To say that I was disappointed in the Guardians of the Galaxy Telltale series would be an understatement with it missing so many of the marks it began with so excitingly. However in direct comparison, the second Batman Telltale series ‘Enemy Within’ has continued the excellent first series with two episodes that have really stood out for me as some of Telltale’s best work in recent years in terms of design structure and story. My choices so far have had some very heavy consequences for Bruce Wayne as he juggles being Gotham’s Dark Knight but now forced into putting Bruce into the lions den. Episode two ended with an old friend making a surprise visit to add even more complications to the mix. One thing is for sure, Bruce Wayne is in for quite a ride in Episode 3 ‘Fractured Mask’.
*Spoiler Warning for Player Choices made in Episodes 1, 2 and 3 ahead*
So thanks to my player choices, at this moment in the story Bruce Wayne as himself is currently working undercover to infiltrate the criminal gang ‘The Pact’ led by Harley Quinn and made up of Mr Freeze, Bane and John Doe who has yet to become the man we know he will end up becoming, The Joker. To do this I had to make some very weighty choices that have put Bruce Wayne’s personal life at Way Enterprises difficult and put him firmly in the cross hairs of commissioner Gordon whilst at the same time also putting the relationship between Batman and Gordon also in jeopardy with the tenuous and forced team up with Amanda Waller’s Agency. So just imagine my surprise when the ex shows up with Catwoman making a grand entrance just as the body of the now deceased Riddler is revealed to be in Harley’s possession.
I just cannot help by being constantly impressed with the tone and details in the writing that keeps the pace of this series running so smoothly with such a large ensemble cast of characters and multiple relationships to track and manage with decisions. Each episode so far has reminded me of decisions I took in the first series and those now shape new decisions. For the first time in a genuinely long time with Telltale games, the splash screen that opens each episode of “The story is shaped around decisions you make” actually means just that and you can feel that in each episode here. The opportunity is there to craft your own Batman universe and every character encounter and dialogue exchange furthers this. The best example of this is shown in this episode in conversations with both Catwoman and John Doe. Here and especially if you are aware of the DC Universe, you can see how each player choice option can take the story down a different road. For example when the opportunity appears do you help shape the very foundation of what the Joker will be by giving advice to John to woo Harley Quinn or try and continue the romance with Catwoman that started in the first season or keeping it completely a professional relationship and keep your distance?
Unlike other recent Telltale titles, this series constantly keeps the story going and building with each episode and the players will have genuine dilemmas to deal with that continue to shape the story. Being kept on your toes instead of just going with the flow is one of the strengths of this season so far and episode three continues to do that by giving chances to reflect and see the consequences of some decisions made so far whilst creating moments where even the smallest of dialogue choices can shape events to come. These choices also feel fair and so far unlike in the Guardians of the Galaxy, there have been zero no win scenarios that leave the player feeling out of touch with the way the story is playing out so it keeps the focus on the story and makes everything you do feel important.
But the main reason why this second season is doing so well for me personally and is so showcased so excellently in this episode is how the focus remains on Bruce Wayne, the man underneath both masks he chooses to wear. This then makes the time when he does put on the Batsuit more special and impactful each time. The genius in this is how the writers have used it by allowing the player to really make different choices as Batman and Bruce such as when dealing with John Doe where Bruce has to keep him onside to help keep his cover but Batman on the other hand can dismiss John such as Bruce allowing John to take a selfie with him and giving him a high five when he thinks they have done well to a similar situation where John finally meets Batman and John tries to do the same but now you can decide to either do the same or take the option you think Batman and therefore Bruce would really do. I really like these scenes and the attention to detail alongside the continued superb voice acting just elevates the story nicely.
I am really enjoying this season far more than I expected. As a sequel it has brilliantly followed up with choices players have made in the first season and the story being told is introducing new characters so well and you can really see the Batverse beginning to take shape, and it is one that I know my decisions are making a difference in. I am enjoying the teasing of the soon to be born Joker character but also loving the twists in well known characters such as Harley Quinn being a main villain instead of the side kick to Joker and I did go a little DC fanboy when given the opportunity to give John advice on how to win the heart of Harley by embracing his true self knowing full well that his true self is what makes The Joker so dangerous a nemesis for Batman.
Episode 3 ‘Fractured Mask’ is a great mid season episode by giving the player moments to reflect on choices already made but in how it is still evolving the story and moving characters forward. The intricate design of the story is evident in how it places the key player choice moments but also in the little subtle choices that form the relationships Bruce Wayne has as himself and as Batman. The stakes are still high with a danger still to come that will test all that Bruce and Batman is set to face his deadliest battle yet. The story has me gripped and I am eager for the next episode and tempted to replay it to see what impact different choices would have had.
This is a strong episode and for me this season continues to be the best work Telltale has done this year.