We've reached the middle episode of yet another Telltale season and that comes with some negative implications. It's often the case that their middle episodes take the foot off the gas pedal and stall for time in ways that are uncomfortably apparent. Even their first season with the Dark Knight fell victim to this trap. It's fair to say the latest episode of Batman: The Enemy Within - The Telltale Series
, "Fractured Mask," does feel like a lesser product than its predecessors, but the distance isn't as far as these third episodes tend to be thanks to a bit of a genre swap.
The prime directive of episodic games like this should be to ensure the plot is always moving forward. As they mimic television series so much, they can similarly leave players disappointed when, at the closing credits, it's felt like they've run in place for an hour or two. That's not the case this time and that makes up a great deal of what saves episode three from that disappointment.
In "Fractured Mask" Batman is reunited with Catwoman. Depending on how you played their relationship in season one, she'll react accordingly to your presence. Both of you can see you're working covert angles with hidden agendas, but that intrigue often feels secondary to their will-they-won't-they romantic and sexual tension. The episode, like last season, really lets you control how close you'd like to be with Catwoman. This is a legacy plot point for the caped crusader, but it can be done well or poorly. So far, Telltale continues to make these moments really fun.
If Catwoman is an unredeemable thief to you, by all means keep her at a distance, but if you enjoy their kindred spirits romance, the game lets you indulge in that too. All of this is supplemented very well by just how awesome Laura Bailey is in her reprisal of Catwoman. The role has been played by dozens of actresses and characterized in ways even more than that, but Bailey's voice and delivery continue to sound like the definitive version of the antihero.
It's too bad the characters spend much of their time together infiltrating The Pact some more. Something about their headquarters just feels so boring. Maybe it's because we spent a great deal of time there in episode two, but midway through this episode you may be itching for Bruce to hurry up with his undercover charade just so you can break new ground elsewhere in the city. It especially doesn't help that when you do get an early scene out of the sewers, it's spent in Riddler's headquarters. Even after death it seems he has a few more tricks up his sleeve, but to put players in these all too familiar locales for another episode really drags it down.
Relationship status: It's complicated
As the title alludes, your dual persona is again at the forefront of the game's conflicts. Can Batman allow romance in his life? Can he consider Gordon not just an ally but a friend? Can he rely on Waller? Trust has been the driving thematic material through 60% of this season and given how the series has often rewritten characters, no one's reputation from other Batman stories can really precede them. Still, these changes shouldn't just be made for the sake of making changes. Character remixes have been mostly hits with a few misses. Joker's growth stalls the most in this episode that otherwise does well to keep things moving. He's still the unsure and truly unrecognizable sad sack we've seen for several episodes, although his hinting toward a darkness lurking deep down should be taken as foreshadowing for season three. To change him in that way during the ongoing season seems like it'd be much too drastic a metamorphosis.
Along with inviting Catwoman into your life both physically and emotionally, other weighty decisions are on display in this one too. When players are allowed to disrupt Bruce and Batman's balance, that's when fingerprints are most noticeable on this series in particular. As that's the case in this episode, that has to be its strongest suit, made even stronger if you take the offer and make such drastic changes to Bruce's circle of trust.
Looking back at the end of the episode it's interesting to note just how few typical superhero moments take place. There's a lot of great character moments in "Fractured Mask" and the episode as a whole works pretty well as a romance. It feels like Telltale wanted to remain in both camps, which is too bad, because if they committed entirely to the love story angle — and set it in some new areas — this episode would have reaped greater reward from its daring direction. Instead it feels a bit noncommittal, but with potential to improve before season's end.
As achievement hunters know, you can't miss any of the six in this episode. Just play through it and take your 200 gamerscore.
SummaryBatman: The Enemy Within
offers a third episode a touch above most Telltale middle sections thanks in large part to just how great Catwoman is portrayed by Laura Bailey. Her work, along with the episode functioning primarily as a romance story, keeps this episode intriguing even as the rehashed environments try to drag it down considerably. It's exciting to see how Telltale will play this love story through to the end of the season. Knowing their proclivity for remixing familiar plots and characters, it feels safe to expect they're building something between the star-crossed lovers. If they can trust themselves to focus on the stronger points like this romance and not sell out to hit some punches thrown quota, this season could feel uniquely different than other Batman stories.
- Interesting, world-changing choices
- Batman and Catwoman together again
- Bruce's undercover routine has overstayed its welcome
- Rehashed environments
The reviewer spent 90 minutes back in Gotham chasing not villains this time, but rather Selina Kyle's heart. On the way he gathered all six achievements for 200 gamerscore. An Xbox One season pass was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this and other reviews.