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Batman: The Enemy Within is a fascinating Joker origin story

Posted by warreni, in game review 23 April 2018 · 1293 views

adventure Telltale Batman console XBONE

I recently finished Telltale's second take on the Batman mythos on the Xbox One because a) I got it cheap, and b) there's no practical difference between playing a Telltale game on a PC or a console--they're both a string of QTEs and dialog-choices, so button-presses of variable complexity and celerity, at the end of the day. I haven't played one of Telltale's games where the episodes were still slowly dripping out in a while, so that aspect annoyed me more than I remembered (I'm pretty sure the last one I played like that was the original Walking Dead series, and the idea behind Telltale's modern games was so fresh back then, I was okay with the wait). However, we all know what to expect at this point, so the big question surrounding your typical Telltale adventure is how well they managed to craft compelling characters and an interesting story.

The good news is that there's clearly a lot to like in that department this time around. Telltale has slightly-tweaked versions of a lot of familiar faces in this series: Riddler, Harley Quinn, Bane, Mr. Freeze, and Amanda Waller, as well as some returning characters like Alfred (naturally), Catwoman/Selina Kyle, and Jim Gordon.

 

Episode 1 of the series is mostly about Batman's efforts to capture the Riddler, who makes a reappearance for reasons that are unknown at the time after a long absence from the criminal scene in Gotham. This episode introduces Waller and the Agency, which appears to have its own reasons for wanting Nygma captured and quickly asserts its authority (and dominance) over the GCPD.

 

The second episode is where Batman is introduced to some of his future nemeses working as a group known as The Pact. It's here where the story that will run through the rest of the series, which is the triangular relationship among Harley, Bruce, and John Doe, really starts to pick up steam. Doe does Batman a favor by introducing his alter ego to some of his less-than-savory associates, and Bruce endeavors to get in the good graces of this group of archvillains by assisting them with several heists.

 

What we see here in the characterization of Doe is an origin story of The Joker that is unlike any other in recent memory. In this telling of the story, while, as is fitting, we never learn the true original identity of Doe, he is much more of a blank slate than any other Joker we've seen before at any point. He's not an ordinary guy manipulated into a robbery by dangerous thugs, and he's certainly no Jack Napier; he's a guy who doesn't quite know who he is or wants to be, but who feels that there is some strong element of his personality that is buried within himself. He is very subservient to Harley, who treats him as something of a pet, and he is also very eager to please his friend Bruce. The evolution of his character throughout the series, driven principally by his interactions with these two key individuals in his life, is the spine of the story.

 

In Episode 3, Bruce continues to work with the Pact, uncovering more of the real agenda of The Agency in the process.

 

In the last two episodes, the choices the player makes determine what kind of Joker John turns into, but in either case, Bruce has to oppose his one-time ally when Joker decides to seek vengeance on those who have wronged him. You'll notice at this point that I've been fairly vague in my descriptions of the plot of the game, and that's because the plot is mostly what these games are about. I can tell you that it is a fascinating tale that is worth experiencing. The game closes with a fairly dramatic choice that would appear to potentially either have far-reaching consequences for or rule out altogether the possibility of another sequel.

 

Graphically it's what you'd expect from a modern Telltale game. The voice-acting is nearly-uniformly excellent. I still cringe when I hear Bruce say, "Al", but Troy Baker, who has voiced both Batman and The Joker in different games, does a great job here. Enn Reitel still seems like a dubious choice for Alfred, but Anthony Ingruber is terrific as John Doe/Joker. This game has far more QTEs and dialogues than puzzles, especially in the latter two chapters. On the whole, I'd recommend it for anyone interested in a different take on one of the DC universe's most intriguing and disturbing characters (and play it for no other reason than to wipe all traces of Jared Leto from your brain for now and all time to come).






June 2018

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