October 27, 2019 at 2:16 AM #648
Batman: The Enemy Within – The Telltale Series
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
The original Telltale Batman series had the nostalgic feel of the original 1993 animated series, but in a way that aged with me and my knowledge of the world, reminding me that one shouldn’t expect to confine a detective superhero who solves murders to a rated "G" plot forever. While I was shocked at times to see the level of gore Telltale games included in Batman’s journey, I never felt it had become the focus of the adventure. Batman hadn’t changed; it was me who was suddenly seeing the real Batman, as opposed to a censored version my younger self had believed was the whole truth.
I refer to the original Telltale Batman season because Enemy Within literally picks up where the original left off. In fact, if you want your choices from the first season to set the basis for this second part of the adventure, you are welcome (and I recommend it). In fact, Batman: Enemy Within continues to do a fantastic job of making every choice difficult – not because you’ll lose if you make a wrong decision (there are no wrong decisions, for the most part) – but because your choices MATTER. While the story is craftily written and the overall arc is going to go where the writers intended, YOU take the paths you want on your way there. What you choose might just determine who your enemies and friends are in the end, and they could therefore differ from the friends and enemies of others who played! Even more so than in the first season, Enemy Within constantly forces you to make choices between people you don’t want to choose between. By the end of the game, you will fully appreciate the gravity of what it means to be conflicted, in both relationships and ethics. It’s not easy being Batman; he has to make a lot of hard choices, and now it is up to you to make them as if you were him! What kind of a person is Bruce Wayne/Batman? You decide!
And that’s the beauty of this game. The player can’t complain "Batman would never do that!" because more often than not, the player made the decision that led to the action! Furthermore, Batman: Enemy Within is a game that anyone can play and enjoy, for there is no real skill barrier to overcome. The meat of the game consists of making choices that determine your path through the story, while other scenes involve you actively moving Batman around to solve simple puzzles (usually detective work). A fair amount of the game is combat, but fear not if you are not an action aficionado, for a few well-timed button presses are all you need to make Batman look like the superhero he is. Meanwhile, should you mess up and allow Batman to die, you rarely travel back more than a few minutes. And trust me, pressing the same combination of buttons gets easier no matter how bad at it you were the first time.
Now, I can already hear the groaning. TIMED BUTTON PRESSES? I want to fight the villains MYSELF! Why would I want to WATCH a game? If you’re asking these kinds of questions, then you’re not making a valid point – you’re playing the wrong game. There are many video games out there that demand lightning-quick reflexes and in-depth battle strategies, and they’re great. But they’re also very hard for many people to play. What Telltale has done is harness the power of a modern gaming console to make an interactive movie that tells a heck of a story despite the fact that you are constantly messing with it, and it is a beautiful thing. Yes, this means this game is more of a movie, but I believe strongly that these types of experiences DO belong on gaming consoles, because there is no DVD or Blu-ray player that could process everything that is going on under the hood as you play this game. And only because of that extra processing power which enables the storytelling flexibility is this one of the best Batman experiences I’ve ever had. I made Bruce Wayne cozy up to some questionable people. I saw him question the decisions I’d helped him make. I argued beside him against crooked villains, consoled victims, and solved both murders and mysteries. And even though I played the game my way, I still felt Batman acted like Batman through and through. The fact that Telltale gave me so much freedom and yet kept me constrained enough to tell me a tale that would blow my mind is seriously a work of art. And my final decision in the game was so weighty and felt so personal that I actually rebooted the fifth episode and replayed it just to change it, knowing that any future seasons of the game would be heavily affected by it.
However, this re-do act of mine may prove rather pointless considering the fate of Telltale games at the time of this review (they are currently slated to close their studio save for a few contractual obligations). It may very well be that my original choice was ironically appropriate, as there may never be a third season of this fantastic game. I tell you the truth, if the possibility of a third season hangs in the balance of a kickstarter, I will quickly back it. However, if this second season ends up being Batman’s Telltale swan song, let it be said that this game and its predecessor stand together as one of the best Batman narratives I’ve ever experienced. I will most definitely come back to them to see what kind of Batman I am next time. If this is the whole Batman story that Telltale has to offer, it is most certainly enough to recommend highly.
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