Batman returns!

No, I’m not referencing the 1992 film starring Michael Keaton, but instead the return of Telltale Games’ incarnation of DC Comics iconic superhero, Batman. This follow-up series, titled “The Enemy Within”, looks to carry on Bruce Wayne’s double life in Gotham City, where new threats lurk in the shadows. With the season opener now here, can Telltale start the series off with a bang in episode one “The Enigma”?

Well, it certainly isn’t holding back with the action. You see, Gotham never sleeps and there’s always a lunatic causing chaos somewhere; in this case, Riddler. Batman wasn’t around the last time Riddler was causing havoc, but now, many years later, he’s back and as ruthless as ever. It’s down to Batman, alongside the GCPD and a government organisation known only as ‘The Agency’, to halt the devastating attacks of this riddle spouting maniac. Meanwhile, the life of Bruce Wayne throws up a multitude of problems emanating from his time spent in Arkham Asylum. It’s all kicking off in Gotham.

As far as storytelling goes, I’m impressed as to how quickly the episode conveys Riddler as a proper mad man and the pacing is pretty much spot on throughout. The writing for the villainous character is great in that the riddles are ingenious, and by combining his intellectual prowess with pure unadulterated violence it’s very easy to buy into him as a credible villain. Where Riddler disappoints ever so slightly is in the clothing department; he looks more like the Green Arrow than the usual garb he wears.

What is most enjoyable about being Batman is the balancing act between Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader. The line separating the two gets blurrier and blurrier, with Batman’s world causing major problems for Bruce, as you’ll see in this particular episode to devastating effect. Making choices as to whether to approach a situation as Bruce or Batman is great, simply because it serves a purpose of allowing the player to decide if they want to use Bruce’s swagger or Batman’s persuasive, and more menacing, techniques.

The dynamic between Bruce and ‘John Doe’ is pretty special because we all know who Mr. Doe is, but Bruce hasn’t got a clue. So, as gamers, we can see the turmoil that’s sure to come, whilst enjoying the blossoming friendship for however long it lasts – even if it’s a little one-sided.

Choices that drive the narrative feel pretty important; that is until you replay them and try to alter certain outcomes purposefully. You’ll find that only minor changes occur by taking alternative routes, but the hope is that it’ll have a greater effect at some point in the future. There is a new notification system to ensure you are made aware of a relationship change between characters immediately after a choice – it’s just a shame it isn’t always clear whether it’s for the better or not.

Quick-time events are back and better than ever, with the standard process of pressing the button as it appears being elaborated upon by throwing up a number of buttons at once, all of which can be pressed in any order. Also, during the always exciting fight scenes, you are often given a choice between attacks to use, thus giving the player a tiny bit more control of the unfolding events. There’s even a riddle to solve, involving the exploration of a room and the piecing together of the scene, adding another layer of variety outside of the conversational moments. Exploring the Batcave, for no real reason in truth, is far less fun though.

Voice acting is a key factor in ensuring important plot points and emotional parts are delivered to a high standard. Those voicing the characters immediately within Bruce’s orbit – the likes of Jim Gordon, Alfred, and even newcomer Amanda Waller – do a sterling job. The supporting cast however are far from convincing, with many interactions involving lesser characters lacking conviction and believability. As such, I immediately took a disliking to the robotic Agent Avesta.

On the downside, I didn’t notice any difference at all between starting the story with or without my choices from season one. So what’s the bloody point in that then? I don’t know, but there is plenty of time to ponder it whilst we wait during the rather long loading screens. The visuals are generally well defined, but at times when it should be showing off great environments such as Gotham at night, the edges of buildings and such are very rough, almost sharp looking, and it’s not kind on the eyes.

Episode one, “The Enigma”, does a terrific job in reinventing another one of Gotham’s most famous villains – Riddler – and the way they are laying the foundations for other baddies to emerge is brilliant. In fact, it’s a really exciting world to be in. The QTEs are better than before and the writing makes sure a few moral dilemmas are thrown your way. If only some of the support characters didn’t under-perform and the choices made more of a difference, then it’d be a great all-rounder.

I can’t do anything but recommend getting stuck into this very good start to Batman: The Enemy Within, especially if you enjoyed season one. Big things are coming and it’ll only get better!

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