman special, more than 75 years on. And that’s something that, like John Doe, we can all smile about.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Excellent story and performances. Your choices matter, in and out of combat. Improved gameplay goes a long way. Makes you feel like Batman.
The gameplay could still use some work.
A strong story, excellent performances, and some welcome gameplay improvements make Batman: The Enemy Within another great addition to the Batman canon.