Developer: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: As Riddler’s old partners terrorise Gotham, Batman hatches up a plan to infiltrate their unit from the inside. But is it too risky a plan?
The Pact, the second thrilling episode in Telltale’s new Batman series, wastes no time to getting off to an explosive start. The cliff-hanger last time is the first scene of the second episode, creating a sense that Batman’s battle to the death with the Riddler was only the start of a bad week. As Batman debriefs with the devious Waller (bordering the line finely between very helpful ally and very dangerous enemy), an explosion rips Gotham. The Riddler’s gang are taking their schemes up a notch. As Batman tries and fails to stop their assault on the key points of Gotham, Bruce Wayne realises he might already have a way in. John Doe, who anyone who calls themselves as Batman fan will recognise as a pre-villain Joker, is a low-level member of this evil organisation and is eager for Bruce Wayne to join. Bruce, still suffering injuries as Batman, must adopt a villain persona and pretend to be the next member of this gang of supervillains. But can he keep the act up around such a group of deranged psychopaths?
So far, it seems Telltale’s Batman can do no wrong. The Enigma was a strong opening gambit for the second season of this new Telltale game, but Telltale have always been big on delivering promises; their weakness is in realising them. Thankfully, the Pact, while not answering the question if this series will be a consistent success, holds off the bad points for an episode longer, ticking the game over, but in a way that constantly thrills and impresses. It does take the easy option, spending pretty much the entire game name-dropping new villains. Whenever The Pact begins to slow down, a new villain from the Batman rogue gallery appears. It is always great fun to see how Telltale are going to rewrite the characters of Gotham. Last season, Penguin was a suave anarchist, rather than an obese crime-lord, and Vicki Vale was a hidden mastermind. If you will indulge me spoiling one of the villains revealed in The Pact (it was partially told in the dying throes of the last episode), but Harley Quinn gets a superb make-over in the Telltale universe. She is a marmite character in the comic books, an obsessed follower of the Joker, who allows the twisted clown the pleasure of emotionally abusing her. She was written to be a warning sign about domestic abuse. However, somewhere along the way, she became a fan favourite, so now whenever writers have to handle her, it becomes a dangerous game of trying not to glorify violence in relationships. But Telltale totally change the playing field. She is still the Harley you know, a fun-loving murderer who does what she wants and finds the pain of others joyous fun. However, here, Joker, or John Doe as Telltale refer to him as for the moment, is the low-level follower, the origins of a crush forming for her. Harley is the one who tramples on his dreams, openly flirting with any man she deems handsome and letting the Joker stir angrily in the background. The majority of The Pact is spent trapped in a room with Harley and Joker, trying to stir clear of a slaughter by appeasing both psychopaths. While, like The Enigma, this style of gameplay avoids making use of the Telltale big choice trademark, it does find new, exciting ways to squeeze fun from the gamer. As you try to second-guess Harley Quinn, you will be squirming under her boot, the story finding new ways to make her get under your skin. It is well written, a quietly suspenseful piece of gaming. There are equal moments to shine from the other two big Batman baddies that make an appearance. One of them is little more than a promise of what is to come, kept in the shadows, other than a small origin story dialogue scene, but the other big villain takes centre-stage, opening The Pact with a cracking fight scene and getting a big send-off. It is unclear if he is going to make a return this season, but there is definitely room for a conflict-filled comeback from the classic Batman villain.
In some ways, this is more of a showcase of Batman villains. Batman, in his full costumed form, makes a very slight appearance. However, when you are not spending time with Joker, the emphasis is definitely more on Bruce Wayne. This is a Batman game that requires you to keep the smart reflexes to the dialogue options than the fighting. Whether you are talking down a drunk with a knife, negotiating with Lucius’ grieving daughter or trying to get on Harley’s good side, the fun is in emerging from the other end of conversations with your head intact. The Pact doesn’t even confirm whether you have messed up yet or not, keeping that little revelation for the next episode. This is definitely a Bruce Wayne centred episode, but oddly enough, it never feels like Batman-lite. Bruce still gets plenty to do, even an unpredictable fight in the street, where the line between ally and foe become blurred. Telltale, while sadly not near the heavyweight era it used to be in, is delightful, harmless fun. And so far, The Pact and The Enigma have left two big ticks in the success column.
Final Verdict: Solid fun, although Telltale refuses to commit to anything major just yet. For now, settle into another thrilling episode of Batman: The Enemy Within.