In this latest chapter from the award-winning studio behind Batman - The Telltale Series, both Bruce Wayne and Batman will be forced into precarious new roles. The Riddler has returned to terrorize Gotham City, but his gruesome puzzles merely foreshadow an even greater crisis. With the arrival of a ruthless federal agent and the return of a still nascent Joker, Batman must navigate uneasy alliances while Bruce Wayne undertakes a perilous series of deceptions.
(Played on an iPhone 8)
Recently, the developer Telltale Games has been on an undeniable downward spiral. Ever since their undeniable success with the first season of The Walking Dead, most of their games have had an undeniable repetitive nature, from their first season of Guardians of the Galaxy to even the second and third season of The Walking Dead, the brand which made them a name in the industry. However, following a somewhat lackluster first season, Telltale is back in form with their second season of their interpretation of the Dark Knight. The first episode, The Enigma, is a daunting, exciting, and thrilling experience that captures everything about the Dark Knight. It may have technical glitches due to Telltale’s severely outdated engine, but there is no denying that the developer has crafted their finest episode in this true ride of tense storytelling and choice making.
Ever since the first season of The Walking Dead, many critics were keen to point out the sheer decrease in quality of writing that was beginning. The dialogue present in some of their most recent works, such as the third season of The Walking Dead, was unbearably poor. In addition, their storytelling would become much more repetitive in nature, limiting the immersion and causing a strong abundance of predictability within their games. However, this first episode completely shatters the trend. The writing on display here is tense and freshly written. The goal when writing dialogue is to make it feel as if there is no looming story, but rather characters propelling themselves into events. That goal is smartly on display here. Unlike previous Telltale games, the player feels no suspicion that there is a looming story that all players will have to experience. The dialogue smartly propels the story forward and doesn’t compromise itself to show a minor consequence for a seemingly large decision. However, in addition to the smartly written dialogue, Telltale’s first episode for this second season of the Caped Crusader also has one of the best stories they have written. Often times, the story goes to unsuspecting areas and constantly twists and shifts the player’s expectations. At several points throughout its two-hour length, my jaw was dropped at character arcs and even a devastating twist that occurs during the third act. No predictability or feeling of déjà vu is present here, making the experience riveting and one of the purest since the heart-breaking finale of the first season of The Walking Dead. But the game ultimately is still a work from Telltale and consequently must have a healthy abundance of choices for the player to make, giving the player an ability to mildly shift the story. Mildly is the word choice because The Enigma features little story-shifting choices. Only one choice entirely shifts the story in the episode and it is not clear if the choice will have impact in future episodes. However, the actual decision making is done well. Often times, the choices are made to develop or break the relationships between Batman and Jim Gordon or Batman and newcomer Amanda Waller. These choices cause a moral disruption within the player as they must choose to side with one of the characters as there is no middle ground. It creates a thrilling experience and is a promising feature for further episodes. Speaking of characters, while most of the first season’s primary cast is intact, several newcomers arrive such as the previously stated Amanda Waller and the Agency. All the characters are excellent voiced, particularly Troy Baker who delivers a more refined performance in comparison to his previous efforts in the first season. These characters alongside the dialogue are the primary forces behind the plot’s nearly breakneck speed. They also provide the shocking elements of the story, particularly a devastating side-plot with Alfred. These elements, dialogue, plot, choices, and characters, are what make The Enigma such a resounding success. The writers at Telltale brought an indisputable effort to every scene and every moment within this tightly written episode. There is no down time or moment that feels wasted. Every moment has a resounding purpose on the storyline and creates a pacing that is seamless yet speedy.
Ultimately, however, the first episode of the second season may play like an interactive TV show, but is still a game, being played by avid Batman gamers around the globe. As a result, it still has to succeed as a game. As mentioned before, the decision making in the first episode is done moderately well if there is a shortage of game-breaking decisions. But the rest of the gameplay is very similar to what was offered before. The point-and-click style of Telltale feels uncannily bland and basic and that element still resounds even with the top-notch storytelling. In addition, due to the outdated engine that Telltale insists on using, I experienced multiple glitches and even crashes upon playing the episode.
While the gameplay leaves much to be desired, the first episode of the second season of Telltale’s interpretation of Batman is still a roaring success that balances a tightly written plot, morally decisive characters, fresh dialogue and twists and turns that will surprise and shock players at every turn. The technical issues that litter the two-hour episode never were enough to break the utter immersion that I felt the whole way through. It is a thrilling experience and one that is easily the best episode that Telltale Games has ever crafted. Be sure to check out our walkthrough of the full first episode and comment on the review with your thoughts on the first episode of Batman: The Enemy Within!
Score: 8.7 out of 10