The tales of Batman, and more prevalently those of his alter ego, the millionaire Bruce Wayne, have been brought to life by Telltale Games to great success so far in Batman: The Enemy Within – the second season of his escapades. Arriving at the mid-point of the series, episode three “Fractured Mask” comes tasked with keeping up the relentless pace of previous goings on and must deliver another enthralling chapter of the story. Can it be done?
Well, the second episode raised the stakes by introducing the rest of the notorious criminal gang known as The Pact. After losing their leader, Riddler, to a deadly shot from a mystery shooter, the power struggle began between Bane and Harley Quinn, with Mr. Freeze and John Doe on the periphery. Bruce infiltrated the group to feed info to Amanda Waller and tried to prove his worth as a villain, which had to be extremely convincing to win over the violent psychopaths he’s vying to impress. Despite some hiccups, the first major job was a success of sorts and then right at the end Catwoman was revealed as a member of The Pact, further cranking the pressure up on poor Bruce.
This third episode picks up after the big reveal, with Bruce wondering whether Selina will play along with his antics or throw him under the proverbial bus. And that’s basically the main narrative of the episode, with every member of The Pact having the potential to turn on him at any particular moment. It keeps the player on tenterhooks throughout as you’re thinking just as carefully about regular dialogue options as you would with the couple of tough choices being presented – especially where John is concerned.
I’ve said it before; I love the dynamic between John Doe (Joker) and Bruce Wayne (Batman), simply because we know they are meant to be, arguably, the greatest of enemies in the DC Comics world. Witnessing a friendship between the two is so odd, but it totally works and the Joker in the making is showing more and more signs of his devious nature, teasing us that he could turn on his ‘best friend’ at any moment. The chemistry between the two is golden, and there’s a surreal moment where John performs the psychological inkblot test on Bruce, which is simply brilliant.
And whilst the interactions Bruce has with Catwoman are of a high standard too, they’re of a feistier kind, leading to two great QTE sections. Although the candle may still burn for each other, that won’t stop them from going toe to toe in order to achieve their own goals. This is seen when searching for vital intel that they both need inside Riddler’s secret HQ; they really beat the hell out of each other, whilst John laps it up and watches on gleefully as you’d expect from him. The environments they are in for both confrontations are used well to add some neat set pieces to the action too.
It’s in this HQ though where I felt a tad underwhelmed. You see, the Riddler is the master of playing games, and even after his death there’s still a riddle for those who enter his base to overcome. My only problem is that the riddle is almost too easy and has been simplified to pressing three easy to find buttons. It’s a missed opportunity and more time is spent manoeuvring Bruce to each button than actually solving the problem. Still, that wasn’t as bad as killing time in the Batcave by wandering around and engaging in pointless conversations with Alfred and Selina – the strange camera angle doesn’t help either.
Back to the good stuff though, and there’s a hell of a lot going on elsewhere. When you’re not skating on thin ice with The Pact, the Agency are breathing down your neck for results and Jim Gordon is trying to stick his oar in where it’s not needed. There’s barely a moment to blink and nearly all of the supporting characters have an integral part to play in proceedings. Would I like to see Batman get more screen time? Yes, but that doesn’t mean Bruce Wayne isn’t shining brighter than ever before.
It’s obvious that Telltale are trying to make the most of the Bruce Wayne persona and at the halfway point, it seems to be working a treat. Seeing his relationships with John Doe and Selina Kyle blossom brings a level of character development that’s very interesting from start to finish. The escapades as Batman, albeit much rarer at the moment, are to be savoured; the action is well choreographed. All that lets Episode 3, “Fractured Mask”, down are the wasted opportunities to add some inventive puzzling moments – courtesy of Riddler – and the monotonous walking around sections. Oh, and a bit more of the Dark Knight is needed.
Batman: The Enemy Within is on a roll and I can’t see it slowing down. Do yourself a favour and just get involved with Telltale’s very own take on Gotham’s greatest detective.