I’m a big fan of the story-based games that the now defunct Telltale Games specialised in. They seemed to perfect the formula with The Walking Dead in 2012, after a […]
I’m a big fan of the story-based games that the now defunct Telltale Games specialised in. They seemed to perfect the formula with The Walking Dead in 2012, after a few years where they couldn’t quite get the balance right between storytelling, puzzles and interactivity.
As I found in the first Batman game – which was released in 2016, and which I recently reviewed here – their knack for telling superb stories full of dramatic twists and building to compelling cliffhangers in each episode of the series really did give the Telltale games a unique and addictive feel, which I don’t think has been seen elsewhere since their demise.
The second game – The Enemy Within – continues that tradition. Though it doesn’t quite reach the heady heights of the first game’s delve into a shadier Wayne family history than you’d expect – along with it’s excellent handling of the Penguin’s rise and the fall of Harvey Dent – there’s still an awful lot here that puts it a step above most interactive fiction.
When Batman foils the Riddler’s vicious plot to blackmail an arms dealer, Amanda Waller’s shady Agency comes to Gotham, disrupting not only the status quo of the bad guys – but also Bruce Wayne’s too. A tragedy early in the story puts Wayne on the back foot and forces him to work with the Agency in bringing a veritable rogue’s gallery to justice – and in the meantime, acquaintance John Doe from Arkham is awkwardly trying to befriend Wayne. The stage is set for a showdown between several factions, as well as the rise of a very unlikely and unorthodox vigilante…
It’s a wonderfully compelling tale, masterfully told with all of the dramatic impact you’d expect, as well as some truly gripping end-of-episode cliffhangers. Though not quite as violent as the prior game, The Enemy Within does have its fair share of shocking moments, including some relatively graphic injury despite the deliberately stylised, cel-shaded visuals.
Special praise must go to its handling of John Doe, who of course we can immediately recognise as Joker – who appeared in the first game as an Arkham inmate, briefly assisting Wayne during his incarceration. His story is tragic and becomes ever more so as he develops over the course of the series, testing your patience and empathy along the way. He’s brilliantly handled and even sympathetic; you really feel for him as his world starts crumbling around him and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the Joker handled in a way that elicits so much empathy (though you do feel for him during Alan Moore’s seminal The Killing Joke in the flashbacks to his origin, his behaviour in the present day scenes kills that empathy somewhat).
Likewise with the handling of Amanda Waller’s character, who here is ruthless, manipulative and unafraid to go to some very dark places. It ooesn’t stop with those two characters of course; over the duration of the series, we see an awful lot of characters grow and change in some extremely unexpected ways – and the climax holds a few surprises too. The voice acting and facial animation works wonders throughout, especially given the stylised nature of the visuals.
It leaves us with a very intriguing new status quo that we’re extremely unlikely to see developed, given that Telltale are no more. It’s a real shame; both The Enemy Within and the first Telltale Batman game are absolutely brilliant stories and I’d love to have seen more of the Batman universe’s characters given the Telltale treatment, especially given how well handled and unpredictable their character trajectories became over the two games.
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