Reviewed on PlayStation 4
This review contains spoilers
The last Telltale season finale the world received was Guardians of the Galaxy, and with that series, Telltale cemented itself as a force to be reckoned with in the realm of gaming. What was once a genre that only satiated those who enjoyed narrative depth over stimulating gameplay had now become something everyone could enjoy. Guardians’s season finale could only be described as a masterpiece, delivering the perfect blend of emotional narrative, thrilling quick time combat, and intelligent puzzle solving. Fortunately, Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within was granted a similar sendoff, with its final episode being one full of satisfying outcomes and tension beyond compare. Characters came into their own, lines were drawn in the sand, and a richly established storyline came to fruition, while also setting up an enticing plot still to come. Telltale’s genius shone through every second of Same Stitch, and once again earned one of their series the moniker of masterpiece.
Batman: The Enemy Within’s final episode picks up after a three week break – which in terms of the episode’s release date, was nearly in real time. John Doe has run off with Harley Quinn to enact revenge on all of Gotham, leaving Bruce Wayne dumbfounded by his “best friend’s” actions. Taking up the mantle of “the Joker” and finally embracing his true self, John begins committing crimes around the city to get Batman’s attention. His first message to the Caped Crusader leaves a police officer in grave danger, and it is here that a new aesthetic detail must be addressed: blood. My goodness, the blood in this episode was borderline sickening. This scene alone shows a massive amount of it, as Batman cuts open a still-breathing man’s stomach with a Batarang to remove a ticking time bomb, all within the first ten minutes.
As the season finale progresses, copious amounts of blood pour from the Joker’s (and Batman’s) victims. Bodies are burned, mutilated, and tortured for the sake of the Joker’s twisted pleasure. It’s a unique side of the Batman lore that isn’t represented as much these days, what with superheroes being in the spotlight for more “family-oriented” purposes (e.g. films, cartoons, Legos, etc.). Rest assured, this episode alone earns Telltale’s Batman its “M” rating. We haven’t even seen this much violence in the Walking Dead series, let alone a game about a superhero. It took the season on a sharp turn, but it was admittedly a welcome addition. The Joker brings a much darker tone to Batman, and Telltale introduced this evil in the most horrifying way possible.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Batman: The Enemy Within is the way Telltale improves on characters’ behaviors and relationships. One of the newer, more welcome features to the series is the notification that “your relationship with ___ has changed”. This allows for more genuine and sometimes painstaking decisions to be made, as they will truly affect how the story plays out. One of the most evolved characters of Episode Five has to be Jim Gordon. Previously the commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department, Jim has been demoted and ultimately stripped entirely of his credentials at the hands of Amanda Waller. While she leads The Agency in cleaning up crime in Gotham, Gordon has been forced to endure the worst months of his career.
In Same Stitch, however, everything came to a head. Gordon vowed to continue serving Gotham in any way he could, and this lead him to being captured by the Joker, betraying Batman, and nearly losing his life in the process. Fortunately, he makes it out alive, but this emotional roller coaster that Gordon is sent on says a lot about what kind of person he is: a concerned citizen who loves his city, fearlessly devoted to Batman and protecting those in harm’s way. No matter which decisions the player may choose, Gordon finds a happy ending in the aftermath of The Enemy Within. However, the journey he has been taken on will surely affect his future endeavors and shape his character to come. I never would’ve guessed Gordon’s plotline would become one of the most thought-provoking moments of Season Two, but alas, Telltale is full of surprises.
The joy of Same Stitch was the fact that every side character got a fitting conclusion to their ongoing conflict. Tiffany found closure regarding her father’s past, Catwoman found closure regarding The Riddler’s death, and Alfred’s overall health improved. Everyone finally got their chance to live soundly again, even though it came at the price of jaw-dropping plot twists and a boatload of bloodshed. These revelations were uncovered through Telltale’s expert dialogue, which shined the brightest in this season finale. While the lack of compelling dialogue has let me down before, when it’s done correctly, the impact that words have in this series is incredible. It’s fascinating to watch how the choices you make control the flow of each episode, which makes Telltale games so enthralling. However with Batman Season Two, Telltale has provided players with the aforementioned relationship system, on top of some of the most gripping dialogue I’ve seen to date. The way Batman’s writing seeps into your mind and grabs a hold of your emotions is something unlike most other Telltale series. It’s certainly a welcome addition, though, and while it lacked in some episodes, it made the majority of the season into something I’ll be thinking about for a long time.
In what is perhaps the piece de resistance of The Enemy Within’s finale, I have never seen a more villainous force than the Joker. Telltale’s rendition of the iconic baddie didn’t differ much from those of old, in terms of style or behavior. However, the emotional investment delivered by the harrowing journey of John Doe and Bruce Wayne brought a new level of tension to the final battle between the two. Further damaging was the impact this Joker had on Wayne’s personal life, having uncovered his alter ego of Batman earlier in the season. This revelation makes every one of the Joker’s actions feel even more devious and…direct. With every kidnapping, every bomb threat, and every gunshot, every little action cuts deep, which is a true testament to Batman‘s mastery of emotion and empathy through storytelling.
Telltale’s intense grasp on narrative tone is not only reflected through the Batman series as a whole, but also through the character of Batman himself. The Dark Knight according to Telltale has had an extremely dismal adventure, and that’s completely disregarding his origin story, which we’re all well aware of. In Season One, Bruce was fired from his own company and institutionalized. In Season Two, he’s been broken, kicked around, toyed with (both emotionally and romantically), betrayed, and forced to watch a lot of innocent people die. In The Enemy Within, we saw Bruce in a whole new light; a different side that doesn’t quite know where to go next. Even the Batman persona was seen as useless for much of the season, with an undercover Wayne simply “winging it” most of the time. It was a unique viewpoint to have Batman without a plan for once, and this brought a new sense of reality to taking on the role of Caped Crusader.
While the action has recently been lacking compared to the brilliant focus on combat in earlier Batman episodes, the season finale definitely restored the series to its butt-kicking glory. Before the blood starts flowing, Same Stitch delivers a multitude of thrilling quick time combat sequences that absolutely blew me away. The final fight in particular has stuck with me since I put the controller down. Expertly choreographed, the fight – which consisted of Batman and Catwoman vs. the Joker and Harley Quinn – was the culmination of five episodes, full of emotionally-charged adrenaline. It felt as though everything had led up to this moment. From Bruce’s rekindling with Catwoman, to his massive failure in saving Harley’s sanity, all of the player’s past decisions were brought to light in this moment.
It was eye-opening to see the damage I as the player had done this season in turning one of Bruce’s closest friends into his worst enemy. I felt just as determined to kick John Doe’s ass as I felt I had failed him. It was a bittersweet moment, seeing this man before me, willing to stick a knife in my gut and twist it even after all I’d done for him. It felt like a simultaneous betrayal and delivery of my own comeuppance – not unlike the regret felt after leaving one’s significant other, when you knew it had to be done because you’d tried everything to help, only to be resented for it. That’s right; the final battle between the Joker and Batman feels like an unavoidable, nasty breakup. Fortunately, it’s spectacular to watch unfold, and that emotional impact is something that no other game has ever made me experience before.
Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within blew my mind from start to finish. It’s hard to imagine two series being so outstanding back-to-back, but both Guardians and Batman left me speechless in their final moments. Same Stitch was a nearly perfect sendoff for this season. It delivered an excellent blend of hardcore Batman action, and thrilling Telltale plot design. I did find the overall gore to be a bit excessive, considering the previous episodes weren’t as…intense. But this being The Joker’s introduction to the franchise, it certainly left an impact. With a chilling narrative that latched onto my emotions and wouldn’t let go, Batman Season Two instantly cemented itself in my mind as one of the most unforgettable Telltale seasons yet. Fortunately, unlike Season One, it was memorable for all the right reasons. From expert combat to brilliant dialogue, The Enemy Within rarely let me down in terms of overall entertainment. While it would’ve been nice to have more of these winning qualities in the few rather dull moments, Batman Season Two delivered a truly epic narrative-driven experience, albeit through some of the shortest Telltale episodes of all time. This series truly brings a new meaning to “short and sweet”, however when talking about Batman, I think “short and super” sounds best.