When it comes to Batman, wearing masks, whether physical or emotional, is a way of life. Arguments have been made as to which side of Bruce Wayne is the actual mask, with the real truth lying somewhere in between the Caped Crusader and Gotham’s Most Eligible Bachelor, but he’s often able to keep the two separate enough that their choices don’t often intersect.
Three episodes into Batman: The Enemy Within, it’s clear that Telltale considers smudging the line between the two identities to be its primary purpose. Bruce being forced into danger by Amanda Waller and the Agency has left the billionaire on his back foot, leaving him with little time to don the cowl and right the wrongs of the world with his fists. This has led to one of the most engaging and emotional Batman stories being told today.
It’s actually impressive that the best action sequence in Fractured Masks not only included Bruce without the physical mask but that Batman, despite making an appearance halfway through the episode, didn’t throw a single punch. It’s a conscious shift away from the bombast of Season 1, where it felt like every major decision was made by Bats, to the point where Bruce making these emotional decisions WERE actual set pieces.
In fact, the one action set piece manages to be great because of the emotional weight behind it, and not for any of the quick time effort it took to complete. For sake of spoilers, I really don’t want to reveal the motivation behind it, but simply hearing the players involved, namely Bruce, Catwoman, and John Doe, should provide enough context for what’s at stake.
Speaking of John Doe, his conversations with Bruce continue to be the highlights of the series for me. Watching the wheels turn towards his eventual shift from mild-mannered small-time crook to Batman’s dark mirror is exciting, even more so when I am actively trying to keep that change from happening. The greatest success Telltale can take from this is found in this relationship, in their providing the player with what feels like actual hope that they can possibly save John, while the precipice into which he will eventually fall looms ever closer, his footing, and yours, becoming that much more unsteady.
Another highlight comes from interacting with Amanda Waller, which also in part stems from a knowledge of her character and what she is capable of in the comics. She continues to walk that line between being an actual human and a ruthless, heartless government justice machine with the skill of a Grayson on the trapeze. Her voice actress, Debra Wilson, brings the same no-nonsense, “Yes, bitch, I am the queen” power that C.C.H. Pounder brought to the character in Justice League Unlimited. The story is also using her brilliantly, serving as both a professional foil to Jim Gordon, as well as a mostly inbounds means to an end for Batman, with the boot drop always just kind of hovering out of range.
I feel a little weird having gone this far without even a mention of the start of Episode 3, but with the enjoyment I am getting out of this being so heavily reliant on the story and its turns, mentioning them, no matter how briefly, feels a bit like a betrayal. There are a number of moments that I would love to bring up, especially ones that deal with Bruce’s ability to trust and how those moments being left up to the player brings me a substantial amount of joy, but I think I’ll save those for the finale. For now, I am happy to say that Batman: The Enemy Within is Telltale at their best. We are halfway through this season, and I am equal parts jumping for joy and pulling out my hair to see where this ends up.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!