The penultimate episode of any Telltale Games series is always a tricky one as it has many hats to juggle at the same time. Shaping my own Batman story and universe has been personally thrilling as both a fan of Telltale games and of DC Comics and so far each of my player choices have been very rewarding since the first season and now in The Enemy Within. There is a lot that has to happen in this episode but the trailer alone has now hinted at perhaps the biggest event for fans yet in and it has taken two seasons to get here, will this be the episode where Mr J finally makes his entrance?
*Spoiler Warning: Results of previous player made up to this episode will be discussed and mentioned in this review*
Episode 4 ‘What Ails You” certainly feels like the quickest paced episode so far in this second season and in a way I was not fully expecting. I left the last episode with Bruce Wayne doing his best “Same Bat-time, same Bat-Channel” cliff-hanger ending after making the decision to sacrifice his criminal cover story to protect Catwoman from the wrath of Harley Quinn and the other villains forming The Pact. With Bruce stuff into one of Mr Freeze’s cryo pods, the race is on to find a way to escape and catch up with The Pact before they manage to still the deadly LOTUS virus and wreak havoc upon Gotham.
One of the aspects to this season alone that has really been fun is getting to have the excitement of putting the Batsuit on and doing my Batman thing and it is all thanks to the amount of story time given to Bruce Wayne. There is still a legitimate buzz to finally putting on the suit and racing off to kick some butt that after nine episodes in total of the Batman Telltale Series has never gotten stale. The balance in story has always been the strength of this series for me because the focus is always on the man behind both Batman and Bruce Wayne, so getting to see him be both is fun but it keeps the attention on being Batman something special and it is something that still works well.
Now with all player choices there is a consequence and this series is very quick to show you the downside of your choices and here, because I chose to save Catwoman it meant that instead of Bruce going with The Pact to get the LOTUS Virus and having the opportunity to perhaps prevent them killing people, as Batman I arrive to see nothing but carnage and death before me. To really hammer it home we get to have Amanda Waller blasting Bat’s for making the wrong choice and blaming every death on the decision made to save Selina instead of keeping his cover intact. At first I was unsure how this story point would develop with Amanda using Bruce’s secret life as Batman as leverage to force him to do her bidding but now with the story approaching the end, it is one that has worked really well especially now her own closest ally is starting to second guess her intentions and motivations allowing for Bruce to gain an ally within the Agency and perhaps turn the tables on Waller at some point. It has been a slow and gradual constant presence in the story but never felt heavy handed or over used as a plot-line and keeps very much in character with Amanda Waller from the comics that fans will recognise.
Now what did take me a little by surprise is just how quickly The Pact story is almost wrapped up in this episode with a fun action QTE battle to take on Bane and Mr Freeze as Bats tries to prevent them obtaining the LOTUS virus which results in Bane and Freeze captured and Bane out for the count but Harley manages to get away with one vial of the virus. This does lead to a very interesting moment between Batman and Freeze which is rather candid depending on the player’s knowledge of both characters. In the comics there is a mutual respect of sorts between them as scientists and here the opportunity to forge that respect was very much appreciated. Freeze now infected with the virus is held in the air lock but with the temperature set too high for his ice powers to help him survive the virus. Having the choice to either show compassion but also to show Freeze that Batman is a man of his word by making a deal for Freeze to reveal Harley’s location in return for turning the temp down which then turns into a player choice to make good on the promise is a real fanboy moment for me as a fan of the Batverse.
There is a sudden shift though in the tone which has been hinted at but was still a surprise to actually it take over from the main plot focus of this season as the move to introduce The Joker comes front and centre. Now this has been the slowest build to any big character so far with his subtle introduction all the way back in season one as John Doe, the mysterious patient at Arkham Asylum who befriends Bruce Wayne. Since then quite a lot of player choice has gone into shaping this relationship between him and Bruce, especially here in The Enemy Within as Bruce needs a relationship with him to gain trust and entry to The Pact. This has involved giving him advice on how to best woo his love Harley to keeping him friendly in order to further the investigation but now we are starting to see his new stronger personality take shape. The final act here will see all the choices made come together as John Doe starts to take the personality that we know will become Batman’s greatest adversary and it is one that is handled so brilliantly that whilst you know its coming, playing through it is exhilarating as your choices as the player will shape the kind of Joker Batman will meet.
This is a really strong episode to lead into the finale with as it so brilliantly begins to bring together all the story threads neatly together making the player know exactly where they are in the story by the time the episode closes. Building up to a huge finale episode with so much at stake and with the birth of The Joker has real potential to take this to a third season and so far for me, has yet to drop the ball in terms or experience or story telling. I do keep ending episodes more and more impressed with how Telltale are handing this particular license after falling rather flat with Guardians of the Galaxy and a Walking Dead saga very much running thin on ideas and impact for me. I feel that my choices have truly shaped the characters and world around Bruce Wayne and that those choices will now put my Batman in a very different situation. For a short episode of just two hours in length, it manages to do a lot to move the story forward and position characters where they need to be.
Now its just hoping that the finale lives up to this amazing build up and to have the pay off of a thrilling end to this story.