Batman: The Enemy Within's second installment in the five-part series successfully manages to deliver compelling writing through the use of classic villains and a new approach to the way Batman interacts with them, but it's held short from greatness by pacing issues, performance hiccups, and monotonous segments of gameplay compared to the previous episode.
Story: Live on both sides of the law
Unlike Episode 1, which focused entirely on the perspective of those opposed to the Riddler and his rumored gang of villains, this episode allows you to get a much clearer view of the enemies behind the plans discovered in the first episode. Several foes are behind the sinister plot to try and control Gotham, and in order to help find out what the Agency is dealing with, Amanda Waller has you go undercover for her and take up John Doe's offer to meet the group of criminals that he extended prior.
Several classic Batman foes make up the bulk of this group, but the focus is on John and Harley Quinn. The way both of these characters are portrayed with each other is unique and fresh due to the flipping of established Batman lore. Instead of the Joker (who John Doe is extremely reminiscent of) pulling Harley's strings and getting her to join in his evil ways, its the other way around. Harley is the Alpha, and John constantly tries to get on her good side due to the infatuation he has for her.
It's an interesting experience to see Harley have this much power over the Joker and not the opposite. In fact, Harley, in particular, is the character that stands out the most in this episode. Developer Telltale really hit the nail on the head with the way it perfectly captured the classic essence of Harley: sexy, seductive mannerisms, only for her to become a brutal and cruel monster at the flip of a switch.
Of course, not all the focus is on the villains. Episode 2 still remembers to address the tension going on between Commissioner Gordon and Amanda Waller, and how each reacts to your decisions of who to trust more. Both characters make good cases for why they feel the other is incompetent at their job, and despite the bias towards Gordon as a long-time Batman fan, I couldn't help but consider Waller's point of view.
Sadly, despite all of these positives, the episode's pacing feels off. Right as things were starting to really get good, the credits began to roll, and I was left scratching my head. It was a disappointing and anti-climactic ending to an otherwise well-written episode.
Choices: Develop relationships, real and fake alike
As mentioned above, the choice between Gordon and Waller is one that you'll have to consider heavily. Do you trust Gordon, the closest thing in the Gotham Police Department you have to a sidekick who also happens to be your friend? Or do you put your faith in Amanda Waller, who controls the useful resources of the Agency and threatens to blackmail you if you aren't cooperative?
The element of choice also plays a large role during your time undercover with Harley and the rest of the villains. Naturally, as any mastermind of crime would be, they are all suspicious of Bruce Wayne deciding to go rogue. They aren't afraid to ask you the hard questions about why or for what reason the richest resident of Gotham would fight the system, and the way you answer has an impact on how much they come to trust you — and how successful your undercover operation is.
Overall, your choices in this episode are more closely related to how you speak rather than what you do. This is a nice change from the formula of Episode 1, where your actions were ultimately the most impactful choices you made. Manipulating the world around you with charisma instead of a Bat-gloved fist was a welcome variation.
Gameplay: A monotonous experience
While the writing and choice-making are solid, Episode 2 fails to make the levels feel fun to play. Unlike the first episode, which saw a healthy mix of Batman detective work and puzzle solving, this installment does away with the detective aspect entirely, and the few puzzles present are laughably easy to solve.
In fact, the only real gameplay elements present aside from choosing dialogue are two brief combat segments and a few small rooms that contain some things you can look at. Overall, the setting needed more interactive elements to make it feel immersive. Instead of feeling like you are Batman, Episode 2 makes you feel like you're just watching him.
Performance: How does it run?
The first episode of The Enemy Within ran excellently. Coming into Episode 2 with high expectations, I was let down. One of the most annoying issues that happened at least once every two minutes was a temporary screen freeze for a second or two. It was a distracting issue that took a lot away from the experience.
Another problem was framerate drops. While these were less frequent than the previous problem, they were annoying, and I actually failed a few of the combat quick-time events due to the fact that the prompt was only visible to me for two or three frames. It's disappointing to see the levels of polish drop this much after such a solid start.
Batman: The Enemy Within Episode 2 review conclusion
Batman: The Enemy Within Episode 2 is a well-written sequel to the introductory episode that offers a good narrative and several choices that challenge your decision-making. Despite performance bugs, a minor pacing issue at the end, and stale gameplay segments, Episode 2 is a decent installment that is worth what you pay for.
- Quality character writing.
- Creative narrative.
- Well-designed, dialogue-themed choices.
- Annoying performance problems.
- Monotonous gameplay.
- Awkward conclusion.
You can pick up Batman: The Enemy Within for $29.96. It's available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.
Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.
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