Title: Batman: The Enemy Within – Episode 4: What Ails You
Available On: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Adventure, Story-Driven
Official Site: https://telltale.com/series/batman-season-2/
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Where to Buy: Steam
For our review of Episode 1: The Enigma, click here.
For our review of Episode 2: The Pact, click here.
For our review of Episode 3: Fractured Mask, click here.
Sometimes, Telltale’s fourth episodes lack punch. Just like the second to last episode of a TV show season, fourth episodes of Telltale’s adventure games can worry more about setting up for an explosive finale than telling a good story in their own right.
Batman: The Enemy Within‘s penultimate episode, What Ails You, avoids this misstep very well. It does manage to set up for an interesting finale without sacrificing its own story. In fact, What Ails You is some of the tightest and most intriguing storytelling that Telltale’s Batman games have seen yet, barring the silliness of digging out of episode three’s cliffhanger ending.
The ending of Episode 3, Fractured Mask, did not work for me. It reeked of the old villain “monologues their plan, then leaves the hero in an easily escapable death trap” trope that superhero and espionage stories have done to death. One of the love it or hate it aspects of a Telltale game is that there are no “wrong” decisions; unless you miss a button prompt during an action scene, you aren’t going to fail because of what you pick. Maybe the Pact had a reason for wanting to freeze Bruce Wayne instead of just killing him outright (or possibly Catwoman, if you wanted to throw her under the bus, which I did not), but it did not fit the ruthless, unforgiving characters that Batman: The Enemy Within has worked to establish Bane and Harley as. The escape was equally lazy. Bruce muttering “think, think” as there were literally two things to click on made for an anticlimactic escape.
That aside, What Ails You was a really good episode. The way Telltale has slow-burned “John Doe,” the man who would become the Joker, has been an excellent spin on an extremely familiar character and does an excellent job of toying with the player. I found myself continually asking myself “Can I stop his transformation? Or at least turn him into a different version of the Joker?” It seems unlikely; the illusion of impactful decisions is what always separates decent Telltale stories from great ones. There are a few really tough choices to make, and I found myself weighing every available option before making my decisions.
A lot of what makes the decisions so powerful in Batman: The Enemy Within is how well Telltale has built the characters that populate Gotham City. Like the best Batman stories, there are very few characters that fall solely into black and white “good guy or bad guy” places. Villains like Mr. Freeze and Harley Quinn have tragedy and possibly even noble motivation to act out in the way they do. Heroic characters like Jim Gordon, Bruce Wayne, and Amanda Waller and her agents have selfish, vengeful, or “greater good” motivations that make them do bad things.
Speaking of Waller, Telltale has done some great work pitting her against the villains of Gotham City and asking the player to decide where they stand.
Early on in Batman: The Enemy Within, siding with Waller, even if it means a rocky relationship with ally Jim Gordon, seems like a smart play. By the end of What Ails You, some of the calls Waller makes forces Batman to make some difficult decisions about where he places his trust. Multiple conversations with Waller found me growing a bit frosty about her decisions and actions, and I wished more than once that I had a dialogue option to tell her to can it. When you find yourself sympathizing with psychopaths like Harley Quinn over a “good guy” like Waller, it means Telltale is doing their job.
What Ails You does a great job of setting up for a great fifth episode. The final scene of episode four was very well executed: it is intense, full of difficult choices, and it makes you question many of the things that you have said and done throughout the series to this point. The evolution of Bruce, his allies, his enemies, and everyone’s favorite frenemy, John Doe, are all a blast to watch and help direct, and it will be very interesting to see what Telltale has in store for episode five.
Verdict: Overall, Batman: The Enemy Within is shaping up to be a very good entry in Telltale’s catalog. Provided they can stick the landing with a fulfilling end episode, this may go down as their best series since Tales from the Borderlands. Even if you did not play their first Batman season, check this one out.
- John Doe's transformation is still a blast to watch
- Good characters with excellent voice acting
- Impactful decisions
- Lack of danger, especially in resolving last episode's cliffhanger
- A bit short