Title: Batman: The Enemy Within – Episode 2: The Pact
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: October 3, 2017
Where to Buy: Steam
I really like Telltale’s unique take on the overly familiar Batman mythology with Batman: The Enemy Within. They’ve clearly been given free reign to make these characters their own and twist their motivations, histories, and personalities. That’s not to say that these characters aren’t the characters we know and love, but they are just different enough to keep us guessing about where the story might be heading.
Take their version of Harley Quinn. Telltale revealed Harley in a trailer last week, and it was instantly noticeable that she was not being presented in the way we’ve usually seen her. Harley is typically somewhat of a playful psychopath, manipulated (and created by) the Joker. Batman: The Enemy Within shows her in a much different light; she is more the puppet master, working together with a group of familiar faces and, it appears, steering John Doe towards his homicidal fate as the Clown Prince of Crime.
The story of episode two, entitled “The Pact,” is fascinating. You will play as Bruce Wayne through most of the episode, so this is a much more dialogue-driven tale than the heavily action-driven first episode. Bruce has to infiltrate Riddler’s gang, which is populated by a few of Batman’s most recognizable foes; you can probably guess which ones based on who has not shown up in the series yet.
This approach, with Bruce interacting with these superpowered psychopaths, leads to some of the highest and lowest parts of the episode. It brings it back to Telltale’s take on the characters – we know John Doe is the Joker. But maybe, just maybe, we can help craft him into a much different Joker. Can I flirt with Harley enough that I become her “Puddin’?” The what if ideas in Batman: The Enemy Within make the choices seem important, which is always key to making Telltale games great.
At the same time, “The Pact” could have benefitted from a bit tighter storytelling. Both seasons of Telltale’s Batman series have the tendency to railroad you from place to place, not allowing the atmosphere to grow and having characters respond in ways that fit their story, even if it does not make sense with the options you chose. Talking “realism” in a universe where a billionaire dressed as a bat fights a homicidal clown is somewhat of a fool’s game, but it seems odd that Harley and her gang are so OK with billionaire Bruce Wayne working with them. Sure, John Doe vouches for him, but wouldn’t that make you trust this man even less?
A few other contrived plot elements rear their heads throughout the episode. Not to get too spoiler-y, but certain characters are in convenient spots for unknown reasons, and a few characters (especially some of the new villains) tend to change their personalities on the spot. And, again, it seems odd just how much trust these baddies put into billionaire Bruce Wayne (even if he is dressed in his best bad guy uniform). I guess the first season set up that perhaps Wayne’s squeaky clean image may be a mirage, but it’s still quite a stretch.
Although the interaction between Wayne and his rogue’s gallery is quite the highlight, some of Telltale’s familiar technical difficulties cropped back up in this episode. Poorlip-synchingg, jerky animations and bad hit collision, and even one crash to desktop made sure to remind me that Telltale’s engine has not aged gracefully. Batman: The Enemy Within looks about as good as Telltale can get, but those glitches and technical issues jar you out of the story, which is a significant issue in a story-driven game. Especially if you are forced to go back and remake several decisions over again.
The voice acting in episode two is surprisingly mediocre for a Telltale title. John Doe (Anthony Ingruber) is the best of the bunch, with his oddly calm Joker personality starting to emerge more and more. Troy Baker and Enn Reitel continue to do solid work as Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth. The one that really got me in “The Pact” was the game’s take on Harley. With a redesign of the character model and quite a different personality than we’re used to, it would have been nice to hear Laura Post take her voice in a different direction. From the way she handles herself, I expected Harley to have a deeper, smoky voice. Instead, Post returns to the familiar sicky-sweet little girl voice that Harley typically has. It did not really match her character, and it never quite gelled with me.
Verdict: The second episode of Batman: The Enemy Within lays some very interesting groundwork for the series to continue on. However, the reemergence of Telltale’s technical glitches, some strange voice acting, and a somewhat railroaded storyline hold it back. As a stand alone episode, it is not phenomenal. It, hopefully, is tipping its hand towards some explosive confrontations later in the story.
- Unique twists on familiar faces
- John Doe's slow burn transformation
- Lots of Bruce Wayne means lots of dialogue options
- Technical difficulties return
- Harley's voice doesn't quite match
- Seems to move a bit fast, and railroad some decisions