Developer: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: As Catwoman is added to the Pact, Bruce Wayne finds the undercover game an even more risky gambit.
Your opinion of Fractured Mask depends a lot on your patience. Telltale Games are definitely leading the field when it comes to episodic gaming, but their ‘can-do-no-wrong’ persona has faded in time. Fractured Mask is one of the arguments that Telltale is good, but a shadow of its former self. This season even seems to know it, trying to play safe with another chapter in this gripping Batman saga. However, it takes the easy way out in two regards. One, it copies and pastes what made the last two episodes so good to a lesser degree and two, it continues to avoid answering whether your choices are adding up to anything or not, so, we can’t really judge The Enemy Within on the choice based aspect just yet, but at the same time, the jury is beginning to get restless with yet another extended deadline.
The story picks up where you left off with The Pact, a gang comprised of Harley Quinn, Bane, Mr. Freeze and a pre-villain Joker, in array over the death of their leader, the Riddler. It is more than clear that everyone was ready to pack Riddler in themselves, but as Harley bumps heads with the rest of the gang, this is a group of villains without a leader. It makes for a shifting power balance as you navigate through this episode. Your gut will likely tell you to appease Harley, who currently seems to hold all of the cards. But who says that Mr. Freeze isn’t going to overthrow Quinn and make all your hard-earning reputation suddenly useless? Telltale enjoy throwing you into the middle of the boiling point and making you work your way through tricky dialogue choices. Again, this episode ends and you might have no idea where you stand with the group of villains. While the thrill of undercover is wearing slightly thin, as Bruce Wayne spends the second episode in a row away from the cowl most of the time (the Gotham news feed suggests that the public assume Batman died in his battle with Bane last episode), there is still joy to be had. One great scene sees the Joker ask you about dating advice with Harley and you get the opportunity to use your advice as a drawn-out plan to attack her with her own minions. The Joker remains the best thing about The Enemy Within, worlds away from the Joker we know, yet so eerily familiar. The character surprisingly hides most of The Enemy Within’s cumbersome storyline, as it is quite amusing just spending time with the character, especially when he confronts Batman. Then there is the return of Catwoman. Again, there is a slight sense of missed opportunity here. Last season, you could either have left Selena bitterly or with a warm fondness of the time you shared. What the cliff-hanger suggested would happen was force the player into a tricky game of cat and mouse, where your relationship with Catwoman was openly going to affect the next segment of the story. Sadly, the plot hurtles along so quickly that there is never really time to realise this, other than vague rambling about their shared history. Catwoman is still a major plus though, a treacherous character at the best of times, meaning that you never know what the character is up to, or whether she deserves to be trusted. Catwoman, Harley, Joker, Waller, Gordon, Tiffany… all of these characters hover on the peripheries of the plot and Telltale put the screws on you, as you tip-toe around them, terrified that annoying one character might result in your undercover game being brutally uprooted.
So, essentially, if you enjoy the political back-and-forth of undercover Bruce Wayne, then Fractured Mask will do the job for you. It’s not a bad episode by any means, but definitely has that middle episode sag. Frustratingly, just when the narrative takes off that ‘To be continued…’ banner comes down, making you eager for more. Is that a bad thing? The one time the game tries to be something more is a small encounter with Riddler, beyond the grave. You, Selena and Joker search his old hide-out for evidence and end up in a dangerous riddle. The riddles of the first episode were the highlight of the Enemy Within, so it is easy to see why the Riddler has been cleverly worked back in. However, this is clearly Riddler-lite, with a puzzle solved in a few glances. The fun dynamic is there, but it is short-lived. When the rest of the episode is focusing purely on the dialogue and characterisation, we are left with a third episode that is entertaining enough, but slightly lacklustre. Hopefully, the hints of a strong fight scene opening the next episode will prove a sharp incline for The Enemy Within.
Final Verdict: Fractured Mask is Telltale running on cruise control, but the standard thrills are there, even if routine is undeniably setting in.