Batman’s Favorite Cat-burglar Returns in Episode Three: “Fractured Mask”
Now that Thanksgiving’s leftovers are out of the fridge, it’s time to chow down on another episode of Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within! We last saw an undercover Bruce Wayne narrowly escape from the authorities with a bizarre Agency asset. In episode three, “Fractured Mask”, Wayne and the remaining Pact members barely step foot in their hideout before a familiar face joins this league of villains. After everything Bruce and Selina went through in the first season, will Catwoman unmask the caped crusader, or take his secret to the grave?
In some of their previous series, Telltale has struggled with balancing the natural ebbs and flows of storytelling with the demand for action in games. As the third segment in a five-part season, developers might feel tempted to ease up on the gas when it comes to excitement; that way, they can establish the groundwork for another portion of the grand finale. While “Fractured Mask” definitely hints that Telltale is saving the best for last, it still gives the player tons of exciting options to choose from.
With a great Riddler cameo from beyond the grave, “Fractured Mask” offers another clever puzzle to work through, along with an intense fight scene between Catwoman and (surprisingly enough) Bruce Wayne. Watching a fully-equipped Selina face off against an unarmed billionaire gets so fluid and creative you’re almost bound to miss a quick time moment or two!
Even the slower moments, like John’s interactions with Bruce and his first meetings with Batman, have an almost uncomfortable sense of weight behind each decision. John Doe has met his idol, and the way that Batman treats this future nemesis will determine the season’s final battle.
The uncontested best part of “Fractured Mask” is the return of Selina Kyle. Those who played the first season of Telltale’s Batman series know that Catwoman plays an essential role in the story’s plot and whether you part ways as friends or enemies determines a huge amount of “Fractured Mask.” Of course, that’s not to say Bruce can’t make peace with his burglar enemy or stab his former lover in the back, but the five episodes of history these two characters already have makes this reunion beautifully satisfying. You don’t need to spend an entire episode dedicated to fleshing out Selina’s character, like episode two did to Harley Quinn. You’ve already spent hours developing this character, now it’s time to cash it all in!
Not to be pushed to the wings, the other recurring characters also get some great moments to shine. Harley and Bane continue to bash heads over who runs the Pact; Quinn through real and impressive psychoanalysis and Bane through the more honest and brutal machismo route. Gordon’s doubt of Bruce Wayne’s integrity resurfaces, only this time he calls on Batman to make the arrest. Tiffany finally gets a chance to learn the truth of her father’s work, and even Waller’s impenetrable stoicism shows signs of breaking. Halfway through this season’s arc, and it’s looking like the player’s choices are beginning to paint the first brushes of the final picture.
If “Fractured Mask” brings up any complaints, it might be the hassle with the Riddler’s laptop. Much of the episode surrounds the Pact’s need to uncover what the Riddler knew about their big heist; a remarkably odd objective since it suggests that Freeze, Bane, Quinn, Catwoman, and John all agreed to join this team without fully knowing why. The only way to find out is through accessing the Riddler’s encrypted laptop, but there are so many obstacles in the way that Bruce (and even Batman) needs to make deals with two different Pact members just to unlock the stupid thing! While it makes sense story-wise for this goal to be so well guarded, the gameplay can become confusing if you’re not careful. Miss one detail and you might end up making a decision so wrong that the game needs to intervene. You know you’ve gone down the wrong road when a character walks up to Bruce and says “I swore not to help you, but now I’ve changed my mind!”
While it’s tough to top “The Enigma’s” surprise twist, “Fractured Mask” has plenty of surprises of its own. Telltale cuts the player some slack and offers some characters chances for closure—only to threaten to twist a new knife in their backs twice as hard! This heart-wrenching false-ending feels most effective in the final scene of “Fractured Mask.” After the nearly failed attempt to recover the Riddler’s body, the Pact knows that there’s a rat among their ranks. Somebody has to take the fall, and the episode’s final image of Freeze’s chamber putting the traitor on ice is…well, chilling. “Fractured Mask” has the sort of ending that makes you angry the next episode’s release is months away!
Episode three of Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam.
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