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Batman: The Enemy Within: Episode 2 - The Pact
Score: 90%
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Introduction:

Of all of Telltale’s most recent releases, Batman: The Enemy Within is easily the best. It does something that few Batman stories have been able to do in a very long time: it surprises us. The proprietary nature of the canon being established makes it clear that anything can happen. There are no sacred cows; and the resulting tension is a huge part of what makes this series so good. Episode 2 – The Pact’s first impression is an episode card that perfectly replicates the final shot of the legendary intro to Batman: The Animated Series. Perhaps this draws some unfair expectations, as this episode isn’t quite as good as the one that came before it. Still, it’s a hell of a chapter, thanks to its strong character work and pulse-quickening developments.

Undercover Bruce:

Episode 1 – The Enigma set the table, but it also left both Bruce Wayne and Batman in dire straits. Not only does Bruce have to deal with the emotional and logistical fallout of Lucius Fox’s murder, Agency head Amanda Waller knows Batman’s secret identity. Batman: The Enemy Within: Episode 2 – The Pact opens up right after that stinger left us hanging, and it immediately goes in a direction I initially found surprising. You see, the conversation that ensues implies that Waller has a ton of respect for Batman/Bruce, and doesn’t really seem terribly interested in using her new knowledge as leverage. Instead, she seems eager to appeal to Bruce’s better nature, and more importantly, to view him as an asset. Because when it comes down to it, being friends with Batman and Bruce Wayne nets you a slew of benefits. Waller knows that Batman’s got the intellectual (not to mention extralegal) resources to be a serious boon to the Agency, and she knows that Bruce Wayne can provide even better ones. And we’re not talking about the family fortune or the weight of the monolithic tech giant he runs…

I chose to play ball with Waller, knowing that doing so would alienate me from Gordon, arguably the Batman’s truest and most loyal friend. Now, I’ve seen The Wire and I know the dangers of institutional dysfunction; I know that it permeates law enforcement, and that agencies often get into awful political squabbles that undermine the point of their collective work. Save an aside in which I was blessedly given a decent dialogue choice, there didn’t seem to be any contrived bitterness over the choice I made. Of course, the season is just getting started, and I could be wrong.


Same Rogues, Different Gallery:

Riddler is dead, shot in the neck with a venomous dart. But before succumbing to his richly-deserved fate, he was able to croak out a few words about a pact being broken. It’s here that Batman: The Enemy Within’s overarching story kicks into full gear. While Batman and Waller are busy sizing each other up, a mysterious series of heists go off across the mainland. Batman goes to investigate, and runs face to face with perhaps the most unevenly-portrayed supervillain in the history of the series. The encounter goes poorly, and Batman is essentially out of commission for the rest of the episode.

What? I said Batman was out of commission. I never said anything about Bruce Wayne. It’s here where the most fascinating developments start to bubble to the surface. Telltale’s revision of the Wayne family legacy is starting to pay off; Thomas Wayne’s criminal history makes Bruce himself an ideal sleeper agent. Given his weird-but-friendly relationship with the clearly-insane "John Doe" (himself a member of this mysterious syndicate), he’s got an in. But first, he must prove himself to the crew – most notably the top dog, who’s none other than… Harley Quinn.

John Doe and Harleen Quinzel’s relationship in Batman: The Enemy Within sums up exactly how brave Telltale is being with their version of canon. Here, John is plagued by crippling insecurity, while Harley is already a full-blown psychopath, a disgustingly-entitled, mindless monster who causes carnage for no other reason than the fact that it gets her off. A key moment in Episode 2 – The Pact has me questioning both her authority and her intelligence, but it might just be a rare case of bad writing.


Conclusion:

Batman: The Enemy Within: Episode 2 – The Pact features some rough moments. The series of heists that take place towards the end of the episode are interesting, but completely unbelievable. And the disconnect between the storytelling restraints and my intentions was incredibly painful during the game’s single encounter with Tiffany Fox, who provided easily the most similiarly painful moment of the last episode. I can’t stand when I’m restricted to a series of equally bad responses.

Most second episodes of a Telltale series are among the weaker in the pantheon, but not this one. If Batman: The Telltale Series maintains the high note so gracefully held through most of Episode 2 – The Pact, we will be in for a real treat.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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